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A Vision for Arizona

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Posted: Sunday, March 20, 2005 11:53 am | Updated: 8:27 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Getting water from a faucet is something we all take for granted. Thanks to the bold thinkers behind the Salt River and Central Arizona projects, daily conveniences like water are accessible in our desert environment.

These bold initiatives, at two critical junctures in our state’s history, ensured an adequate water supply for a growing population and were essential to the success and well-being of this region as we know it today.

As we consider the dramatic growth Arizona will experience over the next 20 years, including a doubling of our Valley’s current population to more than 6 million people and of our state’s population to 10 million people, it is clear that we have reached another critical juncture. Bold thinking and bold new initiatives are needed to ensure our quality of life continues.

A significant array of organizations, from gubernatorial commissions and public policy institutes to the Arizona Town Hall, have made numerous recommendations on a variety of issues over the past 15 years, all designed to ensure a strong and successful Arizona in the years ahead. Yet, as with so many reports, the recommendations have often made their way onto the shelf rather than into action.

The Center for the Future of Arizona has spent the past several months gleaning valuable information from these major policy reports. We believe it’s time to make the 200 important recommendations contained within them a working guide for the future of Arizona. To that end, we have captured and distilled them into a one-page Vision for Arizona.

A vision for Arizona

Every organization, public or private, understands that if you don’t know where you are going, you will never get there. In the complex, competitive and rapidly changing world in which we live, it is imperative that we have a clear idea of the future we desire. Otherwise, we very likely will end up with a future we don’t want.

The beauty of the massive citizen effort we found in the 50 or so reports we’ve examined is that a vision for Arizona’s future emerges naturally from these reports and falls neatly into five distinct categories. Those five categories constitute the one -page Vision for Arizona.

Simply stated, the Vision for Arizona is to be one of the best places in the nation to live a rewarding and productive life.

To fulfill that promise, the Vision for Arizona calls for Arizonans to commit to five interrelated goals:

Opportunities for all

Provide substantial and sustained support for talent of all ages and backgrounds through a top-quality educational system. Enhance opportunities for Arizonans who work but remain poor by providing greater access to quality affordable housing, health care, child care, education and improved employment opportunities.

Quality of life

Preserve and enhance all aspects of Arizona’s physical and cultural environment by maintaining significant open space, improving air quality, enhancing arts and culture, and establishing recreational spaces throughout the state and especially within the built environment. Provide adequate infrastructure to support our growing population, including government, education, accessible health care, communications, transportation, and sustainable water and energy. Improve our quality of life as the state grows.

Knowledge-based economy

Vigorously pursue a competitive knowledge-based economy that is among the strongest and most successful in the nation. Become a sustainable, internationally competitive "innovation" economy, supported by a world-class education system and an entrepreneurial environment that advances research, develops knowledge and generates significant venture capital investment.

Leadership

Develop citizen engagement and leadership appropriate to our contemporary society that forges effective collaboration between the public and private sectors, and develops and implements long-term and short-term strategies for action. Our efforts also should include performance indicators to regularly measure progress.

Investment

Establish a tradition of investment, by public and private sources, in the people and resources required to accomplish and sustain the goals contained in this vision.

Launching the vision statewide

To ensure that the Vision for Arizona truly represents the collective thinking of contemporary citizens and leaders, our center has been discussing and refining the vision statement in meetings around the state over the past year and a half.

In the process of those discussions, we have asked organizations, public and private, to endorse the Vision for Arizona. To date, more than 70 entities have done so, with more endorsements arriving every day. Endorsing organizations include cities, towns, counties, chambers of commerce, business and community leadership groups from throughout the state. We invite all organizations that have not yet endorsed the Vision for Arizona to do so in the weeks and months immediately ahead. It is our hope that all Arizonans will join us in supporting this endeavor.

To bring the Vision for Arizona, with all of its endorsements, to the attention of Arizona, we are pleased that three significant sponsors, Wells Fargo, Bashas’ and Arizona Public Service, have enabled us to run a full-page presentation of the Vision for Arizona in newspapers throughout the state on this very day. A copy of the vision and its endorsements appears elsewhere in today’s Tribune.

