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What’s Next, Alabama?

What’s Next, Alabama? is an issue guide created by the David Mathews Center for Civic Life in 2017 for Alabama Issues Forums 2017 – 2020. The issue guide provides a brief overview of economic issues facing Alabama and outlines three approaches in addressing economic infrastructure over the course of three forums. The David Mathews Center—a non-profit, non-partisan, non-advocacy organization—does not advocate a particular approach or solution to economic issues, but rather seeks to provide a framework for citizens to carefully examine multiple approaches, weigh costs and consequences, and work through tensions and tradeoffs among different courses of action.The issue guide, authored by Justin Lutz, Program Director at the David Mathews Center, outlines what “the economy” means to a community:

When we talk about “the economy,” we don’t just mean jobs and unemployment or the stock market. We define the economy as any issue that is important to your community on its quest to achieve a better life. Perhaps it’s ensuring quality schools in your community, or expanding broadband internet access, or having an educated and sober workforce, or a thriving downtown area—the economy is the community you live in, and your capacity to thrive and prosper as a part of that community.

The issue guide outlines three types of economic infrastructure: physical, human, and civic. These are used to examine the current state of a community, assess what the community would like to change, and map out a way to make those changes, over the course of three forums:

Forum One: Where are we now?
The first forum addresses the current state of economic issues in a community. Participants are introduced to both local and statewide economic data and are asked to reflect on both the assets and challenges within their community. The objective of the first forum is to allow the participants to become familiar with all aspects and concerns of their community and their fellow citizens before deciding on a direction in which to take their community.

Forum Two: Where do we want to go?
The next step is for the group to decide, together, what they want the future of the community to look like. Participants are asked to identify and examine issues impacting the economic infrastructure of their community, and to then consider the strengths, opportunities, resources, and trade offs associated with each option. The goal of the second forum is for the community to identify and prioritize an issue or set of issues in which they would like to affect change.

Forum Three: How do we get there?
In final forum community members must take the components of the previous forums and decide what issues to address first and what actions to implement. Participants must consider who to involve, what challenges may arise, what work is already being done and can it be built upon, what actions are the most doable, and what are the next steps. At the end of the forum the community should walk away with a clear idea of what changes they can make together and where to start.

Watch the introductory video below about What’s Next, Alabama?

About DMC Issue Guides…
David Mathews Center issue guides are named and framed by Alabama citizens for Alabama Issues Forums (AIF). Alabama Issues Forums is a David Mathews Center signature program designed to bring Alabama citizens together to deliberate and take community action on an issue of public concern. Digital copies of all AIF issue guides, and accompanying post-forum questionnaires, are available for free download at http://mathewscenter.org/resources/

For further information about the Mathews Center, Alabama Issues Forums, or this publication, please visit http://mathewscenter.org/.

Resource Link: http://mathewscenter.org/whatsnext

This resource was submitted by Cristin Brawner, Executive Director of the David Mathews Center for Civic Life via the Add-a-Resource form.

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