What is Imagine Nashville?

A yearlong, community-led effort to help the city develop a bold, inclusive vision to carry Nashville forward.

What is the end goal of this campaign?

The goal is rigorous community conversation that culminates in  a set of clear,  actionable recommendations that can carry our city forward. f. These recommendations  will take into account the things we love about our city and want to protect and preserve while dreaming big about what could be in our future.

What is the role of the Steering Committee?

The Steering Committee is guiding the yearlong, community-led effort and is responsible for connecting the work of the group back to and securing the participation of the communities, stakeholders and organizations that are central to the success of this effort.

How was the Steering Committee created?

The co-chairs tried to be really intentional in identifying people who represented many different perspectives and parts of our city. In fact, at our first gathering as a group, many people didn’t know each other – which was a great thing. We didn’t want a group that looks like the same 50 people you see at typical civic endeavors. After all, part of the challenge Nashville is facing right now is that so many people feel they are cut out of discussions about the future and/or aren’t benefiting from the successes of the city. We want to do the work to bring new voices to the table and set the stage for a much larger, more inclusive conversation about where we need to go as a city and a community.

If the Steering Committee has no elected officials on it, how will the ideas be implemented?

First and foremost, our recommendations are not focused solely on what government can do. Instead, what Nashville needs is a clear “North Star” that can help guide private philanthropy, nonprofits, the business community, the faith community, neighborhood groups, policymakers and more. That’s an important distinction. Additionally, we are carefully working  side by side with city leaders – including the Mayor, Metro Council, Metro Department Heads and others — so they are very much involved and will continue to be.

Where did the funding come from?

We believe part of the beauty of this effort is that it is inclusive. As a result, we asked every major philanthropic foundation and all of our local colleges and universities to stand with us as partners. Additionally, The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee is serving as the fiscal sponsor for this initiative.

Have you been soliciting input from existing civic and social groups?

Yes. These organizations are an integral part of the conversation. In particular, as we work to put dreams into action in drafting specific recommendations, we want to do that working very closely with those on the front lines of existing efforts in the community. The brainstorming sessions we’re planning next will bring together the best and brightest minds locally and nationally to talk about what’s already happening, where there are gaps or needs, etc., so that recommendations can build off of existing work in a thoughtful, harmonious way.

Will the results of your campaign/surveys/etc., be published for the public to see?

Absolutely yes. Openness and transparency are so important to this effort. Right now we have posted links to summary data as well as dashboards by neighborhood and constituency group. Ultimately, in partnership with the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, all of the data will be available on an open-access platform for anyone to access.

How is this different from other research?

This research is different from traditional polling data in three key ways. First, it is designed to look at the “why” behind the “what.” What is driving people’s frustrations? Why do they prioritize one issue over another? What are the values people aspire for the city to have and how might that impact how they look at issues like housing, mobility, education and more?

Second, this was a multi-dimensional look at what Nashvillians think — with many layers of research, not just a simple poll. Additionally, there was a very intentional effort to talk to people who are often hard to reach or missing from this sort of research. For example, there were conscious efforts to talk to young people, low-income families, lifelong and new Nashvilllians, and more.

Third and finally, there was a large-scale effort to engage a broader swath of the community. We ultimately spoke to 10,000 Nashvillians in the course of 100 days. That enables greater insight into what makes individual neighborhoods and communities tick.

What comes next?

With the research complete, we now turn our attention to making Nashville’s hopes and dreams a reality. Over the next 6-8 weeks we will be bringing together some of the brightest minds both locally and nationally to look at the research and develop a set of draft recommendations. We will then take those recommendations out to the public for feedback and refinement, with the goal of having final recommendations to release by summer. But more than just recommendations, we intend to also outline clear metrics to track progress, and an implementation strategy that ensures action and accountability for results.

How will I be able to weigh in on recommendations?

From the outset, Imagine Nashville has been deeply committed to a community-driven approach. Anything short of that has limited utility. As such, once we have draft recommendations, they will be shared back with the community for feedback and refinement. That will take place later in the Spring.

Is it the intention for Imagine Nashville to live beyond the community findings/report, or does it go away when the findings are issued?

Imagine Nashville is a one-year endeavor, not the creation of a new, permanent organization. What we are focused on is making sure the city has a forward vision that transcends individual organizations and agendas. From there, we hope all of those organizations will step up and “own” parts of the implementation.

You talk about hearing from 10,000 people. Is that really unprecedented? Haven’t other efforts like community based budgeting done the same thing?

Hearing from 10,000 people in 100 days is unprecedented. I think you’d be hard pressed to find many other efforts — here or elsewhere — that have done that. For example, the community-based budgeting effort took place over a much longer period of time and involved a large-scale advertising and direct mail campaign and still fell short of expectations. The fact that so many people participated in such a short period of time is emblematic of people’s desire to have a clearer path forward for Nashville that benefits everyone.

How does this effort compare to Nashville Next?

Nashville Next was and is a powerful tool for the city but what we’re doing here is different. NashvilleNext is fundamentally a Planning Department/Government-led effort. Some of what Nashville is wrestling with can be addressed through planning policy, but certainly not all of it. Moreover, that plan is almost a decade old. Our hope is that the work that comes out of Imagine Nashville can serve as a foundation to other work, like updating our planning policies.

Can you explain more about the values?

Part of what makes this different from other research efforts is looking at the “why” behind the “what.” In particular, our findings highlight a number of core values shared by many, including financial security, peace of mind, personal accomplishment, a family-friendly community, and perhaps most interestingly, a sense of community and “belonging.” By getting to the values that drive people’s thinking, we’re able to more purposefully craft a path forward for the city that unifies people behind a larger set of goals and beliefs.