During the 2017 National Regional Transportation Conference, Cindy Vong, Jennifer Henninger, and Tommy Butler discussed how to use engagement methods from the Orton Family Foundation Community Heart & Soul.
Jen At Orton, we truly believe there is something special about every town. The Community Heart & Soul model is designed specifically to connect people to people and people to place because we know that when a community takes the time to get to know itself, it gains a sense of identity and purpose which is the foundation for building a stronger, healthier, and more economically vibrant future.
Jen Community Heart & Soul is a way for people in small towns to rediscover what’s unique, special and great about where they live. Community Heart & Soul restores pride in towns that somehow lost it – maybe the factory closed, maybe development didn’t live up to its promises, maybe divisions seem deeper than ever. Does any of this sound familiar to you?
Jen Community Heart & Soul gets the whole community together, that’s why it’s “community” Heart & Soul - and gets people talking about what they love about where they live. It gets people to think about what unites them, not divides them. It gets them to see assets not liabilities…like “yeah, we do have a beautiful river running right through town,” or “you know, our park is a great place to spend an afternoon with the kids” or “Friday night football is a great community tradition.”
Jen Community Heart & Soul gives towns a road map with clear directions – concrete projects that the community is behind. Things snowball from there.
That lays the groundwork for great things to happen.
Cindy- Let’s talk about an example of how Community Heart & Soul is Transformative:
Biddeford, Maine, was known as Trashtown. A classic New England textile mill town, the mills closed long ago.
Cindy- In the 1980s the best option seemed to be a trash incinerator right in the center of town. It brought truck traffic. It smelled bad. But it employed 80 people.
But then it closed-unemployment, unsightly.
Town bough plant and tore it down
Cindy-Community Heart & Soul showed town leaders that the will of the people was to get the incinerator out of there. That empowered the city to buy the plant for $6 million and tear it down. That cleared the way for redevelopment of the mills. Developers saw opportunity and they saw a town that had a strong downtown plan and knew where it wanted to go.
Cindy- Today, Biddeford Maine has over $100 million in approved projects on the books as the downtown revitalizes and the mills get transformed into offices, apartments, a boutique hotel.
Jen With an entrepreneurial spirit and funding derived from the profits of The Vermont Country Store, Lyman Orton and Noel Fritzinger established the Orton Family Foundation in 1995 as a resource for small cities and towns grappling with change and searching for solutions.
Lyman Orton is from a small town in Southern Vermont, Weston, and he sat on the Planning Commission, frustrated with development. A Safari Park had been proposed on a mountaintop in his town – in Southern VT. As you can imagine, this was a bad decision. Townspeople didn’t want it, yet the decision passed and a Safari Park was developed. Lyman kept thinking “there has to be a better way. We need the townspeople’s voices heard.” And that planted the seed for Community Heart & Soul.
In the list of resources at the end of this webinar, we have included a link to a short, 2 minute video, of Lyman speaking about his passion and inspiration for how Community Heart & Soul came about. Make sure to view this at your leisure.
Jen Community Heart & Soul is the result of $10M investment and nearly a decade of field testing, research, and development in over a dozen communities.
Today, over 35 towns are currently Community Heart & Soul towns, and many more are actively working to bring it to their communities
Jen So what exactly is Community Heart & Soul? A community development model that helps to build stronger, healthier, and more economically vibrant small cities and towns.
Jen This resident-driven model makes positive change by: Seeking the wisdom of all, including missing voices Values a town’s uniqueness Recognizes the importance of emotional connections Leads to decisions
*** Community Heart & Soul is based on three principles
Jen These 3 principles set it apart from other strategic planning processes: The first of these is Involve Everyone. The involve everyone part of our thinking was to be sure missing voices were part of the process. So, while you won’t literally reach everyone, we emphasize reaching every segment of the community, especially those who haven’t be engaged in decision-making in the past.
We truly believe that the heart and soul of your community can only be found in the hearts and minds of the people who live, work and play there.
Jen The second principle is to focus on what matters. The CH&S model engages people about what they care about. You will be asking: what matters most to them? Why do they choose to live in your community? And what will keep them there?
It’s important to start a new community narrative with a positive note. You can still find out what isn’t right or what doesn’t work by asking what people would change or what would make it better.
One way to discover what people care about is through storytelling – which is listening to people tell stories about their community - and then building a plan based on those community values.
Jen The third principle is to play the long game, which is all about long-term change and transformation, including relationship-building and embedding Heart & Soul statements in the community for long-term success.
This success is based on:
Strong relationships that are built throughout the community
Putting the community’s values at the center of community decision-making and
Involving the community in its own progress on an on-going basis
Before I turn this over to Caitlyn, who will take you through the model itself, let’s do another check-in. As you look towards the future of your town, take a moment and use the Chat box again to write a brief sentence on what you hope to see. As before, it would be helpful if you also included the name of your town.
(Read a few, particularly if there are any themes…..)
Great thoughts – thanks so much for sharing. I am now going to turn the controls over to Caitlyn.
Jen So what is the Heart & Soul approach? It is a 4-phase process that takes about two years to complete. Let’s take a quick look at what happens in each of the four phases.
