When Karyl Price enlisted the Center for Active Design (the Center) to design and facilitate a day-long workshop, she was ready to inspire change in the City of Mansfield and Richland County, Ohio. As the project coordinator for the Creating Healthy Communities grant at Richland Public Health (RPH), she was well aware of the built environment’s impact on health outcomes, and wanted to explore how active transportation initiatives could help reverse the county’s negative health trends. The workshop, which took place in April 2015, has generated tremendous impact in a very short period of time. According to Price, “It provided an opportunity to create a unified vision for our community, forge stronger working relationships, and move key projects forward.”
From the outset, Price and her colleagues at RPH understood the many constraints faced by this largely rural, economically challenged county, which has one of the highest rates of adult obesity in the state on Ohio. They also recognized that the community was poised for transformation, with a growing alliance of stakeholders seeking to garner support from public leaders and community members. If the Active Design workshop could foster a collective vision for a healthier, more prosperous community, then Mansfield and Richland County would motivate toward implementation.
On April 16, the Center facilitated a day-long workshop known as Active Design: Redefining Richland. The event convened nearly 50 community stakeholders and local experts from a range of backgrounds to discuss how Active Design could position the county as a vibrant, active, and attractive place to live and work. Following a keynote presentation that emphasized active transportation strategies, participants engaged in a range of hands-on activities – mapping community health assets, designing complete streets, and conducting neighborhood walking audits. These participatory exercises had impact: post-workshop feedback indicated that 96% of respondents learned something new that would influence their professional or personal lives.
By the end of the day, a collective vision was emerging. The Center distilled these priorities into a workshop report and advocacy tool that outlined Richland County’s overarching goals and strategies. The report identified places to target, partners to engage, and tactical recommendations to support implementation.
Within three months of the workshop, successes are already unfolding:
Active Design: Redefining Richland helped build community pride and advance project momentum. “It was encouraging to receive the Center’s positive impressions of our community, while thinking strategically about the next steps we can take to create a more active, healthy and vibrant place to work and live. The excitement and feedback from the workshop continues to move around our county,” says Price. “Thanks again for all that you did to make this great experience a reality for us.”