Implementing the vision for Arizona

Presenting the Vision for Arizona with its endorsements is only the first step in shaping a significant and successful future for Arizona. There must be collective action statewide if the vision is to truly make a difference.

We believe that can happen in three ways:

Keeping our eye on the big picture

We must keep the whole of the Vision for Arizona before us at all times so that no major element of it gets forgotten, overlooked or left behind. Inevitably action agendas will focus more intensely on specific items as the immediate circumstances dictate, just as we’ve done the past year or so with the issue of water. But as that happens, we mustn’t lose sight of how we’re doing in the other important areas affecting our future such as education, the state of our economy, our transportation system, in short, the basic items contained in the vision statement.

Our center is committed to developing an effective way to keep the status of the key issues contained in the Vision for Arizona in regular public view, periodically reporting progress toward the larger goals contained in the vision statement.

Using the vision to shape organizational agendas

We urge organizations throughout the state to use the Vision for Arizona as a stimulus and a guide to their own visioning and goal-setting, especially as it encourages them to work with other organizations as they do so.

Just recently, the Arizona Community Action Association and the Arizona Food Bank Association asked our center if we would help them use the Vision for Arizona at their upcoming retreat as they seek to reach across boundaries, tying the work they do with communities around the state to the larger goal of strengthening opportunities for those who use their services. We agreed to do so because their initiative represents exactly the kind of thinking we believe important to building a stronger Arizona.

At a recent meeting of the Northern Arizona Council of Governments, one of four regional councils serving Arizona’s nonurban counties, we were asked how the Vision for Arizona could serve their part of the state. Since these councils meet regularly to handle their normal business, we encouraged them to use the Vision for Arizona as a device to brainstorm about the most important items they believe could strengthen and transform their region in the years ahead, and we offered the services of our center as they did so.

We believe an active and continuous dialogue by organizations throughout the state about the most important features we wish most to characterize our state in the future would advance the Vision for Arizona in significant ways. We encourage existing organizations to engage in such dialogue, and we especially encourage the formation of coalitions to do so as well. Our center pledges to assist organizations and coalitions in this endeavor if they would find it helpful.

Launching bold initiatives that can transform Arizona's future

Our conversations around the state over the past year and a half lead us to believe that Arizona would benefit greatly from the identification and implementation of a limited number of bold initiatives. We’ve even captured a phrase for such initiatives from the book "Good to Great" by Jim Collins. Collins found that companies that have outperformed their competitors by a very substantial margin over time all had one thing in common: They identified and accomplished a major bold initiative. He calls these bold initiatives BHAGs, Big Hairy Audacious Goals, and we believe such bold initiatives can play an important role in shaping a better Arizona for the future.

We’ve begun working with communities and organizations around the state to identify BHAGs that would help implement the Vision for Arizona, and have already found some interesting ideas. Here are some examples of BHAGs proposed to date that illustrate the kinds of ideas the center wishes to foster:

• Improve Arizona public education to the point that we will rank among the top 10 states in the nation by 2020;

• Improve Arizona’s innovation and technology transfer process to enable its metropolitan areas to rank among the top five regions in the nation in innovation and entrepreneurship by 2020;

• Significantly lower the average nighttime temperature in greater Phoenix;

• Establish Arizona as the center of the Nuevo American Economy.

Our center wishes to encourage and assist in the identification of BHAGs like this as our pursuit of the Vision for Arizona unfolds and pledges to work with organizations and coalitions around the state to find ways to make them a reality. Just as the Vision for Arizona comes from the work of large numbers of citizens and leaders around the state, so, too, do we believe the bold initiatives we most want to shape our future should come from similar collaborative endeavors.

Shaping the Arizona we want for the 21st century is a challenging task. We believe that, working together, it can be done, and we wish to do everything we can to make a strong and successful future Arizona a reality. We invite Arizonans from all walks of life to join us in this endeavor.

Organizations wishing to endorse the Vision for Arizona, and individuals wishing to know more about this endeavor can contact us at the center’s Web site at www.ArizonaFuture.org or call (480) 727-5005.

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