ValpoNEXT 2021 Civic Update

Hello and welcome to our 2021 Civic Update! This year our Civic Update will be virtual, but we certainly hope to host this as an in-person event in the future.

So, what can you expect out of this Civic Update? Well, we have broken down this Update into a few parts: our organization update, a Vision Plan update, and a look into the ~future~.

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Our Organization's Update

Over the last 7 years, our organization has experienced much change. We gained many wonderful board members, had a few position changes between the president's seat, the treasurer's seat, and board member positions in general, and we unfortunately saw a dwindling of our board size as some members moved on to other things. We decided to take on an employee in 2019, who since then has been coordinating and facilitating the day-to-day business of our organization, and helps us come up with ideas on how to better support and be active in our community.


Current ValpoNEXT Team

Read about our active board members and our current Business and Communications Coordinator:

Board President: Spencer Skinner


Spencer joined ValpoNext as a board member when the organization was founded in 2014. Spencer was initially one of the co-leaders of the Economic Vitality Community Action Committee, and was elected President in November 2019.

What he loves most about ValpoNEXT: “ValpoNext has lent a voice to the community to shape it in ways that are important to individual citizens. The issues raised in the early days of our plan have shaped the Human Rights Ordinance, allowed engagement with citizens and their elected officials, and has organized smaller groups which have continued to raise issues to people who may not have otherwise felt comfortable speaking up in a larger forum.”


Fundraising Chair: Rich Schmidt


Rich has been a member of our board since _______. He served on the _____ committee and currently serves as our fundraising chair.

What he loves about ValpoNEXT:



Our Secretary: Isaac Carr


Isaac has been on the board since _________. He is our current secretary, and has been a huge help _____________.

What he loves most about ValpoNEXT:



Our Business and Communications Coordinator: Emily Whited

Emily has been an employee of ValpoNEXT since July of 2019, and has had an ever-changing position with us. She first came on as a Volunteer Coordinator, and her role shifted to becoming more about communications, marketing, and business development. She is the brains behind the marketing of our organization, and actively thinks of new ways to have our organization working with other organizations and groups in our community to expand on and support our Vision Plan.

What Emily loves most about ValpoNEXT: "It has really expanded my professionalism, and has allowed me to have a deeper appreciation for our city. I grew up for the second half of my childhood in Valpo, and although I always knew it was a nice place, I never fully appreciated the value this city has. ValpoNEXT has allowed me to see the wonderful parts of our community and our city that I would have never seen on my own. On top of that, I love being able to help other organizations expand their reach and feel like I'm helping in some small way to support local organizations and businesses through the work I do here."

So, what in the world have we been doing?

Click on the audio link to listen to Emily speak on this topic. The audio is transcribed below-

“Hello! My name is Emily and I am the Business and Communications Coordinator here at ValpoNEXT. In my time with ValpoNEXT, we have really taken our organization to the next level and have been much more active with our community. We have built a platform on our Facebook page where we share opportunities for our community to be involved with, general information that might affect community members, and create some fun campaigns related to both Civic Engagement and Diversity and Inclusion.

During the election last year, we had a fantastic Facebook campaign where we shared so much information about the history of elections, political parties, and information voters should have nowadays in order to be effective and educated voters. Without bias, we encouraged all of-age citizens to vote for whomever they knew they wanted in office positions, in order to have the most accurate representation of leadership for the people that we can have. This voting campaign was very important to our organization, as we exist to be the on-ramp for civic engagement, and voting is the most civically engaged thing we as Americans can participate in.

Moving away from voting, this year, we’ve stepped up our game even more and have been really honing in on the Diversity and Inclusion Initiative in our Vision Plan by celebrating and supporting different communities within our larger community of Valparaiso. We have celebrated the many heritage months throughout the year by sharing resources and ways to support those groups of people that descend from the specific heritages we are celebrating. We most recently celebrated Hispanic History Month, which was a lot of fun for me to put together. The way I have been looking at these projects is that it is not our job to tell you the stories of these people and cultures we are celebrating, it is our job to share resources for you to learn their stories and for people in those communities to tell you their stories themselves. I have been really loving putting these together this year, and am excited to continue learning about and supporting these groups of people, their cultures, their pasts, and their futures.

