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Fixing Our Roofs and Tending Our Gardens: The Livability Summit

By Evan Schmidt

On October 30th, our region came together for Valley Vision’s second Livability Summit. The event provided a wellness check on livability for our region and explored how we can work together to make our communities more livable for all. The purpose of the Livability Summit is to provide data, thought leadership, and collaborative opportunities to inspire and drive change. In a time where divisions and entrenched social problems plague our civic life and harm our communities, we believe that having civic space that brings diverse people together, enables candid conversations, and encourages new ways of thinking about old problems is foundational to community building and contributes to livability for people in our region.

Some of what we learned was through data, including The Livability Poll – a public opinion poll created by Valley Vision and our partners at the Institute for Social Research at Sacramento State. Findings showed that our natural spaces, parks, trails, and open space remain our most valued regional quality of life asset, that housing prices are unaffordable especially for renters, that unaffordable and inaccessible childcare is a significant barrier for parents, and that inequities result in more challenges for communities of color and lower income individuals when it comes to access, affordability, and levels of satisfaction across a number of factors.

And then some of what we learned was from the information and accounts provided by guest speakers and event participants. In our first segment, we invited participants up to the stage in a “Lead from Any Seat” reverse panel exercise – where our elected officials and other civic leaders were  asked to stay seated and listen while audience members who might otherwise not have an opportunity to share were asked to join the stage to share brief remarks. One of my favorite quotes was from Kevin Daniel who reminded us that we “should not be tending to our garden while our roof is leaking” and that we must take action where it is needed most – ensuring housing, basic needs, and opportunities for those who need it most. In a video that captured the beauty and challenges of the region, “Shared Prosperity” showed us both where the region’s gardens are flourishing and where our roof is leaking – check it out here.

In the segments that followed, we looked at different aspects of what it takes to build an inclusive economy that improves livability for all. These segments included a SACOG-hosted session on the importance of commercial corridors, our keynote speaker, Judith Taylor, who spoke about her experiences across the nation in building community-centered economic initiatives and how to create “transformation without displacement,” a deep dive into Valley Vision’s inclusive economy initiative related to California Jobs First (CERF), and a look at how neighborhood leaders in Del Paso Heights are working with Golden One Credit Union to create long-term transformation that lifts up the community in Del Paso. 

Finally, some of what we learned was through talking with each other. In between stage segments, a facilitator sat at each table to introduce discussion questions, document responses, and facilitate discussion among audience members. Additionally, audience members were deliberately mixed up to create diverse tables where attendees were likely to hear a different point of view or meet someone they didn’t know. These sessions brought about robust discussion, created new connections for participants, and helped provide catalytic collaboration that will inform Valley Vision’s work over the next year and fuel actions for others as we work collectively to solve the challenges for our communities.

For Valley Vision, we know that a one-day event like the Livability Summit won’t solve all the problems. But, we think of it as our love note to the region – bringing the best of what we can do (collaboration, research, network building, system change action) to the people and the region we love. Thank you to those who supported the effort and those who attended – you will continue to hear from us about how we will enact the changes and advance ideas learned at the event.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!

Evan Schmidt is CEO of Valley Vision.

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