Rural Idea Labs
What is an IdeaLab?
Starting in summer 2021, COIC launched the first of a series of Rural IdeaLabs, designed to create opportunities for open dialogue and localized, community-led creative solutions to common challenges facing rural community members across Central Oregon. The Rural IdeaLabs are modeled on the idea of an “unconference”, which encourages attendees to set the program based on their community’s concerns, needs, and passions. The first session, held in July 2021, was on the topic of childcare.
What it looks like in Action
All IdeaLabs have a total of three sessions, during which the participants identify and share pressing barriers, propose possible solutions, and design a project to address the need. In the first session, conveners react to the direction of the audience and develop a handful of topic areas based on these conversations. In the second session, participants elect to work on one of the topics alongside two or three other attendees to generate a creative solution to the identified problem. In the third session, the best project concept is awarded prizes based on the degree to which they meet three criteria: community-led action, collaboration, and sustainability.
Session 1: Community building, creating thinking and imagining solutions.
Session 2: Teamwork to make the dream work. Teams work together to design a winning project.
Session 3: Idea Faire and Prizes. Teams present their ideas and are awarded prizes based on the degree to which they meet the review criteria.
Past and Upcoming IdeaLabs
Regional Childcare Solutions (July 2021)
Many of us in rural Central Oregon know how difficult it is to find childcare. To address the need for childcare in the region, the Rural Community Building Program hosted a free, three-part Childcare IdeaLab for community members of Madras, Prineville, Sisters, La Pine, and Redmond. The goal of the three sessions was to identify existing gaps in the system, as well as those who could be supportive allies to help develop solutions.
Want to bring an idea lab to your community? Contact us to discuss your proposal.
Camp Sherman Broadband Fiber Project
Over the last decade, securing a fast, reliable and affordable internet connection in Camp Sherman has been virtually impossible. Due to Camp Sherman’s remote location surrounded by National Forest, fiber broadband connection has yet to reach the unique town. Treasured old growth forests have likewise impeded wireless viewsheds, rendering satellite and fixed wireless systems unreliable. Various internet service providers have written off Camp Sherman as a viable business opportunity, as the cost of upgrading existing equipment to current standards exceeds the amount of income to be generated. These challenges have left local businesses, Black Butte School District, residents, and potential residents behind 21st Century opportunities.
During the 2020-21 school year, BBSD received funding from the Oregon Department of Education to support a Comprehensive Distance Learning program in response to COVID-19. Some of those funds were used to support a Community Broadband Needs Assessment. Black Butte School District partnered with COIC, who also provided matching funds, to conduct the research and write a report detailing the current status of broadband connectivity in the District. This report concluded that bringing fiberoptic connection to Camp Sherman is the most viable path to better connectivity.
A fiber internet connection will meet three important criteria for Camp Sherman residents and businesses. It will be fast, reliable, and affordable. Additionally, the fiber project will not negatively impact the precious ecological resources of the basin, as it will utilize existing power pole lines to deliver service.
Recently, the State of Oregon and Federal Government have passed legislation providing significant monetary investment to connect rural communities, such as Camp Sherman, to reliable broadband systems.
To learn about this project, visit https://www.campshermanfiber.com/
A Multi-Community, Multi-Use Pathway
In late 2021, the Cities of Madras, Metolius and Culver convened with the support of COIC to begin discussions about the possibility of building a multi-use pathway that would connect the three Jefferson County cities along Culver Highway. The Pathway Project Team learned of the Oregon Community Paths Program
(OCP) through these discussions and research, and decided to pursue this grant program to fund the initial planning and study of this pathway. The Project Team expanded throughout these meetings, and currently includes the three Cities, Jefferson County, Jefferson County Public Health, COIC, and Kittelson & Associates.
Since the decision to pursue the OCP grant, the Cities have been conducting outreach to their community members for input. The Project Team has continued to meet monthly to discuss ideas, work through questions, and plan for the grant application, which will open in August until September 15. The estimated budget for this project is $850K — the OCP grant request would be for $750K, leaving the remaining $100k to be raised through other grants and matching funds from the Cities, County, Public Health, and community fundraising.
