Don Willott

Making our region sustainable and prosperous

Exploring the Next Wave

In 2005 Forterra launched the Cascade Agenda, built on a conversation with over 4,500 people from across the region about our future together. We followed shortly thereafter with the Olympic Agenda. These two cutting edge game plans articulated the work, programs and goals we would strive to accomplish over the next two decades – building the foundation if you will – for our region to be sustainable and prosperous well into the next century. The Agendas were admittedly audacious in scope and scale and they connected with our region at a level I had never before experienced – in fact could never have fathomed. They won international recognition and much more importantly, neighborhood commitment here at home, clearly answering a need felt by citizens across our region.

Then three years into our region’s implementation of the Agendas, the great recession struck.

Consider a few examples of how the world has changed for all of us since 2008. Smart technology brings unimaginable efficiency to our everyday decisions, from deciding which edibles will best grow in our gardens (Edyn) to how we hail a ride (Uber). Economic equity is center stage as communities grapple with adjusting our minimum wage and considering issues like how they keep working middle class jobs in growing metropolises. Tolerance and civil rights have dramatically advanced, with almost half of our country’s population now living in states that recognize everyone’s right to marry. Our nation’s population appears to be trending back into our cities after decades of suburban and exurban boom, a shift totally unpredicted even a few years ago.

It hardly has been all positive changes over these last six years. Family wage jobs have been stagnant at best in our cities and in free fall in our rural communities and towns. Climate and the crises of our oceans have alarmingly worsened. And, while our economy is recovering according to gross measures, it is fundamentally changed from the go-go pre-2008 years. I have listed our economy last – advisedly and maybe surprisingly so – because as central as it is to our day-to-day lives, over time it may not be of the same scale of impact as some of these other seismic changes.

Layer on to these profound changes, the work of Bruce Katz and his team at the Brookings Foundation demonstrating that the world’s economy operates not so much at the national level but at the level of metropolitan regions. Throughout these tumultuous six years our conviction has strengthened at Forterra that a resilient sustainability will largely be constructed at the regional level. Consequently it is time for a top-to-bottom reconsideration of the Cascade and Olympic Agendas.

Over the 12 months from June 2014 through May 2015, through a series of structured conversations, rigorous analysis and evaluation, town hall meetings and crowd sourcing, we will be working toward the release of the Next Wave of the Agendas in the spring of 2015. It will not be a static document; it will be constantly renewed to best guide us toward the goal of becoming a sustainable and prosperous region, serving generations well into the next century. The incredible changes I listed for these last few years alone demonstrate that our work toward a sustainable region no longer can be a step function in 10 year increments, rather it now must adhere to a frequently adjusted trend line toward this goal.

So once again Forterra will be doing what it does so well: taking a clear eyed look at the state of our region and charting what we can do together to make it sustainable and prosperous well into the next century. I expect there will be surprises for us and new directions pioneered in the Next Wave. I also know that the Next Wave will be anchored by principles first set forth in our Cascade and Olympic Agendas. The Next Wave will continue to recognize that our wild landscapes in fact help civilize our sometimes wild disregard for ourselves, our neighborhoods and our region. The Next Wave also will continue to express a deep commitment to our communities and our need to be sustained by work that neither degrades us, nor defiles the earth. Stay tuned – we will be calling on you for your help and insight in the months ahead.

  • Gene Duvernoy

    Gene Duvernoy is President of Forterra. He’s spent more than 30 years working on land conservation and building community, founding Forterra in 1989 in his attic. Since then he’s led the organization to national prominence by creating bold, innovative and successful programs that improve the quality of life for all residents.
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