Demonstration Towns Begin their Heart & Soul Journey
The Orton Family Foundation recently held a training for its new Heart & Soul towns focused on helping people get their projects off the ground. Each community sent members of their Community Advisory Team (CAT) to the training where participants learned some basics on project design, facilitation and communications. Equally as important, they got to know each other and develop a sense of connectedness to a larger group—gaining an understanding that while each town is unique, sharing challenges can lead to quicker, better solutions.
During the training, participants shared some of their early successes and challenges. These lessons are relevant for all of us as we initiate new projects in our own communities.
- Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? All of the teams were excited and wanted to jump into finding innovative and fun ways to get people in the community involved. They soon realized, however, that they needed to step back, revisit assumptions, and double check or clarify their goals to make sure they were most effectively engaging people in the project.
- So, honestly now, can we really reach “all community members”? The reality of limited human and monetary resources hammered home the need to identify the priority audiences to target for each phase. While “everyone” is a laudable goal, you cannot expect one strategy to work in every neighborhood or for every demographic. The teams worked to better understand who was in their community, why it was important to engage them, and on whom they needed to focus engagement efforts.
- Who are “we” again? Each demonstration town is in a different stage of developing a Community Advisory Team (CAT) that will work together to design and implement the Heart & Soul project. In each town though, there are important community leaders who are not part of the CAT, but provide crucial links to community groups, or might represent missing perspectives. The teams will be returning home to clarify how the community works together - what roles, communication methods, and other important factors will be necessary for successful collaboration.
- How do I explain what this project is all about? The teams learned that words matter, a lot. While practicing their project’s “elevator speeches” to each other, the teams learned that they needed to have a consistent and refined message. They also recognized the importance of finding language that talked about heart and soul in ways that spoke to common community concerns, rather than jumping straight to the nitty-gritty of the project description.
The five communities will come together again this fall to learn new project skills and to reflect on how their projects are going. We look forward to sharing what they are learning and how Heart & Soul is changing their approach to planning and decision-making.