Imagining a Virginia Without Invasive Plants, A Statewide Future Search Strategic Planning Workshop
Building a Statewide Coalition and Strategic Blueprint to Reduce Invasive Plants and Increase the Availability of Native Plants
December 12 – 14, 2023
Sponsored by Blue Ridge PRISM with support from the Richard K. Mellon Foundation.
Strategic Planning Workshop Purpose
The purpose of the Future Search workshop is to identify and launch a series of new statewide initiatives and action plans to make dramatic progress against invasive plants and, as part of that effort, support the use of native plants.
For hundreds of years invasive plants have been introduced into Virginia’s wild and cultivated landscapes. Since 2014 Blue Ridge PRISM has been working with partners and volunteers to reduce the negative impact of invasive plants in counties along the northern Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. We believe the next step in the fight to suppress invasive plants across Virginia is to build a broad coalition of stakeholders to create a shared vision and a systemwide strategic plan.
What is Future Search?
Future Search is a 3-day principle-based strategic planning meeting that creates the conditions for people to learn together and build community around a future they design together. This method is highly structured, with the intention of bringing together the “whole system” in order to enable a space for change and find a shared way forward.
In a Future Search event the whole system is represented by a microcosm of the diversity of stakeholders, demographics, and perspectives of those who have to be in the room for something to change. Workshop attendees pool their experiences to create a new shared reality, and when this occurs, it is possible to understand the complexity of the system, learn how to make impacts at all levels, and give people the responsibilities they have the capacity for.
Future Search was chosen as the strategic planning strategy for this effort because Blue Ridge PRISM recognized a new approach was required to effectively address invasive plants in Virginia. The PRISM Future Search workshop will create a coalition of passionate individuals from across Virginia who agree on a set of initiatives that they are willing to drive forward.
What are We Hoping to Accomplish?
This three-day strategic planning workshop is a targeted effort to reduce the presence of invasive plants in Virginia. To do this we are bringing together a microcosm of the interconnected system in Virginia that interacts with, influences, and intersects with invasive plants. By the end of the third day, we aim to have identified two to six statewide initiatives to make progress against the tsunami of invasive plants, and leave the workshop with plans for each initiative, including next actions, who will lead, and who will participate, and empower a leadership team that will drive each of the initiatives over the following months and years.
Why are You an Important Piece of this Puzzle?
You are being invited to participate in this strategic planning workshop because Blue Ridge PRISM and the Steering Committee planning this event believes you and your organization play a critical role in helping build a Statewide coalition and strategic blueprint to reduce invasive plants and increase the availability of native plants. Your perspective, your role within your organization, and your experience are key ingredients to this workshop’s success.
A total of eight stakeholder groups have been identified as the primary interconnected pieces in the puzzle of successfully addressing the invasive plant issue. Whether you wear one or many of the stakeholder “hats,” you have a critical role to play.
- Service Providers have the capability to expand or undertake invasive plant control work, and expand the supply of qualified invasive plant control workers.
- Plant Specifiers/Installers & Native/Friendly Plant Nurseries have the ability to reduce the use of invasive plants in landscaping, increase the supply of native plants to meet the demand from clients and specifiers, and reduce the availability of invasive plants in the trade.
- Educators are at the heart of building and strengthening efforts to reach out to, educate, and engage the public.
- Conservation Organizations as advocates for the natural world, have the ability – through staff, volunteers, and members – to take a range of actions to improve habitat and ecological health.
- Private Landowners and Land Managers have the capacity to increase awareness of the threat to private lands, address challenges to conservation, and mobilize themselves and others to action.
- Public Agency Landowners have the capacity to increase awareness of the threat to public lands, address challenges to conservation, and mobilize teams to take action.
- Public Agency and Public Policy Staff have the capacity to address the threat to Virginia’s natural lands and address the public resources and programs needed to meet this threat.
- Non-governmental Organization (NGO) Staff Working with State and Local Legislation/Regulation have the ability to build awareness of the threat to Virginia’s natural lands and invest address public resources and programs needed to meet this threat.
What is Your Commitment?
First, join us and be a part of shaping a future Virginia with fewer invasive plants. The three-day workshop is an intensive, all-hands interactive experience. It is very important that each attendee can be present for all three days. As a participant in this workshop you will be asked to bring your “whole self” to the meeting, meaning all of your experiences and knowledge, and all of the hats you wear.
Second, at a few specific moments within the workshop, you will be asked to work with others who represent a similar, particular point of view or “stake” in the future of invasive species within the State of Virginia. You will be asked to represent one particular view during these times, even though you are likely to represent many. For example, someone may be asked to represent those with a stake in educating the public on reducing invasive plant use, yet that person is also a land owner in Virginia and is interested in social action. For only part of the meeting you will be asked to work with a small group from this specific point of view. In all other mixed group exercises and whole group discussions, you will have the opportunity to speak from all of the multiple “hats” you may wear.
By agreeing to attend this workshop we are assuming that you will work collaboratively and in support of reducing invasive plants in Virginia. This will include a variety of approaches which may include legislative remedies to remove plants from the trade.
