Community forum to scale back to fewer events but focus on more exciting, impactful topics

Following an introduction of evening sessions last season, the "What's Brewing?" community forum will embrace the later hours full time.

But those aren't the only changes forum organizers have made as the series resumes later this month. Crook County Foundation has decided to forego the weekly sessions and hold meetings on a monthly basis, and try to cover topics that are more immediate and important to locals.

Brandi Ebner, the Foundation's executive director, said the switch to a full-time evening schedule was made after organizers found that later sessions drew more visitors.

"People were busy, and it is hard to make it to an event in the morning every single week," she said.

The decision to host forums on a monthly basis, rather than weekly, was rooted in providing topics as impactful as possible. Ebner said the Foundation is targeting six to eight sessions between October and May, with flexible scheduling.

"They might not always be on the same day of the week or same week of the month," she explained. "It is really going to be based on when our speakers or topics are available, or when there are exciting things to talk about that we feel needs to fit in."

The 2018 series kicks off Wednesday, Oct. 24, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Meadow Lakes Restaurant, with Crook County Superintendent Sara Johnson. She will talk about revitalizing the vocational programs in the local schools with an emphasis on strong electives and workforce connections that are intended to tie student engagement with Prineville businesses and the local economic community.

Ebner said the opening topic and speaker is a great example of what the Foundation is hoping to present with the revamped "What's Brewing?" series.

"She came to us with an idea, and we realized it would make a very good topic to present to the whole community," she said. "She has so many good ideas and so much energy to help expand programs for our youth here. This is going to be a good jump start to working on bringing some of those vocational programs back."

Ebner said she wants people to walk out of the forums feeling like they have new knowledge or new motivation and excitement for something happening in the community.

"We want this to be the start of a larger impact," she added. "We want them to leave the room wanting to do more with that topic."

The evening sessions will once again be comprised of a half-hour social session and an hour-long lecture or discussion. However, this time Ebner said they will jump right into the meat of the session at the beginning and reserve the social time for the end.

"We are going to encourage folks to hang around after and network and continue the conversation," she said.

While the changes made to "What's Brewing?" change the structure of the program substantially, they may not be the only changes in store. Ebner said the Foundation is considering partnering with the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce on future forums, and "having them be more business focused."

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