As wagon trains headed west to settle in Utah, many planted crops along the way, even though they would never see the fruits of their labors; the crops were for the benefit of future travelers. Within three days of entering the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, those first pioneers convened to create a community plan that would last for generations. With each new settlement, the pioneers laid out a gridded street network, planned for water resources, and identified locations for churches, public buildings, parks, and schools. Repeatedly throughout the state’s history, each generation has come together to envision and prepare a better future for generations to follow.
Your Utah, Your Future is our generation’s way to “plant crops” for those who follow us. The vision is based on Utahns’ values and has been created by the shared voice of over 60,000 Utahns. The magnitude of public participation in choosing this shared future is unprecedented anywhere in the country.
From the beginning to end, the process was structured to ensure that this would be a vision by Utahns and for Utahns.
Your Utah, Your Future began with a study of Utahns’ values and priorities. The process then brought hundreds of experts and stakeholders together to identify the choices we face and how those choices will affect Utahns’ lives. Next, Utahns selected from among those choices. Combining Utahns’ values, the choices identified by experts and stakeholders, and Utahns’ selection from among those choices resulted in a shared vision for the future.
The foundation of Your Utah, Your Future is Utahns’ values and priorities. The effort to understand these values and priorities included two major components. For the first step, focus groups were held with stake-holders and residents throughout the state. Envision Utah traveled to each region of the state and convened focus groups, using computers and software that allowed everyone in the room to share their values and priorities at the same time. Focus groups were convened in the following areas in spring and summer 2014:
- The Six-County area (Juab, Millard, Sanpete, Sevier, Piute, and Wayne Counties)
- The Five-County area (Beaver, Iron, Garfield, Washington, and Kane Counties)
- The Southeast Utah area (Carbon, Emery, Grand, and San Juan Counties)
- The Uintah Basin (Uintah, Duchesne, and Daggett Counties)
- The Wasatch Front (Weber, Davis, Salt Lake, Morgan, and Tooele Counties)
- The Bear River area (Box Elder, Cache, and Rich Counties)
- The Mountainland area (Utah, Summit, and Wasatch Counties)
- A sample of randomly recruited Utah residents
A focus group of randomly recruited Utahns from across the state was also held. In addition, eight focus groups were held with action teams that were each assigned to focus on one or more of the 11 topics.
The results of these focus groups were compiled to build different “value ladders,” which begin with the attribute of the community that people care about most (e.g., good jobs). The ladders then identify the functional consequences of that attribute (e.g., “I can support my family”), uncover the emotional response to those consequences (e.g., less stress), and culminate by identifying the personal values that undergird that emotional response (e.g., peace of mind).
The second step in understanding Utahns’ values and priorities was to perform a random-sample survey to determine which value ladders resonate most with Utahns and to understand other aspects of Utahns’ priorities and attitudes. The survey was conducted in summer 2014 and resulted in a powerful understanding of what Utahns want in their lives and why. Using this understanding, the action teams were able to frame choices in terms of their effects on those things Utahns value most.
Governor Gary Herbert and Envision Utah kicked off Your Utah, Your Future in October 2013 with an invitation to all Utahns to participate in building a vision for the state’s future. Envision Utah and Governor Herbert then invited experts and stakeholders from around the state to join action teams to address the 11 Your Utah, Your Future topics. In all, more than 400 Utahns accepted the invitation to join the action teams. Each team included representatives from legislature, industry, local business and government, advocacy groups, research institutions, and other organizations and was facilitated by Envision Utah. The role of the action teams was not to decide the future, but to identify the choices we face as a state and the likely consequences of those choices. Nearly 53,000 Utahns then selected from among those choices.
The “Build Your 2050 Utah” Web App
To solicit initial public input, the action teams created the “Build Your 2050 Utah” web app. The app included modules for each of the 11 topics. In each module, Utahns were presented with choices for the future and were able to adjust their preferences for those choices. When they adjusted preferences, various outcomes automatically shifted to match the users’ selections. When the user was satisfied with his or her preferences, those selections were recorded and tabulated. A broad media campaign through a variety of news outlets informed Utahns that they could give input through the app. In all, more than 3,000 Utahns shared their voice.
The action teams were able to use the data from the app to understand the breadth of the choices they should explore. For example, in the water module many Utahns chose the option with the highest level of conservation, which prompted the action team to later present Utahns with a choice to conserve even more water than was possible in the web app.
