The Straight Scoop on Shale

A project of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania Citizen Education Fund


Your League chapter or group will likely want to start your sustainable economy initiative by planning to hold some kind of event. We have found that holding a visioning session is a very effective way to both educate and engage the public.

Visioning sessions allow regular people to have their say in laying the groundwork for sustainable economic development to happen in their community, county or region. And when civic or business leaders also attend and participate, the experience makes the leaders more likely to buy in to a sustainable vision of economic development.

Education/Raising awareness

Our visioning sessions always start with an educational component, usually a set of 3-5 short (five minute) presentations. For a symposium that lasts e.g. from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the presentations can be longer, leaving time for visioning in the afternoon.

The speakers serve to make people aware of the viability of the clean economy TODAY, as well as in the future. We have featured speakers presenting the results of the Clean Jobs PA studies, which in 2019 show more than 90,000 clean energy jobs in Pennsylvania. Many of these jobs are in manufacturing energy efficient appliances, heating systems, parts, etc. Some of the clean energy jobs are in transportation, including developing autonomous vehicles which are more energy efficient.

Some of the speakers should be exemplary models of successful clean economy businesses and initiatives. While we often feature a renewable energy speaker, they don’t all have to be solar installers. They could be artisans who craft products out of natural materials. Or a company that makes stormwater drainage systems out of recycled plastic.

The idea is to get people thinking expansively about the clean economy, including sustainable aspects of agriculture, and of tourism. Through visioning, people create a clearer picture in their mind of specific examples of clean economic development.

Sample schedule for a visioning session:

Weekday evening

5 p.m. Doors open

5:30    Food/refreshments (e.g. Sandwiches & salads; a Vegan meal of hummus, lentil & rice wraps, tabouli; Cheese, crackers and fruit; Pizza; Cookies/Sweets)

6 p.m. Introduction by League chapter or other organizer(s);

A few five-minute presentations about the viability of the sustainable economy, examples of specific businesses/initiatives;

Instructions for how each table should conduct the visioning activity

6:30-7:30 p.m. Visioning – small group discussions at tables, people write down their ideas on sticky notes (Post-Its) and put them on their table map, then discuss.

7:30-8:15       Report back – Holding up the map with the sticky notes, each table has two or three representatives present the key ideas from their table

8:15-8:30       Next Steps (How people can stay involved; will there be more sessions, a report, educational workshops about particular topics, meetings with leaders, etc.)

Following the educational component is the most interactive portion of the session – visioning table discussions.  We use maps in our visioning sessions, thus tapping into visual senses, and moving from words to physical representations.

The visioning session seeks people’s ideas to answer the question:

What types of sustainable development would you like to see (in your community, county, region)?

The visioning starts with people quietly thinking about what they’d like to see, and writing their ideas down on the sticky notes (one idea per sticky note) and sticking the Sticky notes  on the map; or directly drawing ideas on the map with a colored marker. Then, going around the table, each person introduces themselves and shares their ideas.

Many League of Women Voters chapters have members with experience in facilitation. It’s a good idea to take advantage of this asset and recruit them to moderate and take notes on the table discussion.

However, it’s not absolutely necessary to have specific moderators recruited in advance. When you explain the instructions for visioning, you can ask each table for a volunteer to take notes and help moderate the discussion. The session Agenda/program handout can be designed with instructions incorporated into the handout (see example of a program from Re-Imagine Butler County visioning session).

The discussions take place at the tables where people have been sitting listening to the presentations, with 4-10 people per table. The number of session participants could be as small as 20 people or as large as 80 people.

Ten minutes before the beginning of the report back period, the event leaders should announce that each table should identify 2-3 people to present the table’s ideas: 1 or 2 people hold the map and 1 or more speak about the ideas. (If you are videotaping, you should let people know that everyone who participates in reporting back in front of the large group should be willing to appear on video.)

There should be enough time in the schedule, and a small enough number of tables, for each table to be able to spend about five minutes presenting their table’s key ideas to the large group.


One map per table; sticky notes (e.g. sticky notes in small (2” x 1.5”) and medium (3” X 3”) sizes, and a variety of colors; Colored markers (about 5 per table); Paper for someone to take notes of the discussion that can be turned in.

Each table gets a large (24 x 36) map. The map can be of a community, a county, a congressional district, a region. Each table can have the same map or different tables can have different maps. Each table also gets sticky notes to write down their ideas (one idea per sticky note sheet) and place on the map. Also, about 5 colored markers per table for people who want to write or draw their ideas directly on the map. The participants at a table should write their names on the table’s map. There should be a photo taken of each table’s finished map with the sticky notes (in case they fall off later).

Video documentation

If your League chapter or group has the funds to hire a professional videographer, or if your group includes people who have video skills and equipment, you can document the event (including the opening presentations) and capture people’s presentation of their ideas during the report out session. This video footage can be used to create a 5-minute video of the highlights of your visioning session.  This short video can be central to spreading the ideas generated in the visioning session, recruiting more people to support those ideas, presenting these ideas to leaders, and having the ideas implemented.

Include a notice in your program to alert the participants about a video being made (see Re-Imagine Butler County program example). Collect media releases from your educational speakers who present earlier in the program.

There are examples of short videos of visioning session highlights linked in the List of Tools.

Next steps

After the reports, as you close the session, you should inform people how they can continue to engage, and what will happen with the ideas produced at the visioning session.

Your next steps could include:

  • Inviting visioning session participants to join the planning committee.
  • Doing more visioning sessions with different subgroups (e.g. college students) or in different parts of the county/region.
  • Analyzing the information from the session and issuing a report.
  • Scheduling a public presentation of the session highlights.
  • Putting together a list of the different ideas and surveying participants (or the public) to prioritize, gauging interest and viability of different ideas.
  • Holding educational sessions on specific ideas raised during the visioning (for example, to learn more about green manufacturing).
  • Creating task force group(s) to further develop ideas and move towards implementation