Everyone attending the workshop will be asked to:
- Self-manage time and tasks
- Facilitate discussion in their groups
- Keep the meeting purpose front and center
- Provide information and make meaningful, focused recommendations
- Help develop a vision for the future and commit to action steps
Workshop Agenda and Venue
The Wool Factory is located at The Historic Woolen Mills, a restoration of the 19th century textile mill in Charlottesville, Virginia. Formed by the intersection of Moore’s Creek and the Rivanna River, the location was previously the epicenter of industry and trade. Located one mile from Charlottesville’s historic downtown, today the Wool Factory is Charlottesville premier event venue. With large windows, sweeping views of nature, and delicious eats and drinks thoughtfully built around local relationships we aim to host you well.
If you are in need of handicap parking, follow the signs for ‘Takeout’ to the rear parking area of the building. You will have the opportunity in the RSVP to let us know additional needs or requests needed to make this workshop fully accessible for you. The event team will be in touch to confirm your request.
All but one meal is being provided at the event and will be prepared by The Wool Factory kitchen. On Wednesday night you will be responsible for finding dinner on your own. Visit https://www.charlottesville.guide/ for a complete list of options for restaurants and cafes in the Charlottesville area.
Meals provided are:
• Day 1 / lunch, snack, dinner
• Day 2 / breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack
• Day 3 / breakfast, lunch
I have special dietary needs, what do I do?
When you RSVP you will have the opportunity to describe any dietary needs you have. The event team will be in touch to confirm your request and confirm that the Wool Factory kitchen is able to accommodate what is being requested.
Attendee Information and FAQs
Is there a registration fee?
No, participating in the workshop is at no cost to you. Most meals are included. You will be responsible for your overnight accommodations, Wednesday evening meal, and any other travel related expenses. Hotel blocks in Charlottesville ranging from $103/night +tax to $139/night +tax have been reserved for workshop participants.
What time should I arrive each day?
Each day we have a “gathering time” which includes breakfast or lunch and connection.
- On Day One (12/12), you are welcome to join us anytime between 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. The workshop starts promptly at 1:00 p.m.
- On Day Two (12/13), you are welcome to join us between 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. The workshop resumes promptly at 8:00 a.m.
- On Day Three (12/14), you are welcome to join us between 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. The workshop resumes promptly at 9:00 a.m.
What if I cannot attend all three days?
It is critical in building common ground across the group that participants join us for the entire event. Missing a day or part of a day means you will miss vital discussions which create the momentum and understanding toward shared action. There are only 80 spots available for participants. If you can only attend part of the workshop, we kindly ask that you notify us so we can find a replacement for your spot.
What if I can attend all three days but need to step away for part of the event?
We understand that asking for three days of someone’s full time and attention is a significant ask, especially for those who may find themselves being pulled in many directions.
You are being invited to participate in this strategic planning workshop because Blue Ridge PRISM and the Steering Committee planning this event believes you and your organization play a critical role in helping build a Statewide coalition and strategic blueprint to reduce invasive plants and increase the availability of native plants. Your perspective, your role within your organization, and your experience are key ingredients to this workshop’s success. Having your voice “in the room” for the whole workshop is very important. Plan to be present for the duration of the workshop. If something arises and you need to step away briefly, please let one of the facilitators know.
Can I bring others to the workshop?
Family/Partner: Your family or significant other is welcome to join you during your stay in/near Charlottesville. However, only those who have been specifically invited to the workshop are welcome to join us at The Wool Factory for the event and event meals.
Co-workers/Colleagues: You are welcome to bring what you learned back to your co-workers! However, only those who have been specifically invited to the workshop are welcome to join us at The Wool Factory.
I know someone who would really like to attend – where do I direct them?
Please connect them with Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org. Blue Ridge PRISM is the event sponsor, and the planning team will add them to the waitlist and actively assess if there is extra space available within the workshop.
I RSVP’ed “Yes”. What if my availability has changed?
It is essential that everyone who can come, can come for the whole event. It’s important that we know as soon as possible if your availability has changed, and to the degree which it has changed. To help us understand your new availability, please be in touch with Candy and Amber as soon as possible.
What is Future Search?
- Future Search was created in the 1990’s by Sandra Janoff and Marv Weisbord as an open-source strategic planning methodology that is highly structured and designed to create an environment where action-based strategies around complex issues and systems are possible. This method helps people transform their capability for action very quickly. The meeting is task-focused, and brings together 64 to 100+ people in one room or hundreds in parallel rooms. A successful Future Search brings people from all walks of life into the same conversation – those with authority, resources, expertise, information and need. At the event, they meet for 20 hours spread across three days. People tell stories about their past, present and desired future. Through dialogue they discover their common ground. Only then do they make concrete action plans. The meeting design comes from theories and principles tested in many cultures for the past 50 years, and relies on mutual learning among stakeholders as a catalyst for voluntary action and follow-up: people devise new forms of cooperation that continue for months or years.
- Future Searches have been run in every part of the world and in every sector of society.
- There are four core principles: 1) Get the “whole system” in the room. Invite a significant cross-section of all parties with a stake in the outcome – those with authority, resources, expertise, information and need. 2) Explore the “whole elephant” before seeking to fix any part. Get everyone talking about the same world. Think globally, act locally. 3) Put common ground and future focus front and center while treating problems and conflicts as information, not action items. 4) Encourage self-management and responsibility for action by participants before, during and after the Future Search.
- Open-Source Resources: https://futuresearch.net/
Participation in the workshop is by invitation only. Please do not share or distribute this form.