K E R S H A W H E A R T & S O U L
Where we are now ...
What is Community Heart & Soul?
Community Heart & Soul is a four phase, step-by-step process. Developed and field-tested for more than a decade in partnership with small cities and towns (population less than 50,000), Community Heart & Soul has evolved into a proven method for bringing the community together to chart a course forward.
Four Phase, Step-by-Step Process
Phase 1: Imagine
Build a team inspired to involve everyone, and create positive change.
Establish a Heart & Soul Team that involves the community, set goals together.
Build awareness, interest, and commitment in all segments of the community.
Begin to examine who’s in your community and how they are connected, and create a plan to reach them.
Phase 2: Connect
Discover what residents love about where they live and identify common hopes and aspirations—what matters most.
Gather stories and input from the community. Telling and sharing personal stories about local experiences is a key engagement strategy because it brings people together to find common ground.
Create Heart & Soul Statements that reflect the observations and aspirations of the entire community. These will guide activities and results in phases that follow.
Community Engagement—Story Gathering and Beyond
Community Heart & Soul evolves around giving voice to everyone in a community, especially those whose voices are often missing at local meetings. Gathering stories, whether notes on a chalkboard or in-depth interviews, offers important data that reveals themes about what matters most to residents. These themes inform Heart & Soul Statements, which guide future decision-making based on what matters most to everyone.
Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when considering ways to reach everyone:
There is no such thing as the “general public.” Community Network Analysis is an important tool for getting to know who makes up your community and how they get information. This knowledge becomes the foundation for designing community engagement activities and communicating about your project in ways that reach everyone. Community Network Analysis is ongoing and revisited as the Heart & Soul Team gets a better understanding of who lives, works, and plays in the community.
Bring the table to the people. Rather than asking, “Who should be at the table?” think about where to bring the table. In other words, meet people where they are, and on their terms—in their neighborhood, at a holiday festival, before a football game, or at a block party.
Details matter. Consider ways to make an event easier to attend and more inclusive, such as child care, translators, transportation and, of course, food.
Make it fun! When you bring people together, think about how you can make the event a social opportunity, too.
Heart & Soul Statements
Here is a sampling of Heart & Soul Statements drawn from Community Heart & Soul towns across the country. These statements reflect themes that emerged from residents who shared what matters most to them about their towns.
Small Town Feel: We treasure our friendly community with its safe, close-knit family feel and the generational continuity that keeps our proud history alive; creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for residents and visitors alike.
Vibrant Downtown: We treasure a vibrant downtown with small businesses, festivals, parades, waterfront, and art-related opportunities that provide economic development and places for people to gather; promoting a rich, welcoming sense of community.
Inclusion: We value a local community that celebrates and accepts all of the differences among individuals that keep our town vibrant and culturally beautiful.
Natural Resources: We value the natural beauty of the Mississippi River Valley. This environment bonds the community together, drawing in tourists and encouraging outdoor recreational activities.
Responsive Government: Our city government is responsive, approachable, good at listening, welcomes participation and involvement, is fair to all parts of the city and is accountable.
History: We value the physical infrastructure of our existing neighborhoods and downtown core…which together reflect the historic and distinct feel of our community to our unique sense of place.
Volunteerism: We treasure our volunteers…who help keep our community safe and support community and family.
Youth: We value our youth, empowering them to serve and grow through engaging activities and leadership opportunities to positively impact their future while building confidence and self-worth.
Safety: We will be a place where we can go anywhere at any time and feel safe.
Phase 3: Plan
Decide which ideas best reflect what matters most and create a plan that ensures action, both now and long term.
Prioritize action ideas to determine what is important to the community.
Develop an Action Plan guided by Heart & Soul Statements that captures prioritized ideas.
Revisit Community Network Analysis to ensure as many people as possible are included in decision-making, aiming for broad and meaningful participation in developing and evaluating options.
Phase 4: Act
Change the way the community takes action by putting resident engagement at the center of decision-making.
Adoption of Heart & Soul Statements by city council; incorporation into comprehensive and other plans.
Form a Stewardship Team to coordinate with community partners to make actions happen.
Continue to apply the principles of Community Heart & Soul in future community endeavors.
82 Ideas Became 82 Reasons for Collaboration
As Bucksport Heart & Soul in Maine completed Phase 4, team leaders wanted to get the ball rolling on 82 ideas for action prioritized by the community. Ideas ranged from creating a downtown beautification program, to holding block parties, to developing a farm-to-school program.
First, the team signed on organizations, soliciting support from the library, the chamber of commerce, the local land trust, the garden club, and so on. Next they held the Bucksport Heart & Soul Summit and Volunteer Fair. Sixteen organizations that had adopted one or more action items set up displays about their action ideas and signed-up volunteers on the spot.
The collaborative environment hatched additional creative ideas. For example, encouraging reading and recreation were separate action items. These were combined into a storybook trail on the waterfront walking path. The local library led the project. Children moved from station to station reading pages from a storybook with exercise in between. In another example of collaboration and enthusiasm, the town’s annual spring cleanup day grew from 30 volunteers to 400, in part thanks to a strong showing of nearly all the students from the local middle school.
“There’s this new momentum. We can do things. We can take initiative. We can spin off ideas. These 82 ideas are really the jumping off point. These groups have a solid beginning of collaborating and it just keeps building,” Project Coordinator Nancy Minott said.