Collaboration on the Coast at the 2015 EcoDistricts Staff Retreat

This past December, the EcoDistricts staff gathered at the Historic Reed House on the Oregon Coast for two days of strategizing, innovating and all-around idea sharing to develop a robust plan to move our organization forward in 2016. The house, which we were able to pay for with credit card points, offered a large, collaborative space that facilitated team-building sessions. It’s location on Manzanita Beach, several hours from our headquarters in Portland, was an opportunity for us to truly focus on creating strategic outcomes that we could carry back with us into the new year.

Below are the top outcomes from that retreat:


Staff strategizing in the kitchen of the Reed House.

Core Values

As our team grows, so does our desire to create a group identity, centered on several core values. These core values will help us define the ideals that the EcoDistricts staff strive to emanate daily. We held a blue sky brainstorming session where staff contributed more than 50 words or phrases that define a core value. Some of our favorites included ‘be bold,’ ‘communicate,’ and ‘inclusion and empowerment.’ The next step is for us to adopt the values and integrate them into the fabric of the team.


10 Cities Project

The 10 Cities Project is a concept the staff brainstormed at the retreat. We started with a basic question: What if we built a series of highly localized campaigns across 10 diverse cities in North America, engaging citizens and city makers to share what they think it takes to make a community truly vibrant? What kind of conversations, ideas and stories would arise? Over the course of a group brainstorm, we envisioned partnering with local organizations to build stories of neighborhood heroes and to activate community members around local projects, public policy, and education. While it’s still in the initial stages, our team is putting a creative brief of the campaign together with a plan to pilot it across two to three cities by the year’s end.


Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

At EcoDistricts, we believe that a commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is critical to achieving truly sustainable, equitable, and resilient cities. While our team began an in-depth examination of our DEI practices several years ago, 2016 is going to be a big year for us to push our DEI commitment to the next level. At the staff retreat, each department brainstormed challenges, opportunities and future actions to incorporate DEI into how we work. For example, the Marketing team suggested recruiting advisors to ensure our communication materials were inclusive and cultural sensitive. The Convenings team advocated for creating a scholarship fund to improve event accessibility regardless of an individual or team’s ability to pay. And the Fundraising team committed to making our membership program inclusive of minority- and women-led organizations and businesses.

Since the retreat, we’ve convened a DEI taskforce of Board and staff members, and have finalized a draft DEI Blueprint for the organization. This Blueprint, which will be finalized in the first half of 2016, will serve as our roadmap to purposefully build a culture of inclusion across our team and for our diverse customers.


“Office dog” Walter joined us for the retreat weekend.

Summit Planning

Our team kicked off program planning for the 2016 EcoDistricts Summit at the December retreat. Staff mapped out the unique design of the 2016 program, including ideas for keynote speakers, studios and mobile labs, and our unique Block Party. We also discussed several options for event space in the heart of Denver, CO. Since the retreat, tremendous progress has been made toward making the 2016 Summit our best event ever. Early bird registration for the September 13-15 Summit opens February 15.

Thanks in large part to the team building and planning that took place at the retreat, we’ve started 2016 prepared to meet ambitious goals for the organization and our customers, partners, and friends.