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On April 18, 2011 the Orton Family Foundation issued its second Request for Proposals seeking four new communities to undertake and evolve Heart & Soul Community Planning.
We selected our first round of experimental projects in 2008 as part of a $10 million Heart & Soul initiative, and have been working ever since with Damariscotta and Biddeford, ME, Victor, ID, Golden, CO and Starksboro, VT.
Our work is predicated on the belief that if a community initiates engagement based on what people value about their place (instead of in response to a crisis) and insists on citizen-led (instead of developer- or official-led) thinking and action, then the community will make wiser, more enduring decisions about planning.More
In James Howard Kunstler’s provocative book Home from Nowhere, he wonders whether we “have the will to reimagine city and town life as a general proposition.” The phrase “will to reimagine” has stuck with me. It’s full of promise.
Residents of towns often feel constrained by existing politics or structures, and when they are given permission to claim the right to think differently, the resulting creativity and energy is remarkable. The most dramatic current examples are certainly found in Egypt and Bahrain. But closer to home, we at the Foundation have witnessed this kind of excitement in our projects.More
When you picture the Rocky Mountains, what do you see? I’m betting on gondolas and waist-deep powder, the Maroon Bells and the Grand Tetons, and quaint tourist attractions like narrow-gauge railways and natural hot springs pools.
With our best foot forward, those are indeed the images that represent the Rockies. And those images help drive the tourism industry that generates a huge chunk of mountain town revenue. But the real essence of the West lies in the gritty, unpolished towns that most people never visit.More
Recently, the Knight Foundation teamed with Gallup to survey Knight’s 26 communities “to find out what emotionally attaches people to a community—what makes them want to put down roots and build a life there.”
This report, Knight Soul of the Community 2010, found the three most important factors to residents’ attachment to their communities were social offerings; openness; and aesthetics: “These seemingly softer needs have an even larger effect than previously thought when it comes to residents’ attachment to their communities.”More
Photo: Lauren Bierman
When Peter Day of The Grift sang the opening lines of The Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street,” kicking off a heart-pumping rendition of the song by an all-star cast of local musicians at a concert to benefit Pete’s Greens at Higher Ground, it was as though all the key reasons why I love Vermont—spirited community, lively arts scene, delicious local food, good friends—were colliding into a single, adrenaline-packed moment.
If you’ve ever doubted the heart of community, this story will give you hope: Before dawn on January 12, Pete Johnson’s barn—housing all his harvested crops, tons of chicken, beef and pork, coolers, freezers and processing equipment—burned to the ground. A total loss. But countless Vermont citizens, driven by their belief in Pete’s mission as well as their reliance on this critical, local resource, have since proven that a community can and will come together to turn tragedy into a force of grassroots mobilization to be reckoned with.More
It’s no secret that the majority of Americans has lost faith in the government (never mind those who never had faith to begin with). But our elected officials rarely address this issue head on; they usually dodge the question and offer platitudes or bullet points about their own personal agendas.
The honest response from American government, according to The Onion, would be, “right back atcha.” The Onion issued a hilarious report last spring that explains why: “Majority of Government Doesn’t Trust Citizens Either.”More
Stephanie Joyce in Juneau, Alaska. Photo: Kevin Elliott
I live life on a fairly short timescale. At 22, a year still seems like a long time, a decade almost interminable.
The idea of planning 30 or 50 years down the line borders on laughable. I don’t even know where I’ll be next year, after I graduate from Middlebury College. So I struggle with the idea of long-term community planning. In such a rapidly changing world, long-range vision strikes me as a tall order.More
Photo: Jim Ames under the Tuscan sun, July 2001.
Ten years ago, my family took our father to Italy for a Trip of a Lifetime. Dad was not Italian, but he loved Puccini, pasta and the very idea of Italy, so we tried to give him something of that experience. We stayed in an old villa outside Florence, visited Tuscan hill towns and did our best to behave like locals. Between day trips, much of our time was consumed by shopping, cooking, drinking wine and...eating.
It has never surprised me that Italy is such a wonderful place for food. After a few thousand years of doing something, chances are you will get good at it. And with all the right ingredients at their disposal—sun, soil, highly cultivated palates—the Italians certainly excel at food. In my travels to Italy, I’ve had few disappointing meals dining out, and food served nella casa has always been memorable.