The action teams used the public input from the web app to develop different scenarios—projections of likely outcomes for Utah in 2050 if certain choices are made today. Each action team included a number of experts (e.g., from state agencies) who were able to project and model those outcomes.
The result was a set of three to five scenarios for each topic. Envision Utah, working with the Envision Utah Executive Committee and Board, then packaged those topic-based scenarios into five integrated scenarios for Utah’s future, each named after a Utah icon: Allosaurus (the state fossil), Bonneville Trout (the state fish), Quaking Aspen (the state tree), Seagull (the state bird), and Sego Lily (the state flower). The names were randomly assigned to the scenarios.
Your Utah, Your Future Survey
The scenarios were presented to the public in an online survey. The Your Utah, Your Future survey was designed to prioritize issues and their associated outcomes in order to make strategic decisions and tradeoffs for Utah’s future. Nearly 53,000 people took the survey and identified the 2050 future that they want.
Utahns were invited to participate in two parts of the survey. In the first part, survey participants compared the different scenarios within each topic and selected their preferred scenario for that specific topic. They were provided with in-depth information and background data for each of the topics and choices. After making selections for each of the 11 topics, participants could study a summary comparison chart and vote on their preferred overall scenario. All 52,845 respondents participated in the first half of the survey.
In the second part of the survey, Utahns engaged in more traditional survey exercises. They prioritized topics, weighted their preferred outcomes for randomly assigned topics, indicated their willingness to make tradeoffs to attain those outcomes, and answered randomly assigned survey questions. More than 13,000 Utahns completed the second half of the survey.
The 52,845 Utahns who participated in the survey were invited through a broad outreach campaign that included a number of elements:
- School outreach: Schools (from elementary schools to universities) were offered one dollar for each participant who selected that school when taking the survey, as long as the participant was at least 13 years old. A group of middle school and high school students came together to form the Envision Utah Youth Council and promote the survey in their schools. As a result, many schools sent emails or flyers to students, staff, and parents or otherwise invited people to participate. In total, almost 23,000 survey participants identified a school.
- Digital advertising: A broad digital advertising campaign used banner ads, Facebook ads, and retargeting techniques to invite people to participate in the survey. The video ads featured prominent Utahns, including Governor Gary Herbert; Mark Eaton, former center for the Utah Jazz; stars of Studio C, an online and television sketch comedy show; Elaine Bradley, drummer for the Neon Trees; Noelle Pikus-Pace, Olympic medalist in skeleton; Carol Mikita, TV journalist; and Jorge Fierro, founder of Rico Brand Foods, who recorded ads in Spanish. Almost 18,000 survey completions were from Utahns who clicked on digital ads. Based on data gathered, the digital ads reached over 1.8 million unique adult Utahns (over 90% of the adult population), serving around 25 ad impressions per person.
- Partner organizations: More than 100 partner organizations sent emails, posted on social media, included information in newsletters, or did something else to invite people to participate in the survey. For example, the state of Utah sent an email to all its employees.
- Radio advertisements: The same individuals who recorded digital ads also recorded radio ads. These ads were broadcast in the Wasatch Front and in many rural markets. Pandora Internet radio ads also targeted rural parts of the state.
- News coverage: A substantial media campaign resulted in broad news coverage in print sources and on television and radio. As many as 100 news stories invited Utahns to participate, and many stories were prominently placed in large media outlets. News stories resulted in an estimated total of over 33 million impressions.
Cicero/Dan Jones & Associates also conducted a random-sample survey of 1,264 Utahns from across the state. The results of this random-sample survey were used to cross-check the responses of the 52,845 participants who took the survey because of outreach efforts. The results from each pool were very similar, varying by only a few percentage points, which allowed Cicero/Dan Jones to state, “We conclude that the results represent the desires and opinions of Utahns.”
The demographic makeup of both the outreach pool and the random-sample pool were very similar to that of Utah as a whole, with broad participation from people representing a variety of locations, ages, incomes, education levels, and ethnicities. Those from the outreach pool were generally more educated than Utahns as a whole, but the results varied little based on the education level of the participant. The outreach pool also included a smaller percentage of people of Hispanic origin than are in Utah, but enough people of this ethnic background participated to provide an understanding of their views, which vary little from other Utahns’.