Heart & Soul Research

Planning for Community Heart & Soul®: A Review of Processes & Practitioners


Planning for Community Heart & Soul: A Review of Processese & Practitioners

This research publication from the Orton Family Foundation is a compendium of resources to help communities discover, protect, and grow their heart and soul—the unique attributes that citizens value most and that contribute to a sense of place. Communities have long been exploring those attributes and seeking ways to protect them, but we lack a common vocabulary and understanding of creative strategies and tools for expanding this work.

We include here examples of visioning, of towns seeking a sense of place, or of building community character, all of which address the same values that we label "heart and soul." The Foundation hopes that this research will help communities and planners find innonvative strategies and new ideas among the many the successful projects we discovered in the process of writing.


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Storytelling at the Heart and Soul of Healthy Communities


This publication, written by storytelling expert Barbara Ganley, introduces readers to the powerful role that storytelling can play in community building. Storytelling has proved its promise in the Foundation’s Heart & Soul Communities, where we get dirt under our fingernails working with residents, stakeholders and leaders. From Golden, Colorado to Victor, Idaho; from Damariscotta, Maine to the Borderlands of Rhode Island and Connecticut; from Starksboro, Vermont to Biddeford, Maine, over many years, storytelling has built trust, torn down walls and helped citizens come together behind the values and vision they want to have steer the change in their varied towns.

Ganley explores both why story matters in its own right, but also why it matters to a fragmented society and to increasingly fragmented communities. She emphasizes the central importance of reciprocity and the transformative strength of listening, a trait in short supply these days. 

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Watch this Storytelling for Community Planning training video produced by Barbara Ganley 




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Stewarding the Future of Our Communities

Steven C. Ames


“Stewarding the Future of Our Communities” presents the results of a major research project conducted for the Craig Byrne Fellows Program of the Orton Family Foundation. It addresses the challenges of stewarding local community engagement and planning—that is, building greater sustainability into resident-driven, values-based community engagement and planning—in order to ensure its ongoing success and impact.

The paper presents case studies of five exemplary community engagement and planning experiences in small towns and cities around the country, highlighting specific stewardship approaches they have used to carry the success of their efforts far into the future.

The communities highlighted in this report represent the diversity of small-town America, reflecting a range of populations (generally smaller cities and towns), community types (rural towns, suburban cities, and even urban neighborhoods), political jurisdictions (counties, cities, towns, neighborhoods, districts, and unincorporated areas), and geographic regions (New England, the Southeast, the Great Lakes, the Upper Midwest, the Pacific Northwest). 

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