The Public Square

Jennifer Armstrong On Public Participation in big.small.all.


big. small. all." is a big claim for a county visioning process, and one that we knew would be challenging to live up to.

When we originally chose this name for the visioning process for Champaign County, we wanted something that would embrace downtown development as well as growth in smaller communities; a process that would engage our farming community, as well as our artists; a name that said, "Big or small, black or white, farmer or urbanite - we want your ideas. And we want all of your ideas - the big ones and small ones."

This seemed to resonate with people. From that initial push, we netted almost 1000 attendees to eleven meetings held throughout the County and 2,222 ideas for Champaign County. The process progressed with committees set up by topical area - sorting and combining similar ideas into the current plan draft. Over the six months that these groups met, attendance and participation has slowed a bit, as is to be expected in any process made up solely of citizen volunteers. Nevertheless, these volunteers stayed true to the original 2,222 ideas.

So, in that way, we wholeheartedly agree with some recent concerns about involvement in the big. small. all. initiative: The big. small. all. process is not perfect. It can't be. Largely because people and lives are not perfect. Perfect attendance at planning meetings is not possible - a volunteer might have a sick child, crops to harvest, a performance to give or may have to terminate their commitment to the committee for any number of reasons.

The point is, we need participation for big. small. all. to work. big. small. all. is an open process, where everyone's ideas are equal. A University Chancellor or Village President gets no more of a vote than a small business owner or a kindergarten teacher. But people must make the time to participate in order for the process to function at all.

There is a misconception among some that the process is complete; that big. small. all. is not accepting new ideas. This is completely wrong. big. small. all. is hosting what we hope will be a huge community gathering on October 25 from 8:30 to Noon where we are asking community members to come forward in large numbers and review ideas that have been already submitted, as well as present any new ideas. A continental breakfast will be served and though we prefer an RSVP for planning purposes, no one will be turned away.

We hope attendance at the Community Workshop will be high. We hope to feel the level of excitement we felt in some of the initial big. small. all. meetings about the potential, talent and drive we have right here in Champaign County.

We would especially like to hear from populations who we haven't heard a lot from so far: our minority populations, small business owners, large land developers, young professionals and the like.

There's only one thing that will ensure that this visioning process is inclusive and fair and that's for YOU to attend on October 25th. I would urge you not to assume that your co-worker, peer, friend or neighbor will be there to represent your interests. Please consider making time to attend this very important big. small. all. community gathering on October 25th.

Interested individuals can RSVP at or by phoning 328.3313.