Cornerstones Blog

So Long, Farewell

HeartandSoulOrton_audrey-heller_330x220.jpgPhoto: ©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.

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Stewardship: Partnerships and Core Values

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.
Portsmouth_Students_Dalogue_350x233.jpgThe 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.

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Stewardship: Responding to a Changing World

Hastings_Memorial Day_350x441.jpgNote: This post is section four 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 stewardshipapproaches the communities have used to carry the success of their efforts far into the future. This blog post examines how communities address global issues while maintaining a local focus at the same time.

Even as communities focus on planning and engagement initiatives to improve their quality of life, the world is not standing still. With a deluge of larger trends and issues, the impacts at the local level can be sudden and painful: an influx of new residents, a spate of foreclosures, a large loss of jobs, or a spike in the price of gasoline.

This raises the question of how community planning and engagement can encompass and address such larger or unanticipated issues without losing touch with local residents and their needs.

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Stewardship: Holding Leaders Accountable

Newton_Rolling Out 2050 Plan_350x261.jpgNote: This post is section three 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 keep local leaders involved in the process, ensuring continued support for future projects.

Ultimately, if a town is to secure the achievement of community-based visions and plans, it must have the continued support of local elected and appointed officials, government staff, and other key community and business leaders. In effect, it must insert the process of developing community-based visions and plans into more-formal governmental and related decision-making processes. Given that local governments, in particular, often have a poor record of responding proactively to citizen input, this can be a daunting task.

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Stewardship: Achieving Visions and Plans

HIllsboro_FarmersMarket_350x457.jpgNote: This post is section two 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 translate visions into action.

It probably goes without saying that a vision or plan that is filed on a shelf and not achieved can easily negate all of the energy and effort that went into its creation. Similarly, without an organized, deliberate implementation effort, the most dynamic community vision or plan probably will not be achieved. The implementation that follows on the heels of a community visioning or planning initiative is often less visible or exciting than the community’s initial engagement, but it is when the rubber hits the road.

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Stewardship: Sustaining Citizen Engagement

Note: This post is section one 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 duluthbanner_350x388.jpgapproaches the communities have used to carry the success of their efforts far into the future. This blog post examines how communities keep residents engaged and participating in important local decision-making. 

The ongoing engagement of a community’s residents is the lifeline of its community plan and is essential to its successful future. No vision or plan, however eloquently stated or thoughtfully constructed, will endure long enough to be realized if the townspeople are not continually engaged in its achievement.

Beginning in the mid-2000s, the Duluth Local Initiative Support Corporation (Duluth LISC) and its At Home in Duluth collaborative, a program focused on five inner-city neighborhoods, intensified their efforts in West Duluth, an older, established neighborhood in need of revitalization. Since then, more than 40 major initiatives addressing housing, income, economic activity, education, and health have been implemented, resulting in a catalogue of achievements and a reenergized sense of community.

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“Infinite Vulnerability” (for Maurice Sendak)

max_wildthings_279x180.jpgThe 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.

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Honoring Local Values

Note: This post is a brief excerpt from the study Stewarding the Future of Our Communities by Steven C. Ames, the Foundation’s 2012 Craig Byrne Fellow 

Newton_Mapping_350x268.jpgHow does a community remain connected to its core values, those widely shared beliefs and ideals that define the community, who it is, and what is important to its residents? How does it ensure that important future decisions and directions are aligned with its values?

Core values provide the touchstone and foundation for any community’s planning and engagement effort, because, in the language of the Foundation, they connect to the community’s heart and soul.

According to Doug Zenn, a public participation specialist affiliated with the International Association for Public Participation: “Values are essential in finding common ground upon which further conversations can be built. The outcomes of any planning process always work best when they are aligned with core values. The more contentious a public involvement process, the more we rely on up-front identification of values.”

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