Report on Transform Rockford Vision Rally 2014

transform rkfd

Last night was the much-anticipated Transform Rockford Vision Rally, held at the Coronado PAC. From the reports I saw online, the event drew over 1,400 attendees.  To recap what has been going on, Transform  Rockford has a 6 step process for changing the greater Rockford area. The stages are:

1) Analysis and case for change: Alignment on why

2) Develop the vision: Articulate our future

3) Define the strategy: Show the path to our vision


4) Develop the implementation plan: Assignment of work

5) Implement Initiatives & Measure: Achieve our vision

6) Review and Update: Update to Reflect Process/Change

The movement is currently in stage two, which can be broken down into these steps: 

a. Community Input

b. Vision Drafting

c. Community Feedback 

The community visioning sessions ended a few months ago, and since then the leaders of Transform Rockford have been drafting the vision. This vision was revealed last night, and now there will be a time of feedback and interaction with the community. After a final draft has been decided on, they will move into state three, defining the strategy. 

So, what was this vision statement announced last night? There are three parts to it, the summary vision intro, the vision statement, and twelve impact statements that cover different areas of improvement in the community. 

The vision intro is, “We are a top 25 community where our people are engaged, inspired and are leading successful and fulfilling lives.” 

(Side note: It really bothers me that the statement is missing the Oxford comma. I know this is a controversial topic, but I am definitely pro-Oxford, and so can’t help but cringe every time I look at the sentence.) 

The impact statements cover these facets of our community: 


Healthy lifestyles


Economy and jobs


Funding and Alignment


Physical Infrastructure 

Families & Neighborhoods 

Leadership and Youth

Arts and Recreation

Unity, pride, and culture

For each of these statements there is a brief summary of what the vision is, such as for Planning, “We take a purposeful, transparent, and results-oriented approach to planning for growth and renovation.” Or for Arts & Recreation, “Our community is unified, celebrates its achievements and diversity, takes pride in individual and collective achievement, and lives its shared values.” 

The two-paragraph vision statement takes this list and melds them into a comprehensive vision for the community.

After presenting the vision, the strategy for tackling these issues was explained. Improvement for each of these impact statement areas will be led by three members of the community, someone from business, a member from the public sector, and a leader from a religious or non-profit group. They will oversee the drafting a strategy for tackling their specific area. Their proposed plan will be reviewed by a “red team” which will challenge and critique the draft. After the plan has been strengthened through this dialogue and debate, it will be presented to the public for review and feedback. This is the process for each of the twelve facets listed above. 

So…what was the vision rally like? 

There was a definite vibe of excitement as I approached the Coronado. People of all ages and backgrounds were gathering outside the building to hear the lovely live music being played. I was quite early, but since I wanted to get a good seat and have time to set up my live-blogging, I headed straight inside. But the beautiful weather, good music, and the glamorous atmosphere of the Coronado tempted me to just chill outside for the extra 20 minutes. 

I’ll confess, I was pretty skeptical about the turnout for this. I was afraid it’d be one of those small events held in an awkwardly large facility. I guess I wasn’t considering that the turnout in November had been about 1,500, so it was realistic to plan on at least an equally large attendance for the Vision Rally. 

The excitement felt as we were waiting only escalated after the rally began. I found it amusing that each time someone was introduced on stage, the crowd felt compelled to give an enthusiastic round of applause. I can understand applause if 1) the person is extremely famous, or 2) if the person’s accomplishments have just been announced. But it is like a speaker says, “and joining me today is John Smith, who is…” but is then interrupted by uncontrolled applause over the sheer excitement of having a random, mostly unknown person on the stage. But the energy of the crowd was definitely a neat thing to experience, so I won’t complain about their need to express that through indiscriminate applause. 

Despite trying to maintain my neutral perspective on the whole event, I couldn’t help but be emotionally moved by some of the personal stories shared at the end. Of course, being the girl who cries over every sad video I see online, this was to be expected. 

After the rally ended and everyone began filing out, the introvert in me started to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of people there. But I mostly overcame that and instead talked to a few people about the event and their take on Transform Rockford. 

One of the volunteers who has been involved with quite a few of the visioning sessions said she enjoyed seeing how individual frustrations and dreams about the Rockford area were transformed into a community goal. 

Someone else was telling me how the rally made him realize the long-term scope of this project. It isn’t something that can be changed overnight, and it will require a lot of work and effort from many people. But Al, who moved here for work a few years ago, said that attending the rally made him want to become more involved with Transform Rockford. He saw the vision that was presented and wants to do his part to make it happen. When asked if there’s a particular part of the vision statement that makes him most excited, Al said he just wants to see a community that is prospering. And I was struck by his use of this word and how it does truly encompass everything else. 

Upon talking to another volunteer and finding that she was at the November rally, I asked how she would contrast the two events. Jill, a life-long resident of Rockford, described the November one as being “sobering” and having a funeral-like atmosphere. (As background, at that event, all the statistics and data on Rockford’s plight was presented. This was the first step in uniting the community in the recognition that something needs to change.) But in contrast to that bleak reality, the rally last night offered hope and was a reminder that we can make the future a better place. Having also helped at many visioning sessions across the community, Jill commented that it was interesting to see the diversity of our city. But after hearing from so many people, she realized that despite the differences, “we all really want the same thing.” 

So this has been a pretty positive and uplifting report. But of course, the cynic (or maybe just rationalist) in me has doubts. This post was focusing on the actual information shared by Transform Rockford, along with giving a sense of what it was like to attend the rally. In my next post, I’ll be sharing some thoughts on the viability of Transform Rockford.  I’ve tried to mostly present the facts of the movement so far, but I know that you all want to hear what I think of it all…so stay tuned!

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