Summit promotes regional partnerships

Published 10:03 pm Saturday, April 4, 2009

Hundreds of people flocked to the Virginia Modeling, Simulation and Analysis Center Saturday morning for the Hampton Roads Civic Engagement Summit.

The summit was put on by the Hampton Roads Center for Civic Engagement, WHRO, Future of Hampton Roads, The Planning Council and Hampton Roads America’s First Region in order to stimulate conversation about forming productive partnerships.

“There are so many regional issues, but there aren’t any regional structures,” said Chris Gates, one of the key presenters at the summit. Gates is the executive director for Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) in Denver, Colo.

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“It’s the responsibility of the region to have conversations of how these things get done,” he said.

Throughout the morning, attendees heard from a variety of presentations including hearing speakers Gates and Dr. Quentin Kidd, an associate professor of political science at Christopher Newport University. Additionally, there were videos shown featuring young adults speaking on the issues and problems affecting their involvement in their communities.

Suzette Denslow, the chief of staff for Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones, moderated the event.

“I have been very impressed,” said Suffolk City Councilman Leroy Bennett, who was in attendance Saturday morning, along with fellow Councilman Robert Barclay and Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts.

“This shows what it really takes for a region to work together, a government to work together, a community to work together,” Bennett said. “I think there should be more events like this, but more public, inviting more public entities to hear this.”

Attendees could participate in breakout sessions where they answered a set of questions aimed at building a mutual operating agreement for the region. The groups looked at what recommendations they would make for improvements in communication and informational processing as well as what public decision making processes they would recommend.

The recommendations were then discussed in the large group setting.

While many in attendance recognized that regional cooperation is a big task that will take much more work, this first step was an encouragement that it can be done.

“It’s so hopeful when a couple hundred of people come out to this on a gorgeous day like today,” Gates said. “This is about how people can connect with other people, and to me, that’s unbelievably encouraging.”