September 13, 2011; Source: Voice of San Diego | What started as workplace conversations on how to improve the San Diego community has expanded to a formal visioning effort that has attracted the participation of the idea-sharing group TED as well as foundation support and approving newspaper editorials by the mayor of San Diego. The project, called “America’s Finest City,” encourages citizens to voice their ideas with local media outlets promising to continue the conversations.

As part of the process, the San Diego Foundation surveyed San Diegans on their vision for the community. Small groups are now discussing what they want the next 50 to 100 years in San Diego to look like. Public workshops began last week and the the foundation is currently compiling insights gleaned there into a report, “Our Greater San Diego Vision” which is scheduled in November.

An Idea Tournament is encouraging residents to present one idea to improve San Diego to a panel and judges, with successive rounds scheduled to determine the winning idea. Criteria for prospective entries include potential impact, “brazenness and innovativeness,” and feasibility.

In May, leaders of TEDxAFC, a local version of the multinational TED organization, held the “Get Your Fix” conference that encouraged participants to get adrenalized and stimulated to creatively solve problems. Jeffrey Church of Nike Water  described how he started his nonprofit that  provides clean water to areas worldwide hit with drought or other environmental challenges.  Dr. Mimi Guarneri, founder of the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, illustrated how behavior changes can help prevent disease and improve health. “Find out what’s broken and fix it” was the conference mantra.

Mayoral editorials have called for the next generation of civic leaders to be future-focused and pay attention to the creative class to help build a successful community. The current mayor is also leading a “City of the Future” committee.

Through Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms, the Voice of San Diego has committed to keep conversation and ideas going.  Their philosophy is that you can’t have too many people thinking about this stuff. It’s “all hands on deck.”

Has your community initiated similar initiatives? What is the best role for community foundations in these efforts?—Nancy Knoche