By Sheila Fitzgerald, OP (Sinsinawa)
GROW SOUTHWEST WISCONSIN! That is the title given to the planning process that has been underway in the five-county areas surrounding Sinsinawa Mound. The Southwest Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SWWRPC) received a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to assist Richland, Grant, Iowa, Lafayette and Green counties with “on the ground” planning to build the local economies, increase the quality of life, and preserve the natural heritage of this area. They are now into the third year of this process and most recently have published goals and strategies in the following nine areas: agriculture; business and industry; culture and creativity; education; health and human services; energy and utilities; housing; nature and the environment; and transportation. The plan is intended to position this region for the challenges and opportunities of shaping the future over the next 20 years.
We were late-comers to the process, but some of us were privileged to participate in sessions as the plan was being readied for publication. We found a real resonance with the ministry of the Sinsinawa Dominicans. Many of the goals and strategies in the planning document reflected values that we have long considered hallmarks of our identity and service: education; stewardship of the natural environment; culture and the arts; as well as a just, sustainable, healthy, and inclusive society.
We also found a great deal of enthusiasm among the participants that representatives of the Sinsinawa Mound community had joined them around the table. There is a real appreciation for our presence in the community and the role and contribution we can and do make. However, there is also a lack of awareness of the resources that the Mound offers to Southwest Wisconsin.
It would be well worth your time to look over the hopes and dreams that have been articulated by the “grassroots” in this five-county area. You can learn much more about this at the following web site: www.growsouthwest.org.
The grant received by SWWRPC included an implementation phase. A request for proposals was issued to municipalities, counties, educational institutions, neighborhood-based organizations, cultural organizations, small business entities, etc. It was an invitation to submit ideas for proposed projects that would address issues in one or more of the nine areas articulated in Grow Southwest Wisconsin.
Given our own strategic planning process, which will be addressing the hopes and dreams we have for our Sinsinawa properties as we consider the next 20 years, and given our desire to work in partnership with others as we shape that future, we submitted a proposal for technical assistance to help us identify potential partnerships and collaborative relationships. Our proposal was titled, “Partnerships for Nature and Environment, Agriculture and Education.” Our proposal suggested that our farmland and natural environment have the potential to serve as a major resource for envisioning a model ecological-agricultural learning center.
At the end of March, we were notified that our proposal was one of four that had been selected. We have met with their planning team to sketch out a timeline and to begin to build a working relationship. Their grant extends through December, so it is important to take advantage of their availability and commitment to working with us during these next months. Significant to this process is a core group of sisters and others who will work with SWWRPC with our overall strategic planning process in mind.
For more information about the Sinsinawa Dominicans, visit www.sinsinawa.org.