Heart & Soul Community Planning

Conference Call Notes
Wednesday, December 15, 2010, 4-5pm EST We used a live version of this document to collaboratively add questions, collect thoughts, transcribe important talking points, before, during and after the Heart & Soul Community Planning conference call. You can access this document via this link: http://bit.ly/eOXyGU     Attending Many thanks to the nearly 50 people who were listening in and participating on the call. Your insight and feedback was invaluable. Moderating • Bonnie Shaw, Partner, BYO Consulting, LLC Speaking • Betsy Rosenbluth, Northeast Director of Projects, Orton Family Foundation • Jane Lafleur, Executive Director of Friends of Midcoast Maine and Damariscotta’s Heart & Soul Project Coordinator o e-mail: info@friendsmidcoast.org; tel: 207 237-1077

 

Agenda • 15mins – Introduction to Heart & Soul Community Planning, call protocol, etc. • 35mins – Open for questions/discussion • 10mins – How can CommunityMatters continue to support this conversation?

Questions

How do you see applying this kind of approach to different communities around the country? Are there key results that Heart & Soul program want to see? What are the outcomes of H&S planning? How does a community articulate its heart and soul? What are some specific examples of how the values of a community can influence the physical place?

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Heart & Soul Community Planning Conference Call Notes 12/15/10

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Architecture and streetscape design are some of the easiest places to find examples. If a community values its historic roots, that can be implemented through policies protecting historic buildings or codes that require building design to fit in with the surrounding aesthetics. If a community values something like friendliness and small-town feel, that can be influenced by things like moving storefronts up close to sidewalks and placing parking lots behind them, development codes that reduce lot sizes and encourage front porches, etc. - all choices that facilitate community interaction.

How do you gain acceptance/engagement in a H and S approach if there are large portions of the community who perceive it as antithetical to their land rights values? How do you plan with a core values approach? Have you identified any community sizes (smallest/largest) where this approach works well? (Arthur/Craigslist Foundation) o Jane: FMM works with towns up to the 10,000 +/- population range, but the tools we use work with any size town. “It’s bottom-up planning.” Sticky notes are a great example of a tool that can be used anywhere. Damariscotta could not have accomplished what it did without a very active committee.  Speaking of sticky notes - check out the CEOs for Cities project: Give A Minute: http://giveaminute.info/ - great way of sourcing community input on issues. o Betsy: At the neighborhood level in cities, these tools and this methodology would work well. It’s a broad range of values that are worked on, so it can be applied in most places. We find that smallest communities (under 2,000 pop.) with limited staff have a hard time maintaining projects like this. Our Golden and Biddeford projects are closer to 20,000. Damariscotta has done well through regional partnerships. We’re very interested in whether there is an ideal size or community readiness factor, but there is a minimum capacity. Will there be a change of direction for next round of H&S grants? If so, why? And how will it build on what you’ve learned in this round? o Betsy: We are definitely tweaking the program based on what we have learned and the feedback from our partner communities. The next RFP will call for a similar 2 year process but provide clearer steps along the way, a sample timeline and budget, required trainings to build local capacity. We will be offering more resources on Heart&Soul Community Planning through our website and some possible workshops or webinars. The application process itself will require stronger partnership building and communications and public outreach planning. When will RFP come out from Orton for next round of H&S grants? o Around April 2011 and due back around August. Stay in touch through our website for details this winter

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Heart & Soul Community Planning Conference Call Notes 12/15/10

Are there other communities out there (on the call today or not) doing this sort of work under a different name? (Rebecca/Orton) o Jane: sees this as community building - it could happen around any issue, like farms to schools or other issues. It’s really just about getting people involved and participating. o Betsy: We’ve looked for best practices from community development and land use planning, but we’ve also looked at some very different fields like storytelling, arts. We’re trying to just adapt and re-adapt. o Irvington : Sustainability project working with local leaders, training community groups and civic leaders to address sustainability issues from food to water, etc. o Jan Blaire: Holding roundtable disucssions and inviting neighboring communities to participate. Started as a small project and now expanding to include people from far away. o Lane McLelland: They are in partnership with 2-3 groups already doing community histories with high school students and elders. They are trying to work with a deliberative democracy program to combine, so they’re watching this process. The next round of Orton H&S RFP projects will include a more significant youth engagement component. Are there people on the call who have experience in that area? o Tony DeLucia: Found that working with college and graduate students in public health and urban planning helps them really go beyond classes and allow them to see how this will play out in the future. They see a great future around active transportation arena, greenways and trails. o Jane: Damariscotta has had a great experience in this area. In working with high school students they developed a list of needs and priorities, including finding that students want a place to be downtown where they are welcomed to hang out with a youth friendly menu. A local restuarant jumped this opportunity. o Betsy: Biddeford and UNE have been part of the Downtown planning in Biddeford. The students were trained to facilitate some of the community conversation groups and to collect community stories. UNE is looking to contribute to downtown vitality with greater University programming in the historic theater and gallery space. Huge amount of work - cost and what resource help available to towns? and partnerships? o Betsy: Important to see what stake local organizations have in projects. When projects are collaborative, it invites people to participate and “cocreate.” Partners have stayed at the table because they have a stake in the outcome. The Foundation also offers training and funding for this process through our RFP, which will be issued late spring 2011. The Foundation is also drafting a Handbook which will allow people to pick and choose pieces that would work best for them. o Jane: Damariscotta did a very extensive project with the Foundation, but that level may not be necessary for every town. The important thing is just to get people involved. “The people know best and they know what they want for their community.”