Now, the last big project we have been doing both on Facebook and our email subscription base is our “Organization Collaborations.” We have been reaching out to many organizations and groups in the community that do meaningful and positive work, and do small collaborations with them, which spreads the word via Facebook and email about their group or organization. First and foremost, we do these collaborations to support the organizations’ growth, and spread the word on organizations that are both well known and not well known in our community, but still do equally great things. Secondly, we do these collaborations to connect our followers to opportunities in our community to be civically engaged. We share volunteer opportunities and other ways the community can support and get involved with the organizations we are working with. We also tie these collaborations to our own Vision Plan when we talk about them, as they all, in their own ways, are expanding on and supporting the many initiatives we outline in our original Vision Plan.

I myself have been really enjoying expanding ValpoNEXT’s online presence, and our presence in the community as well.

Now, I do think that this organization has been expected to be a powerful catalyst for massive change in our community, but truthfully that expectation is just too high. With the changes our organization has gone through and the journey it has been on figuring out where it stands in the community, I think the more realistic expectation is for ValpoNEXT to do the following: 1. is to be the on-ramp for civic engagement like we have been, 2. is to assess and reward ways the community has been supporting our original Vision Plan, and 3. encourage members of the community to help each other make the Vision Plan’s Action Agenda a reality.

I am very excited to continue to grow our organization’s presence next year, and do even bigger and better things in our community, and I can’t wait to see where our organization will take us in the future.”


Vision Plan Update

This is where we can add any Valparaiso-related updates we want to talk about, including anything Matt has done with his winnings of the Civic Pitch Night money. We can talk about what has been done in Valpo since the making of the Vision Plan, and what organizations have risen for each Initiative, whether it was because of the vision plan or not.

Vision Plan Updates

In the original ValpoNEXT Vision Plan, there is an "Implementation Matrix" that shows who in our community is responsible for moving each initiative forward in our city throughout the years, whether it be short-term, long-term, or somewhere in the middle (Pages 26-30 in our Vision Plan). Here, we will give a comprehensive update on that matrix, and connect each Initiative with the groups, organizations, and general implementations that came out of the discussions that created the entire Plan.

Here (above) we can add audio of someone on the board that wants to talk about the community (maybe Rich??) or anything else Valparaiso related.

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Looking to the ~Future~

Civic Pitch Night Event!

Help us continue to help our community work toward advancing our Vision Plan initiatives by fostering ideas that our community members have!

There will be a handful of five minute presentations, Q&A time, and a little networking mixer that will offer resources and refreshments. We'll have local experts in attendance to link up with attendees, think through idea logistics, marketing, and city processes behind making the next big idea a reality.

This event does not yet have a set date or time, but we are aiming for mid to late April or early May.

Submissions to be one of the handful of presenters with a great idea will be accepted until the beginning of March, where we will review all ideas and will choose those that will advance to the Pitch Night event!

If you are interested in submitting an idea, please do so via the "Civic Pitch Night Submission" button below!

Growing Our Organization and Encouraging Vision Plan Growth in Our Community

It is important to always keep progressing and to not stay in one place for too long. The world keeps on going and in order to have a successful organization we must keep on going with it. In our recent past we grew stagnant in our day-to-day business, and truthfully missed many opportunities to grow our organization in the right direction.


We feel that our organization is growing in the direction it needs to be growing in. ValpoNEXT exists to be the on-ramp for civic engagement, and we have also taken on the role of identifying ways that our community can and does support the original ValpoNEXT Vision Plan.


On the ValpoNEXT side of things, our goals for the upcoming years will bring the following:

  • A more involved voter program that helps register people to vote, teaches them the history and importance of voting, and shares resources that allows them to educate themselves on who they are voting for.
  • Continued celebration of the diversity of our community and world through social media, email projects, and collaborations with local diversity-centered organizations


On the Vision Plan side of things, there are some Initiative Action Agendas that were set up to be progressed in the short- and medium-term, but nothing has been done with them. We hope to see more progress on the following Action Agendas in the near future:

  • List short and medium term agendas that nothing has been done with


We hope that our community can help us make some progress in those areas, whether it be connecting to the listed leaders for each Agenda to make it known we want to see some progress, or just taking the reigns themselves. (I hate this paragraph need to change it.)

Audio above of Spencer talking about something, possibly mentioning board member need?

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(I will fix the picture I just really liked the quote)

Thank YOU

Thank you, our wonderful community, for all the support you have shown us this year and last, and the continued support you show us every day. We are grateful to exist in this wonderful community as an on-ramp for civic engagement, and as an ambassador for those in our community.

If you would like to connect with our board of directors, please contact us via the contact form below, and thank you in advance for your feedback!

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