Late last summer, bicycling and walking activists from Louisiana reached out to S & G Endeavors with an ennobling purpose: To establish a broad coalition of statewide partners and advocates that seek to learn from one another and collaborate to move walking and bicycling forward with a shared and actionable policy agenda serving people of all ages and all abilities in Louisiana.
“We have been trying, and struggling, for 5 years now to coalesce an effort to form a statewide bicycle advocacy organization,” said Beaux Jones, Board President and Acting Executive Director of Bike Baton Rouge. “The decision to hire Jeremy Grandstaff, and S & G Endeavors, was the tipping point for Louisiana. Thanks to their collaborative process, we are now well on our way to forming a 501(c)4 organization that we know will contribute to the health, accessibility and safety of Louisiana for years to come.”
Why S & G Endeavors? The Process!
The steering committee engaged S & G endeavors to help with three major tasks:
- To facilitate a design process for the summit;
- To facilitate the summit;
- Provide coaching and counsel on implementation to ensure the summit’s produced actions were successful.
To leverage the group’s wisdom from the very beginning, S & G convened three design team sessions. This team was comprised of key stakeholders from all major organizations attending the summit. Supported by S & G Endeavors’ senior consultant Jeremy Grandstaff, the planning team determined the following outcomes for the one day collaborative summit:
- Create a shared statewide policy agenda to collaboratively move walking and bicycling forward with specific actions to achieve success.
- Strengthen and broaden partnerships across the state
- Share resources (i.e. education and experiences) via a coordinated network
After a fast, furious and fun set of virtual planning meetings, the team came up with the following agenda to meet their summit outcomes:
Panel Session: Participants kicked off the day with a panel that discussed some of the data gathered, with regard to specific challenges and opportunities facing Louisiana as it works to become more walking and rolling friendly. After the short panel, participants got to ask questions to get more wisdom from the panelists. A big thank you to the panel:
- Billy Fields, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Texas State University
- Jennifer Ruley, PE, Active transportation Engineer, Louisiana Public Health Institute
Telling Our Stories: After the panel, the design team wanted to shift focus back to the collective intelligence of the group. To do this, they broke the participants into small groups. Each person shared their love for walking and rolling, their previous history with it, and their hopes for action at the state-wide level.
Their responses led to a powerful shared understanding. Participants began to see their own hopes and dreams reflected in each other. They shared desires for multi-modalism, equity and coalition-building for a statewide entity to lead their efforts.
Open Space Forum: The design team wanted to capitalize on the energy generated by the stories, so after lunch, the participants met for a group-run strategy planning session. They used a planning technique called Open Space. In Open Space, the participants are 100% responsible for proposing the objectives for the plan.
Picture this: 30 people representing the whole of Louisiana gathered together in a circle. Large easels with poster paper were all around the room. Each person was empowered. They shared their opinions on the best steps for their fledgling organization; they shared their questions they needed explored and answered. The conversation was spirited. Each idea or topic was written on a piece of paper and added to the marketplace of ideas. After they submitted all their options, participants literally “voted with their feet”; they went from easel to easel, having vibrant conversations around topics that mattered to them the most.
The topics with the most energy and commitment turned into the key objectives for their plan. The team to carry out any particular objective was made out of the people who cared about it the most.
After much discussion, debate and laughter, the group had a beginning plan in place to create the organization of which they’d dreamt. After the session, they rode, rolled and walked to a local establishment to celebrate both a job well-done and anticipate the success to come.
What Happened Next?
When we checked in with the chairman of the steering committee this spring, she reported that they “have decided that a 501(c)(4) will best serve all the interests of the group, and have just appointed our first board to finish setting the foundation of our new organization. There are preliminary plans to have a larger summit this fall in an effort to further streamline our ideas, identify stakeholders, and bring awareness to our entity. We have a statewide education framework in place for the initial members to have a way to communicate with each other, and learn how to communicate with policy makers and the public, as well as a way to organize information for the general public. We also have the beginnings of a framework to continue to measure our successes as we move forward and make sure we are reaching the goals we set for ourselves. The policy team has already addressed some of the issues identified at the summit, which helped to set us on a course for success.”
Congratulations to the steering committee and the rest of the stakeholders this new organization will serve. We’ll report more success on this nascent organization as they thrive in 2015; stay tuned!