Jeni Craswell is getting to know people and working at helping the community develop a vision of “who we are” as a city through the nonprofit Realize Redmond.
The organization, launched to take over operation of and engage residents to take ownership in community events and projects that the city has been handling in recent years, is itself still defining who it is, and recently underwent a name change from the Redmond Foundation to better reflect its goals, said Craswell, its executive director.
“The word ‘foundation’ was confusing,” Craswell said, causing some people to think the organization is a granting agency, while also making it harder for it to seek funding from granting organizations that don’t give to foundations.
Craswell says Realize Redmond is looking to the community as it furthers this self-definition. She says much of her time is spent talking to people to find out what sorts of projects are important to the public.
Through that interaction, Craswell said she discovered people were happy with the parks, but “what seemed to be missing was some sense of who we are as a community.” Redmond is no longer a farming community, and other cities have distinct identities—Kirkland is a waterfront community, Woodinville is wine country, and so on, she said.
One of the aims of the organization, then, is to develop a 100-year vision for Redmond, to keep in peoples’ minds the overarching qualities of community, rather than simply short-term development ideals.
Because it’s so important to develop these clear goals, Craswell said the organization has so far held off on having a big public launch, instead participating with a group of community agencies on an initiative called One Redmond, in which local players such as Realize Redmond, the new Economic Development Alliance and the Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce are working together to ensure that they are not duplicating efforts and seeking to work collaboratively to accomplish more for the city.
Meanwhile, the Realize Redmond 11-member board has been working behind the scenes to get the organization up and running and clarify its goals. Realize has received seed money from private and public sources, including Evergreen Hospital and the City of Redmond, and , who sits on the board, donates office space and administrative support to the nonprofit at .
Though moving forward prudently, Realize Redmond will start holding public meetings soon, Craswell said, and is working with the Redmond Parks Department on development of a bike park.
“We’re the nonprofit people can donate through” to help secure grants and other funding for the bike park project, Craswell said. “That’s been great for testing processes and building community."
The organization’s first major project will be working with the city and the community to help develop a downtown park.
“I think the most important thing is that it’s about the community, giving them a path to envision their future. We are seeing with the economy that the government can’t do it all, and we have to be more creative in how we manage and fund projects,” Craswell said.