Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Strategic Visioning for Cities – Portland’s vision PDX

This is a good example of:

How to lead a city through a strategic plan to consider strengths, risks and opportunities


Portland had always been known for its attention to planning.  However, in 2005, city leaders felt that new challenges such as housing costs, a changing economy and other factors required a new look at Portland’s existing plans. Instead of embarking on a typical plan update, the city started with a new process.

The Prompts for Action – Update the 20+ year old vision & comprehensive plans to:

  • Re-evaluate the way government operates and make it more responsive to needs of the public.
  • Harness the public as challenges rising and budgets shrinking
  • Strengthen existing networks in order to reduce burdens on local governments
  • Give the public a place at the table to shape its own future.


The city mapped out a 2 year process with goals of (1) reaching as wide an audience as possible, (2) articulating shared values, and 3) producing vision statement.


The city established a Vision Committee chosen through an application process. An application process (as opposed to appointments) ensured a fresh look at community advocates and non-profits. From 120 applications, the city chose a steering committee of 40+ members and 6 subcommittees:

  • Engagement Subcommittee: Established core values and goals
  • Grants Subcommittee:  Funded existing organizations with $250,000  to conduct outreach via their existing lists and channels
  • Analysis Subcommittee: Developed a survey tool & data analysis
  • Communications Subcommittee: Designed logo & communications plan
  • Speakers Bureau Subcommittee: Wrote facilitator’s handbook and oversaw Speakers Bureau
  • Research Subcommittee: Researched and compiled community trends information

The Community Engagement Report is a separate document with details on the public outreach and engagement process.

Process – Survey

The committee adopted three guiding values for the outreach process:

  1. Create ownership, over simply creating “buy-in”
  2. Start from where people are in terms of readiness for the engagement activity
  3. Tailor the engagement to what best speaks to the targeted audience

Portland selected four open ended questions rather than multiple questions with limited answers:

  1. What do you value about Portland most and why?
  2. What changes would you most like to see in Portland right now?
  3. Imagine Portland 20 years in the future and all your hopes for the city have been realized. What is different? How is our city a better place?
  4. As you imagine the Portland you’ve just described, what are the most important things we can do to get there?

Channels included one-on-one surveys, house parties, kiosks, performances, videos, a mobile tea shop, and school-based activities.

Five Components

Shared values: Responses converged on these top values:

  • Community Connectedness and Distinctiveness
  • Equity and Accessibility
  • Sustainability

Respondents also strongly valued Accountability & Leadership, Inclusion & Diversity, Innovation & Creativity, and Safety

Portland’s vision for 2030: A vision statement in three sentences:

Shaped by the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, Portland connects people and nature to create an international model of equity and sustainability. We are a city of communities. Our distinct neighborhoods and vibrant downtown are safe, energizing civic and cultural spaces. Our diverse population, innovative businesses and forward-thinking leaders work together to ensure livability for all.

Five elements of Portland:

  • Built Portland
  • Economic Portland
  • Environmental Portland
  • Learning Portland
  • Social Portland

Expect change: The visioning process took note of impending trends and changes

  • Population growth
  • Growing diversity
  • Changing economy
  • Peak Oil
  • Global Warming

Community challenges: The visioning process revealed additional questions, the need to address trends and diverging opinions on challenges and courses of action.  vision PDX presented these challenges in the form of questions:

  • How will we ensure accessible and convenient transportation options for all while promoting sustainability?
  • How will we balance diverse needs, interests and community values as we make choices regarding development?
  • How will we encourage equitable community reinvestment while promoting economic opportunity?
  • How will we integrate sustainable practices into all businesses?
  • How will we pay for the educational system that our community needs and deserves while ensuring efficiency and accountability?
  • What is our responsibility to provide choice within our educational system?
  • How will we address the pressures of growth while enhancing livability?
  • How will we provide public funding fairly so that all Portlanders have access to the basic environmental amenities?
  • How will we create efficiency in local government while honoring Portlanders’ desire for meaningful involvement in decision-making?
  • How will a diverse Portland overcome the discrimination faced daily by some members of our community?
  • How will we ensure people’s basic needs are met?
Banner for a  neighborhood T-Horse  gathering, organized  by City Repair through  their visionPDX grant

Banner for a
neighborhood T-Horse
gathering, organized
by City Repair through
their visionPDX grant.  Source: Portland 2030 report


During the process, visionPDX received over 13,000 completed surveys and discussion notes from over 75 small group discussions. More than 15,000 people took part in visionPDX during the main engagement phase in April – September 2006.  The report, Portland 2030: a vision for the future, summarizes the visionPDX process.

The results of visionPDX set the groundwork for the Portland Plan, an update of Portland’s outdated comprehensive plan.

URL link to Main Resource:

Project Location :

Portland Oregon

Development Context:





Portland City Council, visionPDX Committee, Portland Bureau of Planning & staff, visionPDX Grant Recipients, Ashforth Pacific, PIVOT (Partners in Vocational Opportunity Training) Job Corps, Comcast, Portland Community Media, Sojourn Theatre, Steps to Success, Technical Assistance for Community Services (many other partners listed in support documents)

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *