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NLC Futures Process begins new cycle; local leaders reach toward cities' futures.

Local leaders reach toward cities' futures

NLC's Futures Process, begun in 1989, has developed into an endeavor which gives local government leaders the opportunity to study in depth, issues which affect the direction our nation's communities will take in the coming years. It is a process which lets cities see around the curve to what the future may hold.

The origins of the Futures Process lay in the NLC Board's adoption of the 1989 Strategic Plan which established the Advisory Council as a separate entity with a "futures mission." This decision arose out of concern that cities and towns become active agents in shaping the future rather than simply reacting to it.

The futures mission involves: (1) identifying trends, emerging issues, and changes that will affect cities and NLC, (2) exploring and developing those topics, (3) explaining those topics to NLC leadership and city officials (and others, as appropriate), and (4) encouraging attention to the implications of those topics by NLC, local communities, and the nation.

These activities are carried out on a three year cycle which forms the "Futures Process." A new cycle begins each January, so three such cycles will be underway at any given time, each devoted to a separate theme. Each topic is to be selected with the Second Vice President so that it can be developed for use during his/her tenure as President. After each three-year process ends, the theme may be carried forward in a variety of ways; thus, the Futures Processes have the potential to shape NLC significantly over a period of years.

The first year of the Process is spent discussing and beginning to develop the Second Vice President's newly chosen theme. During this year NLC staff organizes a seminar for the Second Vice President, bringing in Advisory Council officers and experts to help further refine and enrich the chosen theme. At the beginning of the second year the priority topics of the theme have been clarified and intense information gathering occurs. Through a widely distributed "Call," NLC members and member groups are invited to provide suggestions, recommendations and resources to address the theme.

At the Congressional Cities Conference the Advisory Council meets to shape and focus the topic for further work. At the Summer Advisory Council meeting presentations are made and a general debate of the priority futures issues occurs. The Advisory Council makes decisions and adopts guidelines for its Report. Based on the guidelines from the Advisory Council, NLC staff prepares a publication clarifying the topic, incorporating the Advisory Council's recommendations, and offering case studies. After the Advisory Council Report is released, the third year of the Futures Process is spent disseminating the findings and conclusions discussed in the Report.

The new President pursues her or his agenda around the theme, building on the groundwork laid during the previous two years. NLC staff and leadership report at the end of the year on their activities related to the President's theme. The Advisory Council may then report to the Board of Directors about whether, and if so how, to continue to develop useful activities around the theme.

A call for papers

The Advisory Council of the National League of Cities wants to hear from city officials about ways local government can create "Family-friendly Communities," in our cities. The Advisory Council is charged with carrying out NLC's ongoing Futures Process.

Advisory Council Chairperson, Lottie Shackelford, city director of Little Rock, Arkansas, said that for the Futures Process to work best, "we need to know as much as we can about what cities and towns are doing on this matter. We also need to learn what city officials think about the relationship between municipal activities and the success of family life."

At the Congress of Cities in Las Vegas, NLC Vice President Don Fraser gave the Advisory Council an overview of the topic of Family-Friendly Communities. (Mayor Fraser selected the futures topic last year when he was 2nd Vice President--see article on Futures Process for further details.)

In the past, approaches to the needs of children and their families have focused only on social service intervention. Through the Futures Process, the Advisory Council seeks to broaden these approaches, augmenting basic social services with community-wide interest. Government would seek to support families by spurring the involvement of neighborhood and voluntary organizations and other institutions. The Futures Process will examine specific ways which all levels of government can spur this family-friendly community.

The Advisory Council invites written summaries describing local action in your community. All submissions will be given to the NLC Advisory Council for this year's discussions on creating Family-Friendly Communities. These descriptions will be made available to other cities through NLC's Children and Families in Cities project and through the NLC Municipal Reference Service. Some descriptions will be highlighted in the Nation's Cities Weekly Futures Forum series. More detailed presentations to the Advisory Council may be asked of some cities.

Please submit descriptions and statements, up to ten double-spaced pages, to William Barnes, Director, Center for Research and Policy Development, National League of Cities, 1301 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004. Questions may be directed to the Center at 202-626-3030. Although descriptions received at any time will be useful, those received soon will be available for the initial Advisory Council discussions. Please either submit your description or inform us of your intention to do so by February 25.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related information on a solicitation of local experiences and suggestions; National League of Cities
Author:van der Merwe, Shelly; Barnes, Bill
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Feb 10, 1992
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