Podcast: Elizabeth Lynn on ValpoNEXT’s Start

Elizabeth Lynn

ValpoNEXT Coordinator Kathy Sipple speaks with Elizabeth Lynn, Founding Director at the Center for Civic Reflection at Valparaiso University and outgoing Director at VU’s Institute for Leadership and Service.

Lynn and Sipple discuss the initial issues that formed the foundation of the ValpoNEXT planning process. After hiring an outside organization and organizing a variety of methods to hear public opinions, the developed and in-depth set of recommendations for the city. This plan is to carry Valparaiso through the next several decades and help it become the most engaged city of its size. The nonprofit group ValpoNEXT was formed to connect and guide volunteers in the community to focus strengths towards these common goals. The necessity of the community board meetings is emphasized, as well as the need for volunteers (as well as details to get involved).

Elizabeth Lynn Background

Dr. Lynn teaches in the field of philanthropic leadership and service, conducts research on the role of the humanities in American civic life, served on the Valparaiso Board of Zoning Appeals, the governing board of Indiana Humanities, and the advisory board for the Lake Family Institute on Faith and Giving at Indiana University.

She holds a PhD in Religion and Literature from the University of Chicago and is the Co-editor with Adam Davis of The Civically Engaged Reader. Most recently she authored An Ongoing Experiment: State Councils, the Humanities, and the American Public (Kettering Foundation, 2013).

Transcript Notes

  • Elizabeth Lynn was the co-chair when ValpoNEXT was being planned. She is also the founding director at Valparaiso University’s Center for Civic Reflection, as well as the director at the Institute for Leadership and Service.
  • There is a decline in civic engagement in the United States as a whole, but members of the Valparaiso community were still healthily engaged.
  • The community hired an organization called Planning NEXT to craft a broad vision for Valparaiso’s future.
    • Organized summits, small group focus sessions, and other meetings to get advice and recommendations for Valparaiso citizens.
  • This created the nonprofit ValpoNEXT to form community boards in order to connect interested individuals within the city.
  • Recommendations in the plan focus on being a welcoming community, celebrating diversity, and encouraging interactions between people of widely different backgrounds within Valparaiso.
  • All Together Valpo (ATV) was a task force formed by the mayor based on ValpoNEXT’s vision plan. It was made up of three subcommittees working on different issues related to diversity and inclusion.
    • Hiring a more diverse workforce within the city (schools, public works, administration, etc.), affordable housing, how to become more welcoming and inclusive in general.
    • Welcoming Valpo committee was together till 2015 and put forward a report of recommendations that helped lead to Maggie Clifton’s hiring as the Director of Community Engagement.
  • Community board meetings allow citizens to meet one another, learn what community boards have been working on, and engaging new people in the overall process of ValpoNEXT.
  • ValpoNEXT helps connect people in and catalyze the civic energy that exists in Valpo.

The relationships built when people connect at community board meetings will run for a long, long time. This plan is a long-term community vision.

ValpoNEXT could use note takers, documenters, and more! Contact at info@valponext.org.dream.website

Getting Involved!

Podcast: ValpoNEXT- A Short History and Where We Are Headed with Thais Carter

Thais Carter

ValpoNEXT Coordinator Kathy Sipple speaks with Thais Carter, Board Secretary and Community Action Committee Leader for Sense of Place. They discuss the timeline of how ValpoNEXT came to be, the reasons it was formed, and several essential members. The necessity for citizen engagement and volunteering is a forefront of the conversation as a whole, as well as ValpoNEXT’s dedication to communicating, convening, and celebrating. Sipple and Carter also discuss the current community boards and their main focuses, and give examples of the work that said boards are producing now.

Download a copy of the ValpoNEXT Vision Plan here.


  • 2013: City of Valparaiso launches ValpoNEXT Vision Planning process, working with PlanningNEXT as its consulting partner. Elizabeth Lynn and Matt Evans co-chair Citizen Steering Committee.
  • December 2014: Valparaiso’s City Council unanimously adopts ValpoNEXT’s Vision Plan.
  • January 2015: Evans and Lynn co-chair Implementation Task Force.
  • January 2016: Interim Oversight Committee to steward organizational start-up. City invites Garner Tullis to serve as Interim Coordinator.
  • January 2017: Organization launches with a new board.
  • November 2017: Kathy Sipple appointed Coordinator.

Community Action Committees

  • Economic Vitality
  • Equity and Inclusion
  • Nurturing Our Young People
  • Sense of Place

Transcript Notes:

“ValpoNEXT exists to convene, communicate, and celebrate the work that citizens, organizations, businesses, and city leaders are doing to help us live our shared values and dreams for our community.”

  • Podcast is an opportunity for conversations with the community action committee leaders and members, citizens, organizations and other with ideas to share and help us toward our vision to have Valparaiso be the most civically engaged city of its size.
  • ValpoNEXT is focused on the conversation regarding who we wanted to be and how to get there.
  • Garner Tullis initially served as the interim coordinator in the beginning.

ValpoNEXT is focused on civic engagement and how we care for one another, and this is a national sentiment that we implement at the local level.

  • Executive committee (updated):
    • President: Eric Zosso
    • Secretary: Thais Carter
    • Treasurer: Jeff Lewis
    • Coordinator: Kathy Sipple
  • Board represents many niches within the Valparaiso community: want this organization to speak for everyone in Valpo.
  • This initiative is a volunteer-led initiative. ValpoNEXT, a 501(C)3 only has one part-time paid worker (Kathy Sipple); every other member is a volunteer citizen.
  • ValpoNEXT requires time, care, and resources from its citizens in order to function.
  • Communicate
    • Valpo is an amazing community, and ValpoNEXT wants to make sure everyone knows what options are available to help our community.
    • Become aware of all the ways our community members are stepping up.
  • Convene
    • Get all people invested in their projects the chance to get together and refine their work.
    • Bringing together the right people will amplify our ability to share our work and celebrate successes.
  • Celebrate
  • Community Action Committees: Public aspect of how ValpoNEXT functions
    • Encourage citizen presence at these meetings.
    • Check out our Facebook page to find the times and locations!
  • Current Community Action Committees
    • Economic Vitality
    • Equity and Inclusion
    • Nurturing Our Young People
    • Sense of Place
  • Land bank: Land banks are governmental entities or nonprofit corporations that are focused on the conversion of vacant, abandoned, and tax delinquent properties into productive use (Center for Community Progress)
    • ValpoNEXT will not create a land bank, but will provide information for passionate citizens so that they know how to achieve success.
  • Citizens who want to get involved but don’t know where to start can begin with ValpoNEXT.
    • Talk about what we want for our neighbors and for our families.

Getting Involved!