Beaufort embarked on an exploration of its vision for the future last week, bringing together a variety of stakeholders for a program led by renowned futurist Rebecca Ryan to kick off the Beaufort 2030 campaign.
For the full day on Thursday, Jan. 17, an unusual cast of stakeholders ranging from ages 13 to 75 filled Tabby Place in downtown Beaufort to participate in a program led Ryan, a published author in strategic foresight, local government leadership, and generational differences in the work place. People from all walks of life sat next to politicians, government staffers, developers and influencers in our community.
“I don’t think Beaufort has ever undertaken a planning session where the room had eighth-graders to people older than 70, such as myself,” Mayor Billy Keyserling said in his opening remarks.
“I have made it a hallmark of my administration,” said Beaufort City Manager Bill Prokop, who arranged the program. “We want to hear from our community. What do we want Beaufort to ‘be’ in 2030 and beyond for our youth? We have a great grasp, complete with plans, on our built environment and now we are going to focus on implementation of those plans and use this exercise as a launchpad for planning for our people.”
The energy in the room was infectious as the group of 80 people clapped in unison at Ryan’s direction and got to work. Participants were asked to have in-depth conversations about Beaufort, at tables of six people drawn at random. From CEOs to students, city managers to police officers and firefighters, developers to clergy, service industry employees to college students, most all walks of life in Beaufort had a seat at the tables.
The collaboration and discussion were spirited at times as Ryan’s research on the trends in Beaufort came to life in the table’s discussions. The discussions were guided by cards describing education, socioeconomic, life, work, family, and political trends identified in the city, county, and state, all with a focus on how they may impact Beaufort. These trends lived in five sectors: Society, Technology, Economy, Environment, and Politics (STEEP). Nothing was off the table among the 12 groups.
When asked if anyone in the group of 80 learned anything new about their city today, every hand in the group went up. Ryan and her team will review the work over the next month and the group will re-convene on Feb. 13 to do what Ryan coined “the real work.” Participants were briefed to be ready to envision Beaufort taking multiple paths and what those paths, and the results, might look like.