We live in New Hampshire, but how often do we stop and think about the kind of New Hampshire we live in?
This week, 38 folks from all over the state, people from professions ranging across law, business, education, healthcare, social work, environmental services, the media and manufacturing, gathered for the beginning of a nine-month-long effort to find out: “What is New Hampshire?”
Their start, a two-day retreat, was no fancy getaway. They stayed at Camp Merrowvista in Center Tuftonboro, slept in bunk beds four to a room, swept the floors and did their own dishes. Their time was spent getting to know one another, coming to understand both the rich pool of talent and experience they represent collectively and digging into data that leads to big questions about our state as it was, is today, and might be in years to come.
They are the Leadership New Hampshire Class of 2015. Competitively selected on the basis of their record of civic engagement, they join 754 alums who set out on a similar year of exploration for the purpose of “Building a community of informed and engaged leaders.”
Steve Norton, executive director of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, launched the group’s study by profiling the state. He presented data regarding population growth rate, the aging of our population and its unevenness geographically, the major employment sectors of New Hampshire and how they have changed, the level of debt carried by our college graduates, the decline in the number of school-age children, fiscal policies, voter turnout rate, rate of volunteerism, the cost of energy, the poverty rate, the cost of healthcare and much more.
Over the year ahead, the class will meet in venues around the state, talking with people in all walks of life and professions in an attempt to better understand the major policy implications of these changes.
What will be the demands on public services and therefore state spending and revenue? What are the implications for housing and local zoning ordinances? What will lead economic development? What should K-12 look like? What should be the role of our public university system? How should health and health care be handled? Should our governance structure be changed in any way?
Underlying all of this, the class will ask what role it might play and will initially engage in civil, thoughtful conversations about emerging needs and options. It will do so with a shared commitment to New Hampshire.
Stephen Reno is the executive director of Leadership New Hampshire and former chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire. His email is email@example.com