Cindy-The first phase, Lay the Groundwork, is where you set up for success, taking about 2-3 months to get ready.
In this phase, you build your Heart & Soul Team. This team is an active group of volunteers that works collaboratively to guide the community through the Heart & Soul process. Together, the members should be well-respected and representative of the community’s diversity.
Cindy In Phase 1, you will start to think differently about the people who live, work and play in your community. One way to do this is by conducting a Community Network Analysis. The CNA uses demographic data and local knowledge to create a comprehensive picture of who lives in your town.
Who knows who? Who can connect you to different groups within your community? A Community Network Analysis can help you discover this.
As your community changes, so will your CNA so this will need to be kept up-to-date and actively used throughout your Community Heart & Soul process. The important thing here is that the more inclusive you are in the process, the more support you are likely to have for actions later. When you’ve got a pretty solid plan in place, you close out this phase by introducing your Heart & Soul effort to the community in small and big ways to capture their attention.
Cindy- Phase 2 is one of the most intensive phases, taking about 6-8 months to complete. In this phase, data is collected to identify community values. We collect stories from community members.
Your team will talk with the community in a variety of ways about what matters most to them. You’ll ask them things like: What do they value most about living in their town? And what are their hopes and concerns about where their community is headed?
Cindy- hase two can take many forms but we encourage a lot of listening to people tell their stories. Like story gathering methods, story listening also has many forms with different opportunities for building relationships.
Things like infographics, stories shared on the local radio or compiled for community viewing, listening groups, or creative ways like our North Fork Valley town did with beer coasters coupled with a new “love it or leave it” brew. They gathered input on these beer coasters and made them available for people to review at the pub. Relationship development wasn’t necessarily face-to-face but it did get people reading what others said and got conversations started.
By the time you are done with this phase, you should have a clear picture of what matters most to the community, and be able use that data to create Community Heart & Soul statements.
Cindy- Phase 3, Make Decisions, is about giving the community ownership over their future. It takes approximately 6-8 months for the community to consider the following:
Review options for action, using Heart & Soul statements as a guide Evaluate the pros and cons between those proposed actions, and Ultimately make some choices about priority actions.
Cindy- Some decisions are easier than others. One example is in Gardiner, Maine, where residents spoke up about the importance of their community having events where they could all come together. In evaluating the pros and cons of all of the options presented, it was determined that waterfront concerts were an important part of the community.
You are done with this phase when you have a written plan that has been approved by the community.
Cindy- And in the final phase, Take Action, actions begin – if they haven’t started already.
Getting to action is the fun part for many people because you really begin to see the fruits of your labor: Resources and partners are mobilized. Heart & Soul statements are embedded in the community’s policy and planning documents and around the community in visible ways so that these statements continue to be remembered and used to guide decision-making.
Cindy- Formal organizations, including your local government, adopt the values and incorporate them in their policy and planning documents. For example, the City of Golden, CO, used their community-articulated Heart & Soul statements as the foundation of their comprehensive plan. Council members reflect on them as they consider new business, and other organizations in the community have adopted them as well. This image shows the Community Heart & Soul statements established by Gardiner Maine. Some towns also post these statements on the wall in the city council chambers, making them an easy reference when making decisions.
Organizations may also work together to create some kind of visible display of the community’s Heart & Soul statements in a prominent place or places in the community. For instance, artists in North Fork Valley, CO, created and installed community sculptures at each of their three libraries – one in each town that makes up the valley.
And, finally, the Team establishes ways to measure and share successes as actions are implemented in the years to come.
Jen Working with these three principles, Heart & Soul communities have found remarkable results… Residents feel more connected to their community and have a greater sense of place In McComb, Ohio (population 2,000), Heart & Soul rekindled pride right away as residents recognized and felt proud of their community. In one year, 8 new businesses opened up! Increased civic participation, such as in Golden, Colorado where more than 2,000 residents participated in Heart & Soul… New leaders are discovered and nurture, as in Gardiner, Maine, where city committees now consist of new volunteers and more people are running for city council … Residents and leaders trust each other more – even across historic divides. In Cortez, Colorado, Heart & Soul built bridges between the locals and the neighboring Ute tribal reservation. One concrete example is the tribe’s participation in designing a gateway sign to Cortez, a symbolic and important gesture.
Jen We’ve given you a very broad view of Heart & Soul—its principles and the four phases. You can read more about the details in our Field Guide, available as a free download on our website. We also have a lot of online resources to help with each step of the process.
The principles and phases are the core of our methodology, but how Heart & Soul comes to life in communities is where the magic really happens. We encourage communities to use Heart & Soul as a way to start changing the way they do business, to take risks and try new ideas.
Jen Community Network Analysis™ (CNA) is a tool for understanding who lives, works and plays in your community, and offers insights into how best to reach them. Community Network Analysis provides a framework for cataloging the groups and networks in your area, and for coordinating efforts to communicate with and engage these groups.
