Our model

Community Heart & Soul model

Developed and field-tested over a decade in partnership with small cities and towns, Community Heart & Soul® has evolved into a proven model for engaging a community in shaping the future.

By following this four phase, step-by-step model, residents are able to bring the community together to chart a course forward that recognizes the unique character of the place and the emotional connection of the people who live there.

Please hover over the individual phases of Community Heart & Soul to the right.

Phase 1: Lay the Groundwork

Laying the Groundwork is about getting organized to conduct a successful Heart & Soul® project. This is when you gather partners, form a team of volunteers, figure out how they will coordinate with each other, set goals, and establish what will be included in the process. It's also important to find out who lives and works in the community and set up a communication strategy to reach them.

Community Heart & Soul Phases

Phase 2: Explore Your Community

Explore Your Community is vital to the Heart & Soul model. Activities in this phase focus on attracting a broad, diverse mix of people to help identify what matters most. Telling personal stories about local experiences is a key engagement strategy that brings people together and finds common ground. This phase ends in articulating that common ground in Heart & Soul Statements, which guide activities and results in phases 3 and 4.

Community Heart & Soul Phases

Phase 3: Make Decisions

Making Decisions is about how to protect and enhance your community's "Heart & Soul" - what matters most - and building toward a future that honors them. What are the options available to your community and which ones should be pursued? Also important to the decision-making process is figuring out when things will be done. What will you do this year? What will you work on later?

Community Heart & Soul Phases

Phase 4: Take Action

Taking Action is about following through with the action plan and doing the work needed to produce lasting results. One important action is to create a Stewardship Team that will keep watch on how the other actions are progressing. This leadership team coordinates the work and communicates progress to keep community members engaged and decision-makers accountable. This team also looks for ways to infuse civic culture and any community decision-making with the three Heart & Soul Principles.

Community Heart & Soul Phases

Helpful resources

The Community Heart & Soul Field Guide

The Community Heart & Soul Field Guide is the “owner’s manual” for the four phase, resident-driven and inclusive community development model developed by the Orton Family Foundation and tested in partnership with small cities and towns over a decade.

Free download

Work with Heart & Soul

Sounds great! What’s next?

If community development and decision-making based on what matters most to everyone sounds like a great idea, and creating plans that lead to action sounds like the way to go, then let us connect you with resources to learn what it takes to get started. 

Here are a few steps we suggest and a link to the resources to get you started:

See more resources >

Let's get started Be a partner organization

Discover Community Heart & Soul today

Why wait? Let us help you discover your town’s Heart & Soul and get you on the
path to building a community that is stronger, healthier and more economically vibrant!

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