Why is NSLW needed?

Our community leaders are the chief designers of our communities and their component parts—central business districts, subdivisions, schools, industries and highways—and hold significant influence over current and future public policies. Civic leaders hold enormous sway over whether or not a new development is a good fit that brings long-term economic benefits without harming the ecological or cultural fabric of the community.

The Nebraska Sustainability Leadership Workshops (NSLW) are part of a new partnership program that is preparing Nebraska’s communities for today’s and tomorrow’s complex challenges.

An uncertain energy future, growing shortages of water and other natural resources, unresponsive and often stuck public policy, growing need for affordable housing and blighted housing removal, attracting and retaining youth and competent leadership in our communities, and the unfolding consequences of climate change represent daunting challenges for Nebraska’s community leaders. Whether they live and work in sprawling cities or depopulating towns, all are struggling with myriad problems as natural resources become increasingly scarce while demands on resources continue to rise.

Managed by the Joslyn Institute for Sustainable Communities (JISC), the NSLW is a unique opportunity for community leaders from across the state to share their challenges and successes and to discover new ways to address the critical environmental, social-cultural, technological, economic and public policy challenges facing their communities.

This three-year program consists of an annual series of 22 statewide sessions in which mayors, city managers, members of county boards, city councils, school boards and other community leaders engage planning, design and leadership experts. Organized around case-study problems, these small-group workshops are tailored to address issues unique to each participating community while also exploring shared solutions to statewide and regional challenges including:

Efficient resource use
Future prosperity, economic or otherwise, will not occur unless Nebraska’s community leaders find consensus on identifying and efficiently managing our most fragile natural resources.

Environmental quality
Degradation of water quality and supply, loss of habitat and food production to poor land use practices, and toxins in our water, soil and air threaten the very survival of plant, animal and human communities. Species failure is a loss not only for our environment, but a dire warning of our own fragile ecological condition.

Alternative energy
Communities need to act quickly to address future energy challenges, working on a regional and statewide scale to increase the use of clean, alternative energy and to make energy efficiency and the efficient use of resources (materials reuse and recycling) a priority through building code improvements and incentive programs.

Economic opportunities
Valuable natural resources—water, wind, soils, and our four-season solar climate—are underutilized or misallocated in many communities large and small. Regional cooperation, coupled with long-term planning are keys to economic sustainability and substantial improvements to quality of life.

Effective public policy
No single jurisdiction can afford to foot the bill for the future, yet competitive tensions within and between jurisdictions often lead to inefficiencies in natural resource allocation and infrastructure investment. Policies designed to address 19th century conditions are not suited to the global and environmental challenges of the 21st century. Community leaders must work together to develop policies and incentives based on a shared vision of preferred growth patterns, land use policies, and economic goals.

Healthy, vibrant cities
Policies and incentives are needed to encourage healthy, walkable, and culturally rich communities that offer transportation and housing choices in mixed-use developments that concurrently protect habitat, water supplies and local culture/history.

Food-based coalitions
Rural/urban interests are in conflict as farmland and fragile natural environments are lost to sprawl, acreage-style development and other non-food crop uses. Leaders need to explore ways to renew ties between populations and local food communities.

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