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Sep
30
2022
Economy

YSDC considers ARIA Group visioning

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The Yellow Springs Development Corporation, or YSDC, originally established as a quasi-government organization charged with improving economic development prospects for the village and the township, has been engaged in a months-long visioning process that will determine the future direction of the organization.

At the July 5 YSDC meeting, President Corrie Van Ausdal welcomed village resident Jay Rothman, who had reached out to her after reading about the group’s visioning work and offered to share information about a database and methodology he had developed that he thought could assist in their process. The methodology is called “Action in Evaluation” and “RSV3.” Rothman proposed that YS Development Corporation use an updated version of the system.

“YSDC can compile a living database for the community which can be used to inform strategic planning and visioning for the organizations which comprise YSDC and align organizations within the Yellow Springs system on goals which support the shared vision,” he said.

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One of the hallmarks of the database is that it is participatory and serves as a tool for community action. Rothman said the database was created with Yellow Springs in mind.

“It’s constituted by what I understand Yellow Springs and Antioch to be, and some of the phrases that sort of summarize it I want to underscore. The first one is participatory. Everyone, everyone has the opportunity to say, this is what I care about and this is why,” he said.

After living in Jerusalem for six years, he returned to the village in 2014, but Rothman grew up in the village. He is a former professor at Antioch College and the now closed McGregor School of Antioch University.

Rothman is a practitioner of conflict engagement. In 1998, he established his company, ARIA Group, as a way to “engage conflict creatively.” The system was built through funds received from a $1 million grant awarded in 1992. It has seen a few updates over the years, the last one being in 2007, and another would be necessary for the proposed YSDC process.

“It’s almost dead, so I can’t really run the process anymore. I believe we can probably rebuild it for $10-15,000, and then it can be off and running,” he said.

One of the highlights of the database is that it is designed to “gather complex, qualitative data and organize it in very systemic, relatively simple ways,” Rothman said.

According to Rothman, he doesn’t want to be the one that runs the program anymore. “I want to support others who do it,” he said. Instead, he’s offering his time, one day a week for 12 months, or about 50 days in a supportive role to the YSDC. According to Rothman, ARIA would retain ownership and financial proprietorship over its intellectual property.

“But [we] would grant YSDC an unlimited license to all software and new intellectual property that are created for and from this project,” he said.

Rothman’s original database, along with the methodology he developed was the anchoring tool that led to an extensive, federal court mandated $15 million police restructuring within the Cincinnati Police Department in the early 2000s. His company was retained by a federal court judge after a police officer shot and killed an unarmed 19-year-old Black man. The murder of Timothy Thomas led to several days of violent unrest in the city’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

Rothman guided 3500 members of the community through a data collection process that produced 10,000 qualitative records that were further reduced to five goals the department used to implement reforms.

“The project was lauded as one of the most important police reform projects in the country. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been replicated, but the methodology itself has been used around the world with hundreds of projects, thousands of participants,” Rothman said.

Rothman has utilized the process locally for Tecumseh Land Trust. “I did a visioning and planning process for Tecumseh Land Trust. They are probably one of five [nonprofit] organizations that work on environmental development, organizations that could be a cluster,” he said.

In his presentation, Rothman then offered an example of how environmental organizations with similar or shared goals and visions could become an empowered network in the community through a YSDC governed database.

“Each organization within that cluster would ask, ‘What are our purposes, what are our values, what are our visions?’ Each of them would be a more powerful, coherent, organized organization. Once they are internally organized, collaborating and coordinating [with each other] is much easier,” Rothman said.

Van Ausdal told YSDC members that she thought it could be useful for the village.

“I think that this would be a powerful tool for us to do for ourselves, but even more importantly to then be able to create this entire database by doing this same process with our member organizations, with the Township, with the Village, with the schools, with Clifton, with the Chamber,” she said.

According to Van Ausdal, the process could result in the creation of a database that Yellow Springs could use as a living tool.

At the Aug. 2 YSDC meeting, members approved a “contract with ARIA Group for $1 to run a pilot of the collaborative visioning and planning methodology to assess its potential four use in the greater community.”

A workshop to run the pilot is scheduled for Aug. 28. Details about the pilot will appear in a future News article.

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