Sisters Country initiative to capture the community voice, plan for the future

A group of agencies and nonprofits, led by the City of Sisters, is embarking on a visioning and planning initiative to help determine what kind of community residents want Sisters Country to be in 5, 10 and 20 years.

The Sisters Country Horizons initiative will officially launch with a regional survey of residents in mid-March. Following several months of community outreach, visioning and planning work, a Vision Action Plan is expected to be released in late 2018 or early 2019.

A logo has been designed for the effort, and a website ( will go live in mid-March, along with a Facebook page.

The last, similar visioning project for Sisters was completed in 2007. The city and the surrounding unincorporated community has grown significantly since then.

“We want to look at where we currently are as a community, what we value, and where we would like to go,” said Patrick Davenport, City of Sisters Community Development Director. “This is a great opportunity for residents and community leaders to shape our future together — and for the benefit of all.”

Nick Lelack, Deschutes County Community Development Director, agreed. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for city and county residents to collaborate on a collective vision for the future of this region,” he said.

NXT Consulting Group of Portland and Bend will oversee the project’s scope of work. As project sponsor, the City of Sisters will provide funding and staff support, as will Deschutes County and the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC).

"COIC is excited to be supporting the City of Sisters and Deschutes County in their work to develop the Vision,” said Scott Aycock, COIC Community and Economic Development Manager. “Such work is essential in translating citizen values and goals into action."

Portland State University’s "Oregon's Kitchen Table", a program at PSU's College of Urban and Public Affairs, will help with community outreach work. This will include a series of community meetings facilitated by trained volunteers as well as DIY "kitchen table" sessions led by residents themselves in April and May, and four major community forums, each on a different focus area, in May and June.

Sisters' Citizens4Community also will help with outreach during its Values & Visioning events on March 9-10 and March 16-17. Visitors to the Values & Visioning booths can fill out a short Sisters Country Horizons questionnaire and engage in other activities. The booths will be staffed from 2:30 to 6 p.m., March 9, at Ray’s Food Place; from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., March 10, at Ray’s Food Place; from 2 to 5:30 p.m., March 16, at the Sisters Library; and from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., March 17, at Suttle Tea.

Along with the survey of residents and interviews of opinion leaders throughout the Sisters Country area, input from the public meetings will help shape the community profile, vision and plan.

The visioning and planning work will follow a values-based collaborative approach, known as the Oregon Model of Visioning, developed by NXT Consulting planner Steven Ames and utilized by some 25 cities in Oregon. By analyzing what residents value about their community, and where they want it to head in coming years, a community can set realistic strategies and actions to reach those goals and be confident that people who live there are supportive of these directions.

This model also plans for all aspects of a community. For Sisters, the four focus areas are currently planned to include "Livable Sisters" (housing, transportation, growth and planning, parks and recreation, environment); "Prosperous Sisters" (small business, economic development, jobs and employment, tourism and events, arts and culture); "Resilient Sisters" (public safety, disaster preparedness, health and wellness, social services, affordability); and "Connected Sisters" (governance and leadership, education and learning, civic engagement, civil dialogue, volunteerism).

A community summit, in which residents will learn the findings from the survey and meetings and begin prioritizing strategies and identifying actions, is scheduled for September.

Once completed, the Vision Action Plan will help guide government agencies, nonprofit groups and the private sector in planning and projects.

A Sisters Country Horizons project management team began meeting in January and will continue to meet through the release of the Vision Action Plan. Team members include Davenport; Ames; Lelack; Aycock; and Amy Burgstahler, former Sisters City councilor and citizen representative.

A Vision Action Team, made up of a broad cross section of the wider community, will assist in implementation of the Vision Action Plan. That group has yet to be appointed.