Vineyard Futureworks, one of the Island’s newest nonprofits, was introduced at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum Thursday to a group of Island community leaders and stakeholders.
The nonprofit was established on June 2, according to records filed with Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin’s office, and is led by Bob Johnston, Dennis da Rosa, David Forbes, Rick Estabrook, and Debbie Jernegan.
Hospital officials, Island selectmen, housing advocates, nonprofit leaders, business owners, and police and fire officials were among those who attended Thursday’s event. The evening began with a tour of the museum, broke for a reception where people could write ideas on a large board, and ended with a series of speakers talking about regional planning on the Vineyard.
One of Vineyard Futureworks’ first goals is to host the first OneVineyard Summit 2020. The summit is billed as “an Island-wide conversation to foster intelligent cooperation, creating a better future for the Island.” In addition to inter-Island town conversation, there will also be regional expert talks and workshops for Islanders.
One of the key questions Vineyard Futureworks wants to answer is, What will the Vineyard look like in 150 years?
“Vineyard Futureworks is a growing collaborative of concerned Islanders seeking to preserve all that is best about the Vineyard as we know it today, while leading the way toward a Vineyard future that protects the Island from the challenges it faces and fully realizes the potential it holds,” a mission statement filed with the commonwealth states. “We seek to unite and create a collective among those working for the good of the Island, so that information is shared, redundancies are avoided, and maximum cross-fertilization takes place. We seek further to infuse learnings from other organizations around the country into this information base, so the Vineyarders don’t waste precious time reinventing the wheel. We hope to introduce scientifically grounded processes for group management and vision development, to enhance creativity and productivity efforts, and we intend to join directly into the fray, with additional efforts where more effort is needed. Our goal is nothing short of one Island, united against the challenges that face us, and inspired by a common vision of a better Island future.”
According to the mission statement, Vineyard Futureworks will focus on four key areas: economic sustainability, environmental stewardship, strengthening cultural vibrancy, and engaging communities: “We will work to strengthen our traditional industries, while evolving to a more balanced, diverse, and sustainable year-round economy that allows people who grew up on the Island to stay on the Island.”
To begin addressing the question of what the Vineyard will look like in 150 years, author and ecologist David Foster gave a presentation on the Vineyard’s past 150 years. Foster said there are no six towns as close together physically, but completely different culturally as the towns on Martha’s Vineyard.
Foster ran through a quick history of the Island and how its topography has changed and developed. While aware that many community leaders filled the room, Foster said it would take the whole Island working together to create a positive future.
“The people in this room are the tip of the iceberg of what is needed,” Foster said. “Part of the focus on the diversity of the Island, from natural to human, is a recognition that you need to have all those voices. My optimism comes from the fact that people are so passionate that they will come together and put their energy into it.”
Martha’s Vineyard Commission executive director Adam Turner spoke about his experience working in urban planning in the Florida Keys, seeing firsthand how conservation, preservation, and full-blown development turned the Keys into what they are today. Turner fears the Island could go from a rural area to a suburban one. “We on the Island are involved,” Turner said. “It will be tricky, but I have no doubt it will be greatly successful.”
At the end of the event, David Forbes, a director at Vineyard Futureworks, asked attendees for donations for the OneVineyard Summit 2020 and other projects in the future.
Speaking to The Times, Forbes said one of his ideas is to develop a grant-writing engine to bring resources, professionals, and collaboration to the Island. “If you build it, they will come. Especially when it involves cash,” Forbes said.
The common theme among all those who spoke was that the Island is a special place, quite unlike any other.