Community Council is a nonprofit organization that fosters a trusted gathering place where people engage in dialogue, inquiry and advocacy to build a vibrant region for everyone.
Founded in 2008, the organization grew out of four well-attended forums on managing community change called "Riding the Wave," held in 2007. Many people who attended those forums expressed frustration at their inability to influence decision making on matters they and their neighbors care about: our regional economy, the health of our communities, the sustainability of our way of life and our children's future.
Community Council strives to represent the region - Columbia and Walla Walla counties and the Milton-Freewater area. It is nonprofit, nonpartisan, nongovernmental and inclusive. Community Council operates through a 26-member board of directors, an executive director, small staff and a number of committees.
Community Council’s mission is to facilitate civic engagement, and the board of directors has chosen to use a structured process following a model pioneered in Jacksonville, Florida, that has amassed an impressive record of success during its three-plus decades of community problem solving in that area. The process consists of identification of an issue of general concern, six months of research and discussion of the topic, consensus-based development of recommendations for action, and implementation of the recommendations. Every other year Community Council starts a new study.
Throughout the year, the public is invited to submit potential study topics for consideration by the next program committee. To be considered, they must meet specific criteria—importance to the region, local interest, potential for impact, necessity and timeliness. The program committee, a panel of residents representative of the region, weighs each of those points for topics selected and ensures that the work of Community Council is balanced from year to year.
The study/action is a public process, and all interested in participating are encouraged to attend. The study chair and a study management team develop a curriculum of speakers and materials to fully explore the topic (usually 15-17 sessions). Then the group, working by consensus, compiles their findings, draws conclusions about what they learned and develops recommendations for positive change. The final report is adopted by the board of directors. It is then published, released to the public, and used by the implementation task force to educate the public and decision-makers in order to put the recommendations into action.
By adopting the study committee’s report, the board of directors has committed Community Council to support efforts to implement the recommendations for the next two or three-year period. The chair, appointed by Community Council president, works with a task force of interested residents, many of whom have served on the study committee. The group develops a strategy and timeline for addressing the recommendations and then works toward specific goals, with meetings held as needed. Some of the recommendations are complex and will take time to address—perhaps bringing new groups together or working with elected officials on policy questions. Other goals will can be accomplished in a shorter amount of time.
An implementation strategy and measures of accomplishment are developed for each of the recommendations by the implementation task force. They are formally adopted by the board of directors. At the end of the implementation effort, the task force prepares a final report, which the board adopts and makes public.
There are several ways to get involved. You can submit a study topic for consideration by the next program committee, you can participate on a study committee, and you can join an implementation task force. Maybe you just want to be included on our mailing list so that you can know what we are working on. Let us know how you'd like to be involved.
The board of directors is the keeper of the process. One role is to ensure that there is leadership for each phase of the process and that the committee work is carried out in a manner befitting the mission and credo of Community Council. By formally adopting each study topic, the study report and the strategic plan for implementation, and by appointing committee leadership, the board authorizes the committees' work. Board members may participate with the study, but only as private citizens and not in their capacity as board members. Equally important board roles are to ensure adequate funding to support the process and create public awareness of the organization’s goals and activities.
Community Council is funded primarily through generous grants and donations. We have received grants from a number of local philanthropic organizations, and receive donations from individuals and other local organizations. We also generate some of our revenue through events, such as our annual luncheon.