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Heart & Soul Community Planning Conference Call Notes 12/15/10

What action do you want community members to take? How do you refresh the resilience of the community? o Betsy: Important to let people enter and leave projects as their interest dictates. Some people will be in it for the long haul and have more capacity to help while others might want to work on a single project. Key question is whether there is a core that can fill in when there is turnover in volunteers. We’re looking at ways to keep people informed, online communication vehicles like i-neighbors.org, school newsletters and an array of tools, along with an open opportunity for people to join at any point. “If you implement as you go, people can see that all the talk really does lead to action.” o Jane: Damariscotta and all towns need to celebrate more. It always feels like one is in the thick of the project but we should pause to celebrate all the accomplishments. “We need every single person who has something to give to the process.” and celebration often helps keep people involved. Don’t legitimate comments become cheapened because they are combined with the fringe or extreme comments in an open/social networking environment? o We have not found to be the case. We have found that extreme or fringe comments are sometimes a silent majority that is heard only at the last minute so it is better to know these early. The people need to know all the comments and we find ways to test whether there is support for a comment such as through dot-voting or key pad polling. Is there are a list of other organizations offering grants for this sort of community building work? (Paul Fixx, Hardwick, VT pfixx@pfixx.net) o Betsy: We don’t have a list but have had great interest from many Community Foundations. Listening to Betsy & Jane I am wondering how involved Orton is in the management of the grant’s scope of work. o In Damariscotta’s case, we worked closely with the foundation at the beginning to identify needs, ideas, etc and they offered a great array of assistance. We had weekly calls just to stay connected. Does it work that when you apply for a grant you have to know that Orton directly participates in management for success … or does Orton provide TA upon request, etc.? o Betsy: As an operating Foundation we function as active advisors in all the projects. We also provide yearly training around key steps and issues (like facilitation, stoytelling, communication, etc), and we often provide TA in unique situations, such as the integration of CViz Visualization tools and the Design Charrette in Damariscotta. What tools were you able to use to bring together with conscious intention people who didn’t agree with each other for the purpose of bridging “divides”? o In Damariscotta’s case we got people out to meeting or we went to them and it was the committee’s job to make sure a range of opinions was part of the mix.
Heart & Soul Community Planning Conference Call Notes 12/15/10

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Betsy: Most of the “Community Conversations” were based on bridging these various viewpoints - bringing conversations to the neighborhood level, hosting in familiar gathering places, sometimes using story circles or interviewing. The neighborhood and individual conversations then culminated in larger community forums where people could see their opinions feeder into a larger effort. I think all projects found individual phone calls the most effective for a diverse turn out, so the composition of your citizen advisory committee is key.

   

I joined the call late, but it seems that the sort of thing being discussed is very similar to what we’ve been discussing in our Hardwick, VT area transition town planning. Do you have any experience with how the H&S projects could fit in with reaching the sort of goals identified in transition town planning? (Paul Fixx, Hardwick, VT pfixx@pfixx.net) o Betsy: I think these processes are very complementary with the community articulating what’s most important and catalyzing both partnerships and individual action to make it happen

Resources: Projects, additional reading, great examples, links that you recommend... Start with this blog post: Communities nationwide are recognizing that planning processes need to change. It’s no longer enough for a few people to create a plan that sits on a shelf and gathers dust. If we want to live in unique places full of local character and spirit, places with strong economies and vibrant streets, places where we know our neighbors and have a say in governance, then we need a better system. Heart & Soul Community Planning is one way forward. o http://communitymatters.posterous.com/bringing-heart-soul-communityplanning-to-you The Damariscotta Heart & Soul final report is available at http://www.friendsmidcoast.org/towns/documents/DamariscottaHeartandSoul.pdf Read about more of the Orton Family Foundation’s Heart & Soul Community Planning Projects at http://www.orton.org/projects/current Read about the Heart & Soul Planning Initiative at the Foundation: http://www.orton.org/sites/default/files/resource/919/H&S%20Approach%20White %20Paper%202%2012%2009%20Final.pdf Check out the Planning Tools Exchange database (http://www.planