Envisioning Sonoma in 2018: An educational symposium

It is not often that one is given the chance to dream big and to envision a Sonoma Valley in which there is 100% engagement of the community to create a “more perfect” place to live.  But that was one of many visions expressed at the first of two educational symposia hosted by Impact100 Sonoma on Thursday, October 16.  More than 60 community members including representatives from 32 nonprofits, Impact100 members, and friends gathered at St. Leo’s Community Room to share their thoughts about the future they would like to see for Sonoma Valley.


Grace Meeks, Chair Impact Grants

Following welcoming remarks from Celia Canfield (Executive Vice President) and Sydney Randazzo (President), Grace Meeks (Chair – Impact Grants) and Lorraine Ashton (Chair – Community Grants) provided an update on the grant application process for 2014.  Grace reviewed the changes in the $100,000 Impact Grant process pointing out that it will no longer be necessary for nonprofits to align their proposals with a particular Focus Area.  Additional details are available on the website.  Lorraine affirmed that there will be no changes to the Community Grant process.  The grant application forms for all funding categories are being updated and will be available on the website soon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen the dreams began. Under the guidance of graphic facilitator Tom Benthin*, guests were asked to imagine that it is 2018 and that the nonprofit community has transformed Sonoma Valley, surpassing the expectations held in 2013.  The task: Working with those seated at your table, describe what has been achieved.  What does it look like?  What do you see and hear?  Then, describe the challenges you faced and how you overcame them.  All of these were captured on the templates that spanned the width of each table.

At first there was a gentle buzz as folks began to share their individual thoughts, but slowly the volume increased, the body language changed, and the engagement and energy levels rose.  Empty templates began to fill up with words, phrases, and images representing the ideas generated by each group.  Being challenged to think beyond individual perspectives opened the minds and conversations to big ideas covering a host of topics that impact our community.












OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Sonoma Valley in 2018 was described as a model for other communities – education is fully funded; there are no gangs; there is inter-generational and multi-cultural leadership; every person has something to contribute and something to gain.  On the practical side, we have effective public transportation and roads without potholes; public facilities include a bowling alley, a swimming pool, a library that seems to always be open, and a performing arts center.  Our residents have access to affordable housing, good nutrition, and resources for their physical and mental health and well-being.

Impact Word Cloud_Symposium 1 croppesOvercoming the challenges to achieve these dreams appeared to rest on a key element:  collaboration.  At the end of the discussions, each person was asked to write down one word that they felt represented the day, and “collaboration” seemed to be the take away message.

The discussions were also captured graphically by Tom Benthin as you can see from the pictures below.






Many thanks to all who attended, to all who helped to organize, and to our generous sponsors: Nelson Family of Companies and our 2013 major underwriter, Union Bank.


union bank





*Tom Benthin, an accomplished graphic facilitator, is adept at using the full range of large format graphics to enhance meeting productivity and group performance.  In meetings, he uses graphic format as an integral support to group process, deepening participants’ experiences and creating a powerful shared visual workspace in real time. www.tombenthin.com