Community members are encouraged to reach out to Sienna Fitzpatrick, Program Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org
) at COIC with questions. Be sure to check out the materials below for a summary of the project proposal, background, timeline, and budget:
Madras Downtown Association
The Madras Downtown Association (MDA) grew out of the tireless efforts of dedicated business owners and community members in Madras, in partnership with staff from both the City of Madras and Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council’s Rural Community Building program. The mission of the Madras Downtown Association is to create a thriving downtown that serves as the economic, social, and cultural heart of the community. At the heart of the Association is the goal of providing consistent, high quality events where Madras community members and business owners can connect, celebrate their home, and support their local economy. First Thursdays are the centerpiece of the event series, and run the first Thursday evening of each month from May to September. After a brief hiatus in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, First Thursdays have returned with great success!
Madras Downtown Association’s focus area for economic development activities is the Downtown Corridor, which includes 4th and 5th Streets from B Street to the north and E Street to the south. MDA envisions a bustling city center where every Downtown business and local vendor benefit from the services, events, and representation that the Association provides. The MDA seeks to support a Downtown economy that is resilient and diverse, and strongly supported by both the local community and a robust visiting population.
To that end, the MDA opened the 5th Street Co-op (191 SW 5th Street; located on the ground floor of the historic Oddfellows Building on the northeast corner of 5th & D Streets) that showcases and sells the art and products that are produced by local, Jefferson County artisans in the fall of 2019. The Co-op serves as a meeting point for locals – tea and coffee available from local vendors! – as well as a gift shop for folks who are visiting the area and want to bring a momento back home. The Co-op is staffed by volunteers, both from the MDA board and from the community, with the goal of hiring a permanent store manager and operations coordinator in the near future. Stop by and say hi next time you’re in town!
Metolius Community Vision
The city of Metolius has been working with COIC since late 2019 on a community visioning project, which aims to better understand how residents of Metolius envision the future of their city. The project has been supported by a strong local steering committee, which includes community members, city councilors, the mayor, and city staff.
With the assistance of COIC, the steering committee organized a community survey and several outreach events to collect input from everyone in the community on what kinds of projects they’re interested in, any concerns they have for the current direction of the community, and their long term vision for the city. Unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions curtailed many in-person engagements in 2020 and early 2021. Nevertheless, the steering committee moved forward with the information gathered from the survey to create an initial Community Vision Action Plan in 2020. This Vision Action Plan includes three key projects identified as a high priority for the community: these include the beautification of the downtown walking path; the development of a home repair and beautification program; and the construction of a multi-use pathway that would connect Metolius, Madras, and Culver to Lake Billy Chinook. Efforts are currently focused on the beautification of the city walking path, a paved multi-modal trail that parallels Culver Highway from the northern city limit to the southern city limit.
The City is committed to connecting with residents to ensure that the Metolius Vision is truly a reflection of the future that Metolius residents’ picture. As such, the City plans to host a number of public meetings in 2021 for feedback on the Vision, Action Plan projects, and a number of other projects to build a bright future for Metolius. For those interested in getting involved, the City of Metolius also has a number of ongoing projects, including the Pancake Breakfasts, community clean-ups, a new Neighborhood Watch program—plus many ideas that have yet to find a community champion! Contact the City at email@example.com or call City Hall at 541-546-5533 to get involved.
Photos from the Metolius Community Picnic in July 2021 to thank volunteers in the community for helping clean up after a windstorm.
Ochoco Trails is a community-based coalition dedicated to building and maintaining a sustainable non-motorized trail system in the Ochoco National Forest and Crooked River National Grassland. This dynamic group of volunteer community members aims to develop trail networks that offer a desirable range of experiences, while protecting and enhancing wildlife habitat and natural resources. Members include hunters, hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, ranchers, trail volunteers, and environmentalists. The group first came together in 2016 to assist the Ochoco National Forest in addressing non-motorized trail issues in the fastest-growing recreational region in Oregon.
Ochoco Trails hopes to serve as a model for successful collaborative community-driven work on sustainable and holistic recreation planning and issues for public lands. They envision a future for Crook County of sustainable trails networks in the Ochoco National Forest and Crooked River National Grassland that make the nearby small towns more attractive places to live and work, allow local residents to reap the health benefits of outdoor recreation, encourage visitors to come to enjoy our beautiful area, connect locals and visitors to public lands, and reduce trail conflicts while protecting wildlife habitat and our natural resources for generations to come. Find more information and get involved at: ochocotrails.org.
