It all started with a bicycle ride. Former CSU President Dr. Larry Penley and Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry, enjoying a leisurely ride through downtown, talking about creating better connections between the City and the University. Within months, this conversation had sparked the creation of UniverCity Connections, a collaboration convened by the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado, and driven by the City of Fort Collins, Colorado State University, the Downtown Development Authority, and over 100 Fort Collins citizens. Peter Kenney of Civic Results and Martin Carcasson of CSU’s Center for Public Deliberation provided facilitation as UniverCity Connections challenged the community to come together, imagine a great future and make that future a reality.

The Process

At the beginning of the process, the stakeholders identified the elements of a vision for the future of the study area. These elements became the Vision Statement for UniverCity Connections. All of the work that followed was guided by this vision of the desired future and the products of this work are intended to bring that vision closer to reality. The Co-Chairs and Coordinating Committee of UniverCity Connections led this effort beginning in August of 2006. They identified stakeholders, refined the process and schedule, identified the study area, chose the name and logo, and planned the kickoff party. The process followed by the stakeholders was a step by step effort beginning with the development of a vision of the desired future. The stakeholders, working together identified the elements of their vision and assigned a committee to write the vision statement. Stakeholders assessed the current reality in the area, including identifying the strengths to build on, weaknesses to overcome, opportunities to capture, and threats to avoid. This preparatory work enabled the stakeholders to identify a manageable number of specific topics to focus on, and to form task groups for each topic. The remainder of the process was carried out by these task groups, mostly working alone, but occasionally coming together to share progress and address overlapping issues. With the planning work of the task groups finished, the stakeholders brought this phase of their effort to an end, and moved on to implementation of these initiatives. The Report from the Stakeholders includes some history, the vision statement, task group descriptions and initiatives, and a list of stakeholders. Highlights of the task groups and some of the completed initiatives are on the Community Impact page.

The primary steps in this process included:

  1. Organizing – select the stakeholders, refine the strategic planning process
  2. Assessing the current reality (analyze internal and external factors) strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
  3. Articulating a common vision of the desired future
  4. Identifying key issues, the areas where change is needed
  5. Developing goals and strategies
  6. Creating detailed action plans
  7. Implementing the action plans
  8. Continuing to convene and be a catalyst for initiatives and ideas

August & September 2007 Phase I – Planning the Process

  • Identify the key stakeholders and secure their participation
  • Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of all participants in the process
  • Identify staff and technical team
  • Articulate the purpose and refine the process
  • Organize a kick-off event to announce the project, introduce the stakeholders, and begin the Planning Phase

October 2007 – April 2008 / Phase II – Strategy Development

  • Create a vision of the desired future that captures the values of the entire community
  • Assess the current reality – what is our starting place on the road to the desired future
  • Identify areas where action is needed in order to achieve the vision
  • Develop goals and strategies for each action area
  • Create detailed action plans to achieve the goals
    • Steps to be taken
    • Who is responsible
    • What resources are needed and where they will be found
    • Timeline for implementation
    • Measurable indicator of success

April 2008 and Beyond / Phase III – Implementation

  • Implement the actions
  • Evaluate the impact
  • Adjust if necessary and implement again

2012 Renewal

The Executive Team determined that after 5 years it was time to build on the success of the initial UniverCity Connections and re-engage the community. Under the leadership of Executive Directors Jim Reidhead and Doug Johnson, the UniverCity Connections organization had supported the launch of Homeward 2020 and FortZED, brought the community together for the Poudre Runs Through It forums, and continued to foster relationships between CSU, the City, and citizens. The Community Foundation of Northern Colorado stepped off the Executive Team of funders, while continuing to support UniverCity Connections accounts. Trebuchet Group was engaged to provide facilitation and logistical support of the renewal phase.

Summer 2012 / Connections Team

The first activity in renewing UniverCity Connections was to invite 24 community leaders to do some pre-thinking and preparation with the goal of accelerating the larger community process.

  • Define potential areas for task group focus
  • Identify stakeholders and secure their participation
  • Organize a community celebration and renewal event
  • CSU video team create a video celebrating the accomplishments of UniverCity Connections

September 2012 – February 2013 / Task Group Formation and Planning

The larger community portion of Renewing UniverCity Connections started with a celebration event in September 2012. More than 200 new and returning stakeholders were encouraged by current CSU President Tony Frank and City Manager Darin Atteberry to continue building connections and making positive change.

Community members came together around  areas of interest, forming task groups to identify goals and create action plans. The task groups met separately and also came together with the bigger stakeholders group in October and November to get feedback and check for areas of overlap or synergy. The task group plans were collected and community members provided feedback at a January stakeholder meeting. The 2012 Action Plan Report was published in March; it includes a list of task group participants in addition to the action plans.

Task Group process steps

  • Assess how we are doing now in this Area of Focus
  • Establish and prioritize goals and objectives
  • Identify potential barriers and suggest options to overcome them
  • Identify potential actions/initiatives to accomplish the goals
  • Identify likely future home for initiative(s) and engage them in planning
  • Identify needed and available resources
  • Identify areas of overlap with other task groups
  • Develop a timeline – placing a goal date for each step
  • Identify measurable outcome to indicate success
  • Submit the initiative action plan for integration with all of the initiatives

February 2013 and Beyond / Implementation

Highlights of the task groups and some of the completed initiatives are on the Community Impact page.

Process steps for this implementation phase:

  • Implement the actions
  • Evaluate the impact
  • Adjust if necessary and implement again


Meeting Notes and Reference Materials

See the resources – presentations page for meeting notes and reference materials.


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