The Institute in collaboration with SERA Architects has created and tested a five step process that is tailored to each community and institution’s needs. To begin the process of creating Civic Ecology, a community must ask itself five essential questions:
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to be in 10, 20, 50 years and beyond?
- How do we get to where we want to be?
- How do we know if we are getting there?
- Who wants to help answer these questions?
These questions can be answered by completing the following CIVIC tasks:
Convening, Investigating, Visioning, Implementing, and Charting progess.
Convening: Convene a Civic Ecology working group consisting of stakeholders from all sectors of the community: business, non-profits, institutions, governance, citizens, and activists. These stakeholders must be willing to put in the time and effort necessary to see the process through and most importantly, work together on behalf of the community. The group will be trained in systems thinking in order to see their community and its future in a different way: as a web of interrelated systems and flows.
Investigating: In this task, the working group investigates what presently works, what does not work, what systems exist, and what the community needs. This assessment identifies problems and their root causes, as well as leverage points to effect change.
Visioning: This step begins by helping the community ask itself where it wants to be in 10, 20, 50 years and beyond. It may also be useful to predict where the community will be if existing trends are projected into the future. The outcome of this visioning can take a variety of forms but must always build upon the community’s shared core values.
Implementing: Led by the Civic Ecology working group, the community creates community-scaled systems to help realize its vision. Some systems may be new, others enhancements of existing systems that seem to be working. In either case, the systems must bring identified assets to bear in satisfying identified needs. The group must also acknowledge barriers, assign responsibilities, and delineate specific tasks and timeframes for implementation.
Charting Progress: In this final, but never-ending task, the working group and community create a series of indicators that, when measured over time, will help the community assess progress towards realizing its vision. Periodic assessments and adjustments ensure that the Civic Ecology framework is truly a learning ecology.
Civic Ecology’s whole systems approach will yield a snapshot of the community’s desired future, the “software” necessary to achieve that future, and the ability to chart whether means and ends are in alignment. It provides the fundamental context necessary for making decisions about capital investment in “hardware” (buildings, streets, schools, parks, and utilities), economic revitalization, business growth and retention, main street improvements, and virtually anything related to the common good.