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This is the second in a four-part series adapted from the book Slow Democracy: Rediscovering Community, Bringing Decision Making Back Home by Susan Clark and Woden Teachout (Chelsea Green, 2012).
A great example of “outside-the-box” thinking actually comes in a box.
In Essex, Vermont, “Essex Heart & Soul” is working to engage the community in dialogue about the future.
Rather than beg busy residents to attend yet another 7 p.m. meeting, leaders brought the conversation to living rooms and other gathering places across the community with—you guessed it—a “Meeting in a Box.”
It’s an actual box full of printed materials: a discussion guide, priority-setting tools, clipboards, nametags, and more.More
This is the third post in a series that shows how our nine Heart & Soul Principles are coming to life on the ground in small towns across the country.
Principle 3. Build Community—Build trust, seek common ground and encourage civil dialogue. Strive for a community where people listen to each other, understand each other, and embrace differences.
As Damariscotta, Maine’s Heart & Soul project was getting underway back in 2008, native Buzz Pinkham was invited to an event aimed at gathering community feedback on shaping the future of his town.
“When I was originally asked to be part of the process,” says Buzz, “I gave the regular native answer: ‘I don’t have time for that.’”
“Then I got a thing in the mail and it had all the names of people who did have time, and a lot of those people I didn’t recognize. I said, ‘There aren’t any natives in there…and these people are going to decide the future of this town? I can’t have that.’ And so I went to the next meeting.”More
This is the second post in a series that shows how our nine Heart & Soul Principles are coming to life on the ground in small towns across the country.
It has been said that only 10 percent of the culture of a place is seen, while the other 90 percent is unseen but expressed through habits and networks and how people interact.
This Principle is about paying attention to that 90 percent—to the peculiarities and richness of a singular place. It’s about taking time to question whether you’re really examining the culture of the whole community and not just the parts you already know (or thought you knew), and then applying that understanding to your project.
Here is the Principle:More
Our atmosphere’s getting all gunky.
And climate change makes us feel funky.
But we’ll change our fate!
And celebrate with Chunky Monkey!
Even if you don’t have a clue what Vermontivate! is, there’s a good bet that an initiative that plasters this limerick on their homepage has got to be fun.
Read on and you discover that Vermontivate! is a community energy game—an interactive way to get people to conserve energy. Players compete to earn points for their town. Change an old tungsten bulb to a compact fluorescent, collect points. Start composting, more points. Reduce your household consumption of paper products by half...total pointfest. Install solar panels and you’ve hit the point equivalent of the carnival strong man bell. Basically, do anything you can think of to lessen your dependence on fossil fuels to compete for the grand prize: a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream party hosted in a local gathering place.
Why play Vermontivate!? The website makes it clear: “(W)e believe that by having fun and building community, we stand a good chance of helping each other reduce the impacts of our energy consumption AND bring hope and infinite possibility to the beautiful land of Vermont. And the world.”More
What have residents in our Heart & Soul towns been up to this year? Here is a taste:
While Orton staff visited North Fork, Essex, Polson, Gardiner and Cortez on training and capacity building trips this year, we set up a camera and let it run. What we came away with was hours of footage of energized residents getting together and talking about what matters most and how to begin planning in ways that reflect the things that matter most.
But this is just a slice, the tip of the old iceberg. To learn more about the impressive early progress these communities have made, check out our latest newsletter online, and then follow your nose to each town's own website for more detailed information on partnerships, events, achievements and stories.
And, as always, feel free to share your own!
Photo: ©Audrey Heller
When I was in grade school, my best friend and I performed piano duets for our families and at school talent shows. Our pièce de résistance was Heart and Soul, the quintessential duet for young piano students. We spent hours practicing and improvising new ways to expand the melody and accompanying chord progression.
As we got older, we moved on to other pursuits but to this day, we can still sit down and tickle the ivories with the best of ’em.More
Note: This post is section five of a five-part series highlighting excerpts from the study Stewarding the Future of Our Communities by Steven C. Ames, the Foundation’s 2012 Craig Byrne Fellow. This paper addresses the challenges of stewarding local community engagement and planning in order to ensure its ongoing success and impact. Featuring case studies of five exemplary community engagement and planning experiences in small towns and cities around the country, Ames highlights specific stewardship approaches the communities have used to carry the success of their efforts far into the future. This blog post examines how communities can use relationship building and storytelling to understand shared values.
The overarching theme that arises from this study and its culling of stewardship approaches is collaboration: Successful stewardship ultimately depends on the cultivation and promotion of communitywide, cross-sector collaboration to achieve its goals.
In an era of major economic restructuring, reduced local budgets, increasing challenges to the integrity and viability of small towns everywhere, and the ascendancy of flexible new tools for sharing information and ideas, it is community collaboration that offers the greatest hope for stewarding community engagement and planning over time. Community collaboration in this context means residents working together to articulate and achieve their community’s core values and long-range visions.More
The death of Maurice Sendak this week has gotten me thinking about why his books have made such an impact, and why as a nation we are registering his passing as a significant cultural loss.
I think, in large part, it’s because his books are not about a world in which there is obvious good or obvious evil, where the bad guys get outwitted and it all turns out okay in the end. His heroes are often misbehaving misfits of one sort or another who do what they can to escape the confines of their particular reality.
In short, he writes from a place of difference or disadvantage. We are invited to sympathize, and even root for, those least acceptable to society. For children, who are so often misunderstood, there is something very gratifying about this.More