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Bicentennial Visioning Report & The Third Century Project

“Observing the Indiana Bicentennial is a time to celebrate our history and all of the past contributions that have made us the state and the people that we are today. However, I believe that we miss an opportunity as we focus on our state if we do not also look ahead to our future. I see this Visioning Project as a way to capture the best ideas for Indiana’s future from today’s big thinkers across a wide range of economic social, and cultural issues.”

-Indiana Bicentennial Commission Co-Chair Lee H. Hamilton

Indiana is celebrating its 200th birthday energetically. The anniversary has inspired nearly 1,400 Legacy Projects endorsed by the Bicentennial Commission as of July 8, 2016, and more projects continue to be submitted daily. 

While virtually all of the observances recognize the state’s substantial and colorful history, the Commission also wished to inspire Hoosiers to reach for an even brighter future. Thus the commission requested a report setting ambitious goals for the state to achieve within the next fifty years. The process and the report were to soar above legislative sessions and partisan politics to gather thoughts and dreams of some of the state’s most forward-thinking citizens. 

The vision was caught by then-Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann, who with Commission members determined to address 11 topics ranging from agriculture to religion, and hired a project manager and editor, long-time Indianapolis newspaper reporter and editor Norm Heikens, to lead the endeavor. 

More than 600 visionaries and experts were located from throughout the state, and 114 attended the Visioning Session focus groups in cities around the state. The participants were selected for diversity of perspectives in addition to their expertise. 

Prior to each session Indiana University researcher Dr. Breanca Merritt presented statistical overviews of the status of each topic area. Governor Ellspermann then facilitated the sessions. Each group generated approximately 100 ideas, and Martha Steckler, who also scribed the conversations, guided the groups to a consensus handful of recommendations. 

Each session was characterized by a palpable, energetic spirit of optimism. 

Heikens followed up with major proponents of each recommendation to refine and clarify the ideas, and compiled the thoughts into the Visioning Report. 

The Visioning Report will be printed and posted online. Many of the 50 recommendations are based on such themes as capitalizing on technology and globalization, improving quality of life, emphasizing education, and improving Indiana’s brand as an attractive place to live, work, and play. 

The Visioning Report will be carried into an expanded second phase by The Sagamore Group through a new initiative called the Third Century Project. Hoosiers who have received the Sagamore of the Wabash Award along with others who wish to help implement the recommendations will be encouraged to choose a recommendation and throw their collective efforts behind it. The Third Century Project will commence on September 8 at the Indiana Conference on Citizenship, to be held the day after the report is unveiled.


  • Bicentennial Commission Co-Chair Lee Hamilton proposed producing a report setting ambitious goals for the state to achieve within fifty years.
  • Governor Sue Ellspermann took on the Bicentennial Visioning Project to execute, hired a project manager and editor, and facilitated Visioning Sessions with some of the best and brightest forward thinkers in eleven topics.
  • Project Manager and Editor Norm Heikens organized the project including locating visionaries and writing the Visioning Report.
  • Indiana University Public Policy Institute Senior Research Analyst Dr. Breanca Merritt presented statistical overviews of each topic prior to the Visioning Sessions.
  • 114 Visioning Session participants were gleaned from a list of more than 600 visionaries suggested from by experts around the state.


  • A report to encourage all Hoosiers, particularly decision-makers, to improve the economic, social, and cultural well-being of the state in order to make Indiana’s third century its best.
  • Fifty recommendations in the Visioning Report distilled from approximately 1,300 ideas raised during the Visioning Sessions.
  • Topics include Agriculture and Rural Affairs; Arts, Leisure, and Entertainment; Business, Industry, and Economy; Children; Civic Engagement and Philanthropy; Education and Career Development; Environment and Conservation; Governance and Infrastructure; Health and Welfare; Public Safety and Homeland Security; and Religion.
  • The Visioning Report will be printed and offered online.


Thirteen Visioning Sessions (including three on the topic of Business, Industry, and Economy) were conducted in Bloomington, Columbus, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Gary, Indianapolis, Lafayette, New Albany, Richmond, South Bend, and Terre Haute.


  • The Visioning Project kicked off June 1, 2015, and concludes Sept. 7, 2016, with an event introducing the Visioning Report.
  • Visioning Sessions were held between September 8, 2015, and April 11, 2016.


Congressman Hamilton felt that the Bicentennial Commission should leave Hoosiers a forward-looking challenge in addition to the many celebrations of state history the commission supervised. His goal is to make the third century of the state its best.


  • Congressman Hamilton and Lt. Governor Ellspermann determined the topics.
  • Project Manager and Editor Norm Heikens searched the state for visionaries and acknowledged leaders in the topics for consideration to be invited to the Visioning Sessions.
  • During the Visioning Sessions, statistical overviews of the topics were presented by Dr. Breanca Merritt. Follow-on discussion was facilitated by Lt. Governor Ellspermann. Consensus on a few recommendations was facilitated by Martha Steckler, who also scribed the ideas as the participants spoke.
  • After the Visioning Sessions, Project Manager and Editor Norm Heikens followed up with major proponents of each recommendation in order to refine and clarify the ideas.
  • Heikens offered the major proponents opportunities to review drafts of their recommendations and suggest revisions. In the vast majority of cases the revisions were accepted.
  • All participants in each session were shown copies of the completed chapter prior to publication.