Transform Rockford: Smart Processes Generate Action Plans

As this nonprofit group continues developing its strategic plan for Rockford’s self-improvement, it’s doing so with a careful eye on process and method. See how this thinking helps to achieve action in the corporate world.

To get someplace you’ve never been to, how do you find the way? You start with a map.
In its effort to make our region a Top 25 community by the year 2025, the nonprofit Transform Rockford is creating a roadmap to change. In order to make an effective map, a Process Team is helping to ensure that the right roadways are on that map.
Since Transform Rockford emerged in 2013, the Process Team has provided the tools and framework necessary to accomplish the vision of becoming a Top 25 community. The team members are using practices familiar inside the corporate environment.
Team member Scott Anderson is an independent consultant whose specialty is process improvement and strategic deployment.
“Process provides an objective structure for guiding Transform Rockford’s activities and helps us to resolve opinions and political differences,” says Anderson. “It makes our work less subjective and more objective, so that we ensure alignment with strategic achievement and objective measurements. It allows us to know, for a fact, if we’re making progress.”
Most recently, the Process Team has provided support for Transform Rockford’s 14 “spoke” teams, which are built around overarching areas of impact such as Neighborhoods & Families, Education, Safety, Leadership, Healthy Lifestyles, Arts & Recreation, Funding & Alignment, Economy & Jobs, and Infrastructure.
These teams have spent two years researching best practices in the nation’s leading communities. With finalized strategies in place, these 14 spoke teams are now returning to the community to identify projects through which their strategies can be accomplished. They plan to release a final list in November.
“So, you have project ideas, but do they meet the values of Transform Rockford? Do they fit the vision, and do they have a high impact?” asks Sam Schmitz, Process Team co-lead. “As these projects come forward, we’re providing the spokes with the tools to measure impact. What are the metrics that will identify truly transformational projects that will lead to the vision and impact statements of each spoke?”
Next, the Process Team must provide the tools to help each spoke team establish a timeline.
“We’re providing spoke members with the tools for sequencing their projects, because some are going to be time-consuming but have a high impact, and others are going to be faster and have a more immediate impact,” says Schmitz, who is president of Goodwill Northern Illinois.
His co-lead, Karen Brown, believes some of the most viable projects will be readily apparent when filtered through key metrics.
“We want to ensure that these projects are strategic and significant to help us get where we want to be,” says Brown, vice president of operations for OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford. She believes some of the best projects may already be happening in local organizations.
Jacob Wilson, program director for Transform Rockford, points to efforts like the YMCA’s Project 505, which engages youth in civic activities.
“It’s benchmarked across the country, and we started it here,” says Wilson. “Our community can scale that. How do we bring to life these things that the organizations in our community do already?”
There’s one important thing to understand about Transform Rockford: The nonprofit group isn’t creating action. It’s merely creating a plan to empower actions.
“It’s not going to be the knight in shining armor or the magic wand, or the hero on the white horse,” says Anderson. “The role of Transform Rockford is to facilitate and monitor the project and organizational work in the community to make sure it’s aligned with our vision and goals.”
If you’d like to pitch a project to Transform Rockford, you can do so on the group’s website, A formal list of projects, in sequence, is scheduled to be unveiled in November.
See below for a list of these spoke teams’ strategies.
Families & Neighborhoods
Neighborhoods have access to resources and amenities that promote a positive community environment.
Our community utilizes its assets in purposeful and inspiring ways.
Our community honors and embraces diversity and the success of all people.
Our community promotes and celebrates the vitality and unique character of each of our neighborhoods.
Our community cultivates partnerships that utilize the strengths of our residents and organizations.
Arts & Recreation
Our community forms and supports pathways into arts and recreation opportunities for all of our residents.
Our community creates and aligns around a Cultural Plan to drive positive social change.
Our community’s arts and recreational offerings reflect the diversity of our residents.
Our region’s arts and recreation venues, physical assets, and natural resources are safe, modern and utilized by residents and visitors.
An integrated marketing plan publicizes and promotes the region’s arts & recreation events, opportunities and assets to local, state, national, and global audience.
Healthy Lifestyles
We are a community where healthy food choices are accessible to all and the easy choice.
We are a community of active living where all have access to recreational opportunities.
We have healthy social and emotional development for everyone at all stages of life.
Our residents are resilient and thrive through the use of positive coping skills.
Our community overcomes barriers to learning by aligning support for the benefit of every student.
Our business and civic organizations engage in partnerships with our schools for the success of all.
Students, educators, and families are ready to fulfill their responsibilities.
Unity, Pride, Culture
Our residents understand, value and use power to help each other succeed.
Our community builds bridges of understanding across barriers that divide to connect and unite us.
Leadership & Youth
Leaders intentionally develop themselves and the next generation of diverse leaders
Our community’s leaders align with the community’s vision and values.
Our community creates and supports a network of resources that will obtain, produce and share information.
Our community effectively tells the inspiring and compelling story of a transforming region to external markets.
Living the Brand
Our community embraces and consistently promotes ALL the opportunities provided by the region’s amenities and attributes.
Our community commits to living our Shared Values.
Our community shares responsibility for looking, acting, and communicating like the region we want to be.
Funding & Alginment
Our community has a common agenda where information and resources are shared through open and frequent communication.
Our residents collaborate to set community-wide goals and ensure that our efforts to achieve them are aligned, effective, and efficient.
Our community will maintain accountability and alignment through transparency, recognition and financial support.
Our community measures success against leading standards to drive quality and improvement.
Physical Infrastructure
Our community plans and develops infrastructure to efficiently support and drive growth of the region’s economy.
An upgraded passenger and freight rail network creates growth opportunities, improves the quality of life, and complements regional growth.
Residents conveniently and efficiently travel between any two locations in the region using public/private transportation options.
All members of our community have access to fast internet.
Our community uses proven practices that engage the community and enable the achievement of plan objectives.
All members of the community vote and elect leaders that align with the community’s strategies and plans.
Every resident participates in the community planning process in their areas of interest.
All segments of the community jointly plan, design, and share responsibility, accountability and decision-making by creating trust and partnership.
Our community develops a sense of belonging and self-worth in our youth.
Our community takes responsibility for everyone’s safety.
Our community works together to prevent and stop domestic violence.
Law enforcement agencies partner together to create a safe and secure community.
Economy & Jobs
The region’s educators, trainers and employers operate as a single, effective network to connect and prepare residents for employment opportunities.
Public and private collaboration fosters a world class business development ecosystem to launch innovation and entrepreneurship.
Leading industries leverage regional assets, create high performing supply chains, and command national recognition.
Employers and civic entities stimulate career growth with jobs throughout the region.
Economic development partners collaborate regionally for business retention, expansion and attraction.