Many small towns throughout the United States are engaging young people in planning and community development projects in a variety of creative ways. By recognizing and valuing the tremendous energy and optimism students bring to local development efforts, these communities are building stronger and more lasting bonds between young people and their hometowns, which is particularly important in small places that are seeing their youth migrate away after high school.
Biddeford, Maine, provides a useful case study of how students can be genuinely involved in a wider community visioning process while also gaining a new appreciation for the history and potential of their hometown.More
This was originally published by Sandy Heierbacher, Director of NCDD. The Foundation is proud to re-post Sandy’s recent announcement of a national initiative to make more meaningful, broad citizen engagement the law, rather than the exception. NCDD and the Deliberative Democracy Consortium (DDC), two members of CommunityMatters Partners, are part of the working group that conceived and developed the initiative.
Most laws that govern public participation in the U.S. are over thirty years old. They do not match the expectations and capacities of citizens today, they pre-date the Internet, and they do not reflect the lessons learned in the last two decades about how citizens and governments can work together. Increasingly, public administrators and public engagement practitioners are hindered by the fact that it’s unclear if many of the best practices in participation are even allowed by the law.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 post was co-written by John Elder and Kris Perlee, two residents of Bristol, Vermont, who were tasked with finding a compromise to a ten-year-old land use debate. Here is the story of how they found common ground.
For the better part of a decade our town of Bristol, VT was up to its axles in controversy about a proposed new gravel pit. One casualty of this situation was the Planning Commission’s ability to come up with a Town Plan that the voters would support.
Some of our fellow residents strongly supported the rights of the landowner to develop the property as he wished, especially given the increasing scarcity of gravel in our region. Opponents of the new pit were equally adamant, fearing that noise and traffic from this site near the Town Hall and Main Street would seriously disrupt both the commerce and the neighborhoods of our village.
The full range of opinion in Bristol was appropriately represented on our Planning Commission, but this in turn made it challenging for us to advance toward a clear consensus.More
Photo: Workshop participants take advantage of Belfast’s public art chairs while doing fieldwork.
Heart & Soul Community Planning is rooted in the idea that people share common values when it comes to what makes their cities and towns unique. Although the language people use may be similar across communities, the specifics of what people mean by that language can be quite different from place to place.
So how do you get beyond nebulous conversations about “sense of community” to a shared understanding of the specifics of your town? You get on the ground and figure it out.More
Two years ago, our Foundation issued a Request for Projects seeking towns in the Northeast and Rocky Mountain regions to experiment with us in developing a Heart & Soul Community Planning approach to local planning and decision-making. One of the towns applying was Acton, Massachusetts, a community of about 20,000 people about 45 minutes west of Boston. They put together a great application, but for our metropolitan-edge community we chose Golden, Colorado.
Well, a few months ago I was contacted by Justin Hollander of Tufts University, who told me that Acton had been so inspired by the goals of our RFP that they decided to proceed even after not being selected to work with the Foundation (got to love that!). Acton, he continued, had decided to use Second Life as one of its tools to engage its residents and provide hands-on planning opportunities focusing on a key commercial area called Kelley’s Corner.More
Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities published in 1972 got me thinking about how we imagine the places in which we live, how the imagined places differ from the actual places, and the ways in which the physical structure of a place reflects the minds and desires of the people living there—and vice versa. Cities, in Calvino’s dreamlike tale, are like living, breathing organisms. They are built as much of the emotions and thoughts inspired when walking through them as they are of bricks and mortar. Here’s a passage from a chapter entitled “Continuous Cities”:More