What Was Flagstaff 2020?

Flagstaff 2020 was a community visioning project taken on from 1996 to 1997. The goal of the project was to survey the community of Flagstaff, Arizona to establish shared community values, before beginning a broad-based discussion about what people wanted the city to look like in the year 2020. The end goal for the project was to create a comprehensive community vision and action plan to act as a charter for the development of the greater Flagstaff area.

Members of different Flagstaff 2020 teams represented and worked closely with public institutions like the City of Flagstaff, Coconino County, Northern Arizona University (NAU), Coconino Community College (CCC), and Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD) and private organizations such as Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, Grand Canyon Trust, Friends of Flagstaff’s Future and Northern Arizona Home Builders.

These partners provided their input, ideas, and expertise as well as financial and logistical support. Additionally, the Flagstaff 2020 Management Committee hired an external expert, Steven C. Ames of Steven Ames Planning, to serve as a technical consultant. Project Coordinator Kathy Turner facilitated and coordinated activities and events, including meetings of the various Flagstaff 2020 teams.

Ask me about Flagstaff 2020 button design
Ask me about Flagstaff 2020 [button designs]. Circa 1996. Flagstaff 2020 Records [manuscripts], NAU.MS.294, Series 1, Box 4, Folder 85. View this item via Digital Collections.

In the clip below, Steven Ames provides a brief overview of community visioning and how it helps citizens of cities like Flagstaff prepare for the future. Watch Ames’ entire oral history via Digital Collection.

Above: Steven Ames explains what community visioning is and how it connects to futures research.

Flagstaff 2020 was built on research. To support the Flagstaff 2020 project, Northern Arizona University made an in-kind contribution of survey research carried out by the Social Research Laboratory. The Department of Anthropology at NAU similarly offered a special ethnographic research course (ANT 599) in the fall of 1996 which connected directly to visioning activities.

A big part of the Flagstaff 2020 community visioning process was outreach and engagement with the residents of greater Flagstaff. Flagstaff 2020 held many community meetings at various locations around Flagstaff to introduce community members to the project in the spring of 1996. Educators in the Flagstaff area simultaneously worked with students ranging from elementary to high school age to do “youth visioning” projects, often as part of public events such as VisionFest.

On October 17, 1996, Flagstaff 2020 hosted a public meeting called the Probable Future Forum at Flagstaff City Hall. This meeting was followed by the VisionFest held December 7, 1996. A commercial advertising VisionFest, shown below, aired on local TV news stations to encourage broad community participation in visioning. Watch the original Flagstaff 2020 commercial via Digital Collections.

Above: A captioned version of the Flagstaff 2020 commercial advertising VisionFest, produced by James Ward (Jim) Byrkit.

To get more people involved in the process, the Flagstaff 2020 Outreach Committee developed the Flagstaff 2020 Mystery Game. Participants in the game read 20 serialized installments by local authors. Together, these chapters told the story of Zorg, a Plutonian visiting Flagstaff in the year 2120. For each installation, the participant had to guess the Flagstaff landmark being described in the story correctly. Prizes offered for the Mystery Game included a free semester at NAU, a river rafting trip, and others. The grand prize was a brand-new affordable house, constructed by the community.

After 18 months of collaborative work, Flagstaff 2020 concluded with the publication of a final report titled A Vision for our Community. The project also published three tabloid-style newspaper inserts providing updates and information on Flagstaff 2020 to the community, including the final vision. These were distributed to over 23,000 households in Flagstaff. The winners of the Flagstaff 2020 Mystery Game, were announced at the 1997 Fourth of July parade, themed “Flagstaff Unfurls its Future,” in downtown Flagstaff.