Looking back & looking forward (new workshops for 2018!)

2017 was a big year for CULTIVATE! 

Somewhere during the daily grind of providing consulting services to our clients, Matt, Amanda, Jordan and I realized that we shared a common passion for helping communities implement Strong Towns principles, and that our collective expertise could be organized into a workshop that would educate and empower community leaders to shake loose of status quo and get started on the path to coming a Strong Town. In a matter of weeks, we formed CULTIVATE! Collaborative and began planning our first workshop. A new website, intro blog posts, and a workshop preview webinar hosted by Strong Towns followed shortly thereafter.

We hosted our inaugural workshop last November in Dallas, with some help from our good friends Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns and Monte Anderson, co-founder of Incremental Development Alliance. We had a blast spending the day with 40+ people who had a broad range of expertise and roles, but who shared the common goal of making their community better. There were some logistical issues, but all-in-all, the workshop went well and we got some amazing feedback that confirmed we were on the right track. Check out this video for just a few of the things attendees had to say. (Huge thanks to John Simmerman of Active Towns for shooting video for us!)

In December, we were invited out to West Palm Beach, FL, by City Commissioner Paula Ryan to participate in a Town Hall that her campaign was holding to discuss growth and development decisions in their downtown. I mention this event specifically because it was championed by an elected official who believes in the Strong Towns message and sees great potential in her city, but needed a little help to get things unstuck. That's exactly why we started our workshops and what we're hoping to do in communities all across the country.

We put a lot of work in to make the first workshop happen and get things up and running, and we've learned our share of lessons in the process. That process was just the beginning, though. In true Strong Towns fashion, we have made a conscious point of building these workshops incrementally and iteratively. That means starting with an idea that we feel strongly about and building on it one step at a time. It also means acknowledging up front that we will learn as we go.

We’re more confident than ever that people in all types of roles and locations are as tired as we are of failed business-as-usual practices that leave our communities financially and environmentally fragile and socially disconnected. 

We also know that there are clear, affordable, and actionable steps that each community can start taking right now to cultivate a thriving and people-focused local economy, a culture of genuine collaboration, and a financial resiliency that will allow communities to thrive and prosper for generations to come.

We’ve received loads of helpful feedback from many of you, and you’ve overwhelmingly confirmed to us that that there is a broad demand for action-oriented education on what it takes to build Strong Towns. We have heard, and continue to hear, from elected officials, city managers, finance directors and department heads, economic development folks, #StrongCitizens, and small developers—each of whom understands that they play a key role in their city’s story, but that all the players have to be operating from the same playbook. 

And that’s where we know we can help make a real impact. We’re not promising magic formulas. We are talking about realistic actions that communities across the country have already taken in one way or another, and organizing them into logical processes that bring people and perspectives back together around what really matters. It’s about finding the smallest changes that can make the biggest difference your community, making them happen, and then building on successes and learning from failure.

And so… we are thrilled to say that we’ll be ramping up the workshops in 2018! 

We are still finalizing our 2018 workshop schedule, but we plan to do at least one 2-day workshop every month, in locations around the country. Once the cities and the dates are confirmed, we will make tickets available. So far, things are shaping up for us to put on workshops in the following places:

  • Houston,
  • San Marcos/Austin (TX),
  • Vancouver,
  • Tulsa (OK),
  • Bismarck (ND),
  • Shreveport (LA),
  • Lubbock (TX),
  • Indianapolis,
  • Boston,
  • Minneapolis, and
  • Scottsdale (AZ).

In addition to these general workshops, which are intended for a broad audience, we're also going to be visiting communities for on-site "local launch" workshops focused on the people, issues and opportunities specific to that community.

Would you like to attend a general workshop or host a local launch program in a location that's not on our list? Or, are you in one of these cities and interested in championing or helping us host? Let us know! Send an email to info@cultivatecollaborative.org or fill out our inquiry form.

Make 2018 the year you become a change agent in your community. Get engaged, get educated, and then CULTIVATE! In the meantime, if you’re wondering what you’ll take away from a CULTIVATE! workshop, the video above is a great place to start.

Update (1.31.18):

We've set dates for our workshops in Lubbock, TX (April 5-6), and San Marcos, TX (April 12-14)! We're also working out details for a workshop in Indianapolis, either May 3-4 or 10-11. Tickets will be available soon!

Kevin Shepherd