Prineville Downtown Association
The genesis of the Prineville Downtown Association (PDA) arose in early 2019 after the City commissioned a study on rural downtown revitalization to assess the current state of Prineville’s core commercial district and develop a “toolkit” to help enliven the historic downtown. Out of that work, a new non-profit Downtown Association was formed, bringing together local business and property owners to identify and guide revitalization projects.
The Downtown Association represents the business owners, property owners, and community members who live, work, and play in downtown Prineville. The PDA has identified its geographic boundaries as the historic core of the city: approximately 30 square blocks bounded by 1st Street to the south to 5th Street to the north, and Juniper Street to the east to Locust Avenue to the west. The district includes the historic Crook County Courthouse; the A.R. Bowman Historical Museum; many locally owned restaurants, bars, and coffee shops; home goods retail and clothing stores; an historic movie theater; and four parks – including a skate park, playground, and natural area adjacent to Ochoco Creek. These amenities are enjoyed year-round by Prineville community members and guests from out of the area alike.
The mission of the Prineville Downtown Association is “To support charitable and educational organizations whose primary interest is to preserve and develop the quality and economic stability of Downtown Prineville, and to represent the concerns of the downtown area at the city, county, and special district level.”
ReVillage: Rural Co-op Childcare Pilot
ReVillage is an innovative, cooperative model of childcare, first imagined and brought to life by a group of committed community members and parents in Bend. They have an ambitious and values-driven mission: “ReVillage works to ensure that all Central Oregon families- across income, race, language, orientation & identity, and background- have the care and opportunity they need to thrive in work and in play by cultivating affordable, accessible, equitable childcare cooperatives; empowering parents; cultivating community; and advocating for system-wide, family-friendly practices and policies.”
After opening their first childcare center in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, ReVillage saw an opportunity to expand their model to other areas of Central Oregon. COIC is supporting their planned expansion with grant writing and financial and business planning assistance, meeting facilitation, and hiring and recruiting planning. Learn more about ReVillage at: https://www.revillagebend.com/
Sisters Country Vision
Sisters Country Vision is a community visioning project designed to help Sisters Country position itself for the future, retaining the things community members value most while considering what we may need to change going forward. This community conversation, started in 2018, helps Sisters Country community members identify clear, positive directions for the future and involve local organizations, businesses and residents in making them happen.
Approximately 2,000 community members participated in the original visioning project in 2018, culminating in the creation of a Vision Action Plan in early 2019. At the heart of the Vision are 20 core strategies, which fall under four focus areas: Prosperous, Resilient, Livable, and Connected Sisters. The Sisters Country Vision is community-led, meaning that no single leader or entity is solely responsible for making progress on vision strategies. Instead, there is community-wide collaboration between multiple partners, including local government, local agencies and special districts, non-profit organizations, businesses, and individual community members.
COIC’s Rural Community Building Program helped to secure grant funding to support the creation of the vision, served on the project management team, and currently facilitates the Vision Implementation Team, a collaborative group of community members who meet regularly to guide and track progress. Implementation projects are underway in all four Vision focus areas – from “low hanging fruit” to more ambitious projects.
The Sisters Country Vision can be a useful tool for both organizations and community members:
For organizations, the Vision is an important tool in work plan priority-setting and provides valuable data for grant applications and other types of funding proposals.
For community members, the Vision is a tool for focusing and directing momentum to be responsive to community needs and allocating resources to help make them happen.
To learn more about the Sisters Country Vision, visit sistersvision.org.
Sisters Country FEAST
The Oregon Food Bank’s FEAST (Food, Education, Agriculture, Solutions, Together) offers grants to community members to tell the story of their local food system, identify improvements, and create action plans to implement these improvements. After FEAST events, participants work on improving their local food systems with their action plans as a guide.
COIC is supporting the Sisters Food Security Group in organizing a local FEAST event, helping plan outreach and community engagement and coordinate event planning.
To learn more about the FEAST program and how to bring an event to your community, visit The OFB Webpage.