10,000+ People in 100 Days Weighed In, Next Phase Will Turn Dreams Into Action

Nashville, Tenn.  – Imagine Nashville’s unprecedented survey results are in, and the top takeaways are clear: Nashville is a great place to live with a multitude of opportunities and where many people feel a “unique and intense sense of belonging” – i.e., that they are “seen and valued and supported” by the community. Yet, more than half of the city’s low-income population1 feels “left out or excluded from the benefits of living here” and many older Nashvillians, Black people and members of the LGBTQ community feel the same way.

Shared in a news conference earlier today, Imagine Nashville’s citywide values research effort yielded 10,000+ responses to a community survey in just 100 days and generated tens of thousands of ideas for ways to address the challenges of today to help ensure the city’s success in the future. “The research we’re sharing today tells an interesting story – one with much hope and good news, but also waving the caution flag about some really important challenges for Nashville’s future,” said Dee Allsop, CEO of Heart+Mind Strategies, the firm commissioned to conduct the research.

“When people talk about what they value most – it’s things like financial security, peace of mind, individual accomplishment/success, a family-friendly community, and most interestingly, they value a sense of belonging. The emphasis on community and ‘belonging’ is unlike anything I have seen in other large regions around the country. But the same thing they cite as part of Nashville’s ‘secret sauce’ is also something they worry we might be losing. At the heart of Nashville’s path forward is making sure all Nashvillians are feeling the benefit of Nashville’s progress in their own lives. The way people will feel they belong here is to feel their needs are prioritized and that the city’s amenities are more accessible to them.”

See Key Research Highlights

“We are living in a time of extraordinary opportunity but our findings clearly show the people who feel the most left out of our progress are reaching levels of frustration that will only hurt our collective ability to create a city where all can lead prosperous lives,” said Imagine Nashville Co-Chair John Faison, Sr. “It’s time to take meaningful steps to address these challenges, and we now have a sense of how to do this. This is what Imagine Nashville is all about – putting dreams into action.”

Dreaming Big

Different from other traditional attitudinal research endeavors, Imagine Nashville undertook an unprecedented level of community research including 1:1 interviews, weeklong online community conversations, and survey research. To achieve this, a blend of survey methodologies were deployed including online, phone and in-person conversations — even mobilizing field teams to reach into key communities and constituencies. There was also a very intentional effort made to engage young people (in partnership with the Civic Design Center and Vanderbilt University), often under-represented populations (in partnership with The Equity Alliance), and residents in every neighborhood and ZIP code in the city (in partnership with dozens of community partners).

Imagine Nashville’s research reveals clear insights into what Nashvillians want and need to feel like they belong here. These five areas will be the focus of the next phase of Imagine Nashville work:

● Making neighborhoods great places to live and getting key amenities closer to where people live
● Improving housing affordability & attainability
● Addressing mobility and transit issues that will enable Nashvillians to be better connected
● Strengthening economic opportunity through education & training
● Taking intentional steps to manage and direct growth

“What we learned from Nashvillians lays a critical foundation upon which we can focus our next steps,” said Imagine Nashville Co-Chair Alex Jahangir. “Honestly, the breadth and depth of the data we were able to collect — enabling a deeper and more expansive look not just at what Nashvillians think as a whole, but the unique needs of individual neighborhoods and constituencies — will serve as a huge gift for the city, nonprofits, private philanthropy, policymakers, employers, neighborhood groups and more. In fact, plans are now underway to make every shred of data accessible on an open-access platform to use as they see fit.”

Topline data was released today and is available to the public at www.imaginenashville.org. Ultimately, all of the data will live on a searchable, open-access platform for anyone to use. The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee is spearheading this piece of the work. With the research complete, attention now shifts to developing a set of clear, specific, actionable
recommendations to carry the city forward over the next decade. Over the course of the next several weeks, some of the best and brightest minds locally and nationally will be brought together to discuss potential recommendations in each of the priority areas. Think Tennessee, a nonpartisan think tank, will lead this work. By spring, a set of draft recommendations will be taken back to the community for feedback before being finalized and released this summer.

“Imagine Nashville engaged thousands of Nashvillians to not only assess how they feel about the current state of the city but to look to the future,” said Mayor Freddie O’Connell. “The research they conducted and the work they are now undertaking will not only be an immense help to my administration and city leaders, but also private philanthropy, the business community, nonprofits, neighborhood groups and more. I’m hopeful that together we can ensure a thriving Nashville for all, where everyone belongs and everyone who wants to stay can stay.”

“Nashville dreamt big. People in every ZIP code and of widely varying experiences used their imagination to create possibilities for a path forward,” said Imagine Nashville Co-Chair Renata Soto. “Now is the time to go beyond imagination, to address the realities of living in Nashville today, developing real solutions based on the real values of real people. If we do our job right, these recommendations become a ‘North Star’ to guide our city forward.”

Those who want to follow this effort and learn more are encouraged to visit www.imaginenashville.org. There they can sign up for updates, view and download 30+ data dashboards, and eventually weigh in on recommendations and next steps.

About Imagine Nashville

Imagine Nashville is a citywide initiative guided by the belief that we as a community must share our dreams and ideas to shape our future. The yearlong effort began in the summer of 2023 and is slated to finish by summer of 2024. The initiative is co-chaired by the Rev. John Faison Sr., Dr. Alex Jahangir and Renata Soto alongside a Steering Committee that includes a diverse group of neighborhood, civic, business and nonprofit leaders. The work comprises two phases. The first phase included citywide attitudinal research that reached into every corner of the county to find shared values and priorities. The second phase seeks to use the research findings to bring forth a set of clear, specific, actionable
recommendations that guides the city forward and keeps us all accountable for real results that Nashvillians can see and feel in their daily lives.