SA2020, the nonprofit formed in 2012 to hold the City accountable toward making progress on community goals, has launched a yearlong engagement strategy that will inform the next decade of its work, CEO Molly Cox told the Rivard Report this week.

Part of that work will be a rebranding process to carry the organization beyond the year 2020, Cox said. “There’s been a ticking clock since it’s inception – that’s what happens when 2020 is in your name.”

But SA2020’s work is far from over and the nonprofit has no plans to change its name, she said, because it has become so recognizable in the community.

“Currently it looks like our [internal] communications committee thinks that we should stay with the same name and figure out a way to refresh it in a way that’s more about clear vision,” she said.

And to further clarify that vision, the organization plans on getting at least 162,850 area residents – via dozens of community events, forums, and on-the-ground volunteer “ambassadors” – to answer a survey that asks:

  • If you could improve or change anything in the next 10 years, what would it be?
  • If you could maintain or preserve anything in the next 10 years, what would it be?
  • What would you be willing to do to make that occur?

The first two questions also were asked a decade ago at the beginning of the community visioning process that included about 1,200 people. SA2020 is committed to gathering a much larger, more demographically diverse sample size through online and hard-copy surveys, Cox said. 

Residents can text “SA2020” to the number 51555 to receive updates and reminders for events. 

“I don’t have the answer for what happens right after the survey because we need to see what the survey tells us,” she said. “We’re allowing the surveys to help us figure out what topics we’ll be tackling. … It’s a yearlong engagement strategy to reaffirm and strengthen San Antonio’s community vision.”

The nonprofit announced these community engagement plans as it released its 2019 annual impact report at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center downtown. The report uses data from various sources to track progress made in 11 areas of community well-being and economic growth as measured by 61 indicators such as high school graduation rates, crime rates, economic competitiveness, health disparities, transportation efficiency, and safety.

In last year’s report, 26 percent of those indicators, including poverty, domestic violence, and justice system recidivism, hadn’t improved or were getting worse in the San Antonio area. However, the community already has met or exceeded 23 percent of goals related to high school graduation rates, inner-city housing construction, and reducing energy use.

Three metrics – teen birth rates, number of downtown housing units, and economic impact of creative sector – are “on track” at a pace that will be reached by the end of 2020. Others, such as voter turnout, per capita income, and college readiness, are “in progress” but not at a pace that will hit that community-imposed deadline. Most of these indicators, 44 percent, fall into the “in progress” category.

Overall, 72 percent of these metrics are at least moving in the right direction.

“If you look at the data as merely up and down points, then you’re missing the full story of how things influence each other,” Cox said. “We do not shy away from the fact that incremental progress is progress – and we still have work to do. Both of those things should be said simultaneously.”

While unemployment rates are at historic lows, there are still large populations that have jobs but are still living in poverty, she said.

Click here to download a copy of the 2019 report. 

“Progress didn’t occur by accident,” she said. “We didn’t become one of the best cities for college-educated Millennial growth by happenstance. Multi-sector institutions collaborated to make that occur. And if we can do that, then we can also make college attainment and workforce development happen for our local talent. We can make housing more affordable.”

SA2020 acts as a central hub of data and coordinates community partners – from small nonprofits to city programs to international groups – that work toward achieving better outcomes through workshops. These workshops were spearheaded by then-Mayor Julián Castro in 2010 and out of that came the nonprofit, SA2020.

Though often confused, the community’s vision for San Antonio through the year 2020 and the nonprofit are two different things, Cox said. The nonprofit works to realize the vision.

“This also gives us an opportunity to disentangle that brand and help people see that the community vision exists, period,” she said. “Anyone can run with it.”

For instance, when Alamo Colleges Chancellor Mike Flores announced Alamo Promise, the free community college tuition and support services program for Bexar County high school students, he said it was part of the community vision.

“He didn’t say SA2020 – he said the community wanted [this],” Cox said. “That’s the vision.”

SA2020 and its partners will need to start tracking the effectiveness of such strategies such as Alamo Promise to start making calls on what is and isn’t working, she said.

“Part of the challenge that we have found over the course of the last nine years is that tracking the data is incredibly important … but what we haven’t been doing well I think as a community is also tracking progress on strategies,” Cox said. “The community vision keeps us honest.”

Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, is the official anniversary of the SA2020 vision.

That week, the nonprofit SA2020 will be hosting a daily event, Cox said, culminating in a “giant” conversation that Friday. Details surrounding these events are being developed.  

“In a year like 2020 – which we could have never known back in 2010 how divisive [the presidential election was] going to get – how amazing is it that a city the size of San Antonio is going to basically reaffirm shared values?” Cox said.

The fact that SA2020 is working towards the community’s vision and not a politician’s, she added “cuts politics out of it.”

Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@rivardreport.com