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The Power of Conversation in Local Decision-Making

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How conversation on tough issues helps move the needle on local policy and decision-making 

By: Aubrey Darden 

Most of us have heard the phrase, “politics is local,” but what does that actually mean? Aside from door-knocking for our local candidates, how can we, as individuals, have an impact on local policies and decision-making? 

According to Tanya Andreasen, the Community Engagement Manager at One Valley Community Foundation, conversation is one of the main ways for individuals to engage with and influence local decision making.   A key mandate in her role at One Valley is to educate the community and activate conversation around issues most affecting the community. Tanya has homed in on affordable housing as her current focus and a top priority for raising a call to action.  

One Valley recently launched a program called ‘A Seat at the Table’ which serves as a grassroots initiative aimed at bringing Gallatin County residents together to discuss the challenges, opportunities, and solutions around affordable housing.  They also lead the Regional Housing Coalition (RHC) with the mission of bringing together stakeholders from across various sectors (real estate, local business, development, political leaders, etc.) to engage in generative discourse and active solution-making on affordable housing in Gallatin County. 

While One Valley plays an impactful role in the community, Tanya emphasized the importance of local nonprofits and organizations alike investing in the challenges of the community, saying, “We need local companies, that hire local employees, to serve local needs.” 

PIE recently had the opportunity to answer the call and serve as a collaborative partner with One Valley in an effort to help better understand local needs. Working with Tanya, we brought together representatives from the public and private sectors, representing development, the City and County, and local restaurant owners, to discuss the impacts of inflated housing costs on the health and success of local businesses. 

The conversation, facilitated by Gianna Vanata, Director at PIE, focused on topics including how the city and state are collaboratively addressing housing challenges, how housing costs have impacted employees, solutions for remediating the most pressing challenges, and much more.  

“One of the great things about having facilitation in the room is that it really allows us to provide a forum where all voices are heard,” Tanya noted in reflecting on our recent partnership. Tanya highlighted that in order to truly influence policymaking and ensure policies are aligned with the needs of the community, these types of conversations are essential. 

In bringing multiple perspectives together, we drove cross-sector collaboration and helped create a shared understanding that, while the public and private sectors have done a lot to address housing challenges in the County, there is still much work to be done.  Additionally, this conversation helped lay the foundation for One Valley’s future work with the Regional Housing Coalition, gaining buy-in from key community leaders who plan to engage in ongoing conversations with the RHC.   

If you would like to hear more about our partnership with One Valley, check out our interview with Tanya on the PIE Cast, PIE’s monthly podcast dedicated to thought leadership and best practices on strategic relationships and business development.