OWATONNA — Owatonna Forward is ready to move into its next phase.
After sharing its vision to make Owatonna “the hub of southern Minnesota” that will “attract the world to its doors,” and after delineating 13 action-specific goals for the community — “destiny drivers,” they are called — the grassroots, citizen-driven effort is ready to start efforts to fulfill those goals.
Part of those efforts will involve a new cast of characters, designated as “champions” for the goals, the destiny drivers.
Over the next three months, the champions will work with the members of Owatonna Forward, called “stewards,” to create an accountability model or framework, said Peng Olson, one of the stewards and the chair of the Owatonna Forward Formation Committee.
“It is necessary that the two parties work together with one another to set the stage for accomplishing activity and outcomes with the drivers,” Olson said. “As part of this activity, Owatonna Forward finds it absolutely necessary that we all understand the importance of delivering a framework — one that encourages transparency in each of the driver’s work effort, clearly articulates each driver’s progress, provides for metrics to ensure we’re tracking with our target dates and goals, and, most importantly, provides a mechanism for civic engagement.”
The goal, Olson said, is to have that accountability model in place by spring. During that same time, Owatonna Forward will be recruiting individuals from the community to be involved with each destiny driver — an important element of civic engagement.
The champions will help in the recruitment process, making certain that they are “surrounded by the right stakeholders and interested community members that are committed to the process,” Olson said. The champions also will “lay out a plan based on their driver and what is needed to begin building that plan,” Olson said, by which she meant the resources and talents needed, among other things.
The champions, who will be introduced to the community in the upcoming weeks and months, were identified through a process by the stewards in the late summer — a process by which the stewards identified key stakeholders in the destiny drivers who had the skillset characteristics and traits needed to lead the drivers.
“We subsequently approached each champion with an invitation to consider the leadership role for the driver,” Olson said, “threading it with an understanding that the role will encompass a new approach behind civic commitment, community leadership, and working with Owatonna Forward.”
Some of the champions will be familiar faces. Others will be new — and intentionally so.
“Owatonna has changed over the last several decades in terms of its demographics and its former community leadership decision-making model,” said Olson. “Due to globalization, among other factors, the leaders that once helped to lead our community in a civic sense have disappeared. Their intentional dedication of time, talents and social capital has disappeared.”
Through the public input it received in the online survey and community sessions, the stewards of Owatonna Forward heard that the definition of leadership in Owatonna needs to change, Olson said.
“It requires that we as citizens change the definition of leadership in our community to one that is focused on the leader as a catalyst for collaboration,” she said.
And given that the destiny drivers and those who champion them for the community are different from one another — “Each one is unique and stands on its own,” said Olson — not all approaches to meeting and completing the goals of those drivers will be the same.
Take, for example, financing the projects made explicit in those destiny drivers. Owatonna Forward has not and will not dictate how that financing should take place.
“Owatonna Forward will not be determining the financing costs of any drivers,” Olson said, noting that the organization itself has neither sought not received any public money but is financed through philanthropic contributions.
“This isn’t to say that a given destiny driver, its champion and the community member team that is committed to the development of the driver plan won’t seek funding,” Olson continued. “Various strategies could include the pursuit of private funding, public funding, and/or a combination of public and private funding. It all depends on how and where the destiny driver process and planning lands.”
Olson said that Owatonna Forward is “rewriting the rules for community engagement and getting work done.”
“At this point, we’re organizing to get the work done,” she said. “Champions will be helping to create a roadmap and will identify resources to create the future — identified by community members — to move Owatonna Forward.”