Cooking up a vision
By HEINRICH STRAUCH
I like to cookpeople who know me can see that. As with cooking, I believe that visioning requires proper tools and technique, quality ingredients, time, and passion to create a meal that can be enjoyed by everyone, even if it may not be your personal favorite.
Some cooks are just gifted. They throw five things together, shuffle the pan, and out comes something magnificent. For the rest of us, using good tools and solid technique is the way to go. Visioning should be a process that ensures that creative potentials are unlocked, ideas find their ways to the surface and all is considered fairly. Using a facilitator, going through clearly defined steps and stages, regrouping as a team along the wayall those are good ideas to ensure that the result is high quality.
Now, the ingredients: you need quantity and quality, freshness, diversity, contrast and balanceand Im not talking about food any more. Two people dont make a community vision; hidden agendas leave bitter tastes; recreating the past or freezing the present are not valid visions. It really requires careful consideration and lots of responsibility to put a visioning project together. If youre the cook, if you are leading the effort, sit down and make a list before you start. And if youre the ingredient, if you have been asked to take part in the process, give it all youve got and dont hold back.
You cannot put together a scrumptious five-course dinner in 30 minutes. You cannot create a comprehensive vision for a community in one afternoon. Its just not going to happen. But it probably is not the best use of time, either, to spend a year creating a vision for a small community park at the street corner.
Cooking without passion makes for bland food. You have to enjoy what youre doing. Your heart has to be in it; you need to care about it. But all within reason: being passionate is different from being obsessed, and temper tantrums rarely make for good public display (although some chefs clearly think differently).
Cooking for cookings sake can be fun, but its ultimately futile. A vision without a plan, someone once said, is an illusion. A vision must be part of a process; it needs to lead somewhere; there has to be a blueprint for how to implement it and bridge the gap between reality and vision. A vision is todays snapshot of a future ideal. It is not the final word. It is not written in stone. Things change, knowledge is gained and people have new ideasand so a vision needs to evolve, too.
When we got together in Liberty to cook up our vision, I think we did welland were getting better every day. See for yourself at liberty-cdc.org, or come to Liberty and enjoy.
(Heinrich Strauch lives in White Sulphur Springs and is the executive director of the Liberty Community Development Corporation.)