A conversation began at TribFest. Let’s keep it going.

A number of folks approached us during the recent Texas Tribune Festival and asked, “What is Texas 2036 all about?”

It’s exactly the question we were hoping to hear. We explained that Texas 2036 is a nonprofit organization building statewide support for sustained, data-driven planning efforts. We are focused on the challenges and opportunities our state faces as it prepares for its bicentennial in 17 years — and the 10 million more people who will call Texas home by then.

In short, we want to help sensible folks think long-term about the critical issues Texas will face in coming years, and the options for solving them in ways that will extend Texas’ prosperity into the future. People need to buy into a bigger vision; we want to help them create it.

For the last couple of years, Texas 2036 has been building a Case for Action, amassing and contextualizing data that shows where we are and where we’re going. From a shortage of degreed workers, to our mixed (at best) record on health outcomes, to the ever-growing demands that a strong economy has placed on our transportation network, our team of policy experts has spent countless hours assembling hundreds of data sets to help guide and inform a thoughtful, purposeful conversation about our future.

We aren’t focused on solving problems overnight or getting through the political crisis of the moment. We defy the tyranny of the urgent. Instead, we are looking further down the field, to challenges that our children and grandchildren also will confront, but that are too often ignored in a political culture fixated on conflict and short-term crises.

Just as Texas is changing, so is Texas 2036, and we believe Texans are starting to notice. Almost three dozen accomplished Texans, including some of our state’s best-known civic and business leaders, have joined our growing board of directors. We have revamped our Texas2036.org website, unveiled our “Come and Make It” interactive data story, and published our Education-to-Workforce Reporting Tool so Texans can learn more about the supply and demand of our workforce needs.

Equipping Texans with reliable data is only part of our work. We also are fostering conversations with diverse people and groups across the state — that’s partly why the 2019 Tribune Festival was so meaningful.

Under our tent on Congress Avenue, we heard business leaders, educators, elected officials and others discuss the future of education, jobs, transportation and health (and, for good measure, contrast the policy philosophies of Texas and California), offering perspectives on how we will ensure our economy remains strong and our prosperity expands as the population continues to swell. Even more importantly, our policy experts engaged directly with Texans who came to learn about our work and share their own views of what Texas should strive for as we approach our 200th birthday. This is Texas, after all, so there was no shortage of opinions about the many things that the state has gotten right and how we should prepare for changes in our economy and our population.

The festival is over now, but these conversations are only beginning. The needed, critical work of Texas 2036 depends on a high level of engagement from Texans. We aren’t all going to agree on every solution, and that shouldn’t be our goal. Instead, we want to listen to diverse viewpoints, identify common ground and build a dynamic, robust constituency for long-term solutions that our political structure isn’t wired to provide. And for this process to work best, we need more Texans to join the conversation, engage with our research, follow us on social media, and tell us about the Texas you want to see. 

More Texans, but not nearly enough, now know what Texas 2036 is all about. Please help us expand this circle. That’s the only way we will build an audience, or even a movement, for sensible, thoughtful solutions to help a state that’s growing every day.

Join us by visiting www.texas2036.org, texting JOINTX to 52886 and following us on social @Texas2036.

Disclosure: Margaret Spellings is a member of the board of directors of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.