Moving the community forward

Story by Rita Fay, Staff Writer

A local organization is attempting to improve the community by empowering and engaging local citizens.

Clear Vision is a local organization, created in 2007.  The goal of the organization is to increase civic engagement and awareness so that citizens can work together to move the community forward.

Clear Vision has a board made up of Eau Claire citizens from various careers and backgrounds. Board member and UW-Eau Claire Professor Donald Mowry said they want their board to be diverse and inclusive.

This past fall Clear Vision held an event called the Empowerment Summit which encouraged citizens to come forward with any improvements they thought Eau Claire could benefit from.

Board member Ann Schell said every community, including Eau Claire, is in need of some

“These are issues that bubble up from the public,” Schell said. “They are empowered to solve the problems so everyone isn’t going to the government saying ‘solve my problems’.”

Members of the general public were invited to attend the summit. They were encouraged to express what they thought were the problems with the community. There were over 70 issues brought up and those issues were then grouped into similar interests.

The groups were self-selected based on interest.

Board member and retired school principal, David Morley, said the most important part of this process is the civic engagement.

“I think Eau Claire is a wonderful community,” Morley said. “People in this community are civic minded and always willing to become engaged in projects and programs that help their neighbor.”

The summit included four separate meetings that took place in October and November. After the initial meeting where citizens identified problems, the following meetings focused on narrowing down the problems. Eight problems were identified and eight groups were created.

Some of the problems identified included education, environment, quality of life and sustainability. The groups that were created are now on their own to find solutions to the problems. The groups are just beginning their solution process by working through the Clear Vision process and getting to know one another.

Morley is working to improve the education provided  for after school programs. Mowry said other groups have invested their time to improve pedestrian safety. Others have formed to make a bike map
for the city.

“The empowerment summit was what we hoped to do on a fairly regular basis to bring more people into the process, to teach them the skills and then have them identify what they are interested in and then self-select into groups and
actually accomplish social actions.” Mowry said.

Clear Vision hopes to have an Empowerment Summit every year. The Summit for this year is finished. However, people interested in being involved can go to the website, and find an issue they may be interested in.

“I’m guessing there will probably be some successes and there will probably be some failures, or some that didn’t go exactly the way we thought they might,” Morley said. “That’s OK too. We can learn through some stumbles and we can learn through some successes.”

Clear Vision’s process has already seen some success in the past. Mowry said the recent Confluence Project has a Clear Vision tie to it. The Clear Vision process included a lot of one on one meetings, focus groups, and gathering of community opinions, all of which helped develop the implementation of the Confluence Project.

Morley said they are not looking to give any hand-outs with this project.

“What we’re trying to do is create situations that would be more like a hand-up,” Morley said. “We’re trying to improve things and we expect people to step forward and work with us. In the long run I think we’ll have great success and people will feel good about that.”