Community Heart & Soul is grounded in the principle Involve Everyone. Knowing the composition of your community is essential for achieving diverse engagement in Heart & Soul. In nearly every community, there are a few key community members who actively attend council and other public meetings. They are on the boards and they volunteer for every community dinner and fundraiser. They contribute much to the fabric of the community, and they may feel responsible for ensuring that things in the community “get done.” But there are other community members out there. There are other people who can also contribute. The CNA is designed to help you bring more voices to the table, to ensure that everyone who wants to, has the opportunity to take part. Sometimes those missing voices are “missing” because they haven’t been reached. And reaching those missing voices is a challenge. It is not as easy as just inviting everyone.
The CNA helps you to reach and engage missing voices strategically through trusted networks in which they can feel more comfortable about participating and speaking up.
Jen and cindy and Tommy and then float around
Exercise: Let’s practice using the CNA. At your tables, you have our CNA worksheet which outlines the five steps listed on the screen. Together with the people at your table, identify one group that you’ve had trouble reaching for community outreach or engagement processes in your community, then use the worksheet to walk through the five steps of the CNA.
Ask a few tables to share out what they talked about in small groups.
Recap of exercise: How did that feel Do you see all the different groups
Now that you’ve seen how a CNA is done, Tommy will introduce Cortez’s Community Heart & Soul process and share how their CNA and engagement strategy led to a more successful project
Tommy 38% of surrounding land in Montezuma County owned by Ute Mountain Ute Tribe 28% privately held Remainder owned by federal or state If time allows:70% white 16% Hispanic 12% American Indian 87% high school graduate is highest education 62% home ownership $157,000 median housing value $41,238/year median household income
Tommy Low Tech Tools for Targeted Outreach shown here: Basic tent set up at 4th of July Event – a popular event at a familiar gathering place Dot polling on map in tent Capturing peoples ideas in writing on cardstock Capturing personal stories on video – Offering prizes to participants
Tommy H&S had a tent at the entrance to a Summerfest gathering downtown collected video stories again conducted paper surveys captured ideas on chalkboard Also mention use of sticky note ideas gathering at 9 new health fair
Jen- what has been your experience with engagement, same ol same ol, doesn’t always work
Jen Focus on positive, not negative because we know we’ve all had those not so pleasant experiences
Cindy Next, we’ll focus on engagement methods—which is just one part of an engagement strategy. It is important to be intentional about your engagement methods and thoughtful about what you hope to achieve. Here are some guiding questions.
Considerations for selecting methods: What goal is this activity addressing? Is this activity a match for the target stakeholders? Should this activity happen before, during, or after the workshop? What product will come from this activity, and how will that product be shared back out to the community?
Cindy- **Invite creativity along the way!
Cindy Gardiner, Maine collected ideas during National Night Out. Participants could participate in carnival-style games to get a slice of watermelon or whoopie pie. Raise your idea flags--one wish or idea for Gardiner on small flag—were created and displayed (pictured). Event was fun and family friendly.
Cindy In Polson Montana, they used a traveling video kiosk where individuals or groups could share their stories and create a post card at the same time.
Cindy Gardiner idea wall
Cindy In developing their downtown master plan, Heart of Biddeford took to the streets to learn more about great places in town with the HeartSpots Memory Lane project. After identifying favorite spots around downtown through a mapping exercise, the project team hung wooden signs at the most special places. Residents were asked to share their stories of that spot by calling a local phone number and recording a memory or a wish for the future. This walk down memory lane not only offered a better understanding of Biddeford’s most loved places, it also helped build community pride. Stories from the HeartSpots reminded everyone of Biddeford’s past strengths and its potential for success.
Cindy Engagement is about making connections, building relationships, and listening to your community. It is also about doing something with the information you collect! A simple way to begin looking at engagement data is to identify the frequency of words—this can help you identify common themes that were shared by all residents.
Jen Are any of the engagement strategies we just discussed ones you think you can use. How would use it?
Jen Questions from the audience
Public Engagment through Storytelling
Jennifer Henninger, AICP
RG & Associates, LLC
Cortez Planning and
Orton Family Foundation
Turn to a neighbor. Introduce
yourself and share something you
love about your region or town.
• Seeks the wisdom of all,
including missing voices
• Values a town’s
• Recognizes the
importance of emotional
• Leads to decisions based
on what matters most
Community Heart & Soul
• Greater sense of place
• Increased civic
• New leaders and
• Increased trust and
across historic divides
Remarkable Results with
Community Heart & Soul
FOCUS ON WHAT
PLAY THE LONG
Heart & Soul Principles & 4 Phases
Exercise: Community Network Analysis
1. Name a group in your community.
2. How do these people get together?
3. What key individuals are connected to this
4. What are ways that you can reach this group to
5. What ideas do you have for engaging this group?
Engagement is the meaningful involvement of
individual citizens in policy or program
development, from agenda-setting and planning
to decision-making, implementation and review.
It requires two-way communication that is
interactive and iterative with an aim to share
decision-making power and responsibility for
Source: Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Share with your table a time when
you had a positive experience
engaging in your community as a
• What goal is this activity
• Is this activity a match for the target
• Should this activity happen before,
after, or during the workshop?
• What product will come from this
activity? How will that product be
shared back out with the