By: David G. Brown, CEO & President of the Greater Omaha Chamber
Right now, we are not focusing on the right now. We are looking 20 years into the future, and we are seeing a Greater Omaha that no longer has pockets of poverty, that leads in tech innovation and medical research and attracts talent and investment as competitively as any of America’s other great regions.
We all want to get there – and we have to get there – but how?
“Vision without action,” says futurist Joel Barker, “is merely a dream.” So, we are putting in the work, embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to identify the future we want and accomplish it.
The project we are undertaking is called Strategic 4Sight (S4S), an ambitious collaboration that draws on the strengths and future focuses of three of Greater Omaha’s best-known organizations: the Chamber, United Way of the Midlands and Urban League of Nebraska. (We knew the only way to ensure success was to lead through collaboration, pairing our economic expertise with partners who lead in alleviating poverty and improving the quality of life; all of us working together to cause, conquer or avoid the disruptions needed to move this region in a new direction.)
Since February, we’ve been looking deeply into the future to determine how to play smarter, to work with the trends facing us and be on the cutting edge of trends facing the world. Three Community 4Sight Labs collectively convened about 240 community members to discuss trends and design plausible future scenarios for Greater Omaha 2040. Throughout the process, we have been pushed to think differently, plan differently and accomplish differently than we would using the standard strategic planning process.
Helping to guide our work is “human spark plug” Rebecca Ryan, the founder and owner of NEXT Generation Consulting and the resident futurist for Greater Omaha. I have known Rebecca Ryan since she helped us with early formation of the Chamber’s Young Professional Council.
“What’s needed now, more than ever before,” she tells us, “is strategic foresight. Strategic foresight takes a cold, hard look at the trends in technology, society, the economy, the environment and politics and asks, ‘What is our future likely to look like ten (or twenty) years from now?’ It imagines several, possible futures and then asks, ‘Are we ready for any of these?’”
We know we are ready for a future where innovation, new investment and rising income levels reign.
Between now and November, community leaders will select one possible future scenario and develop a 20-year plan to achieve it. The Chamber will use these bold, specific initiatives to create a new economic development strategy that is inclusive, next-generation-focused and visionary. The campaign that ultimately emerges (Prosper Omaha II) will complement and support the objectives of previous community and economic development plans, including the current Prosper Omaha, which closes in 2019.
No other region in the U.S. has attempted an S4S effort as large as this. As we continue to move forward, it is critical that the community continues to engage. Imagine the power of all facets of this region striving for a common vision, trying to solve the same problems and create the same opportunities. The future belongs to everyone. The more input we get in this process, the more likely that what we see in our crystal ball will have more clarity.
That said, I invite you to fill out this questionnaire and give these questions some serious thought.
I look forward to hearing from you and to powering ahead with our work to transform our community into an even better, more future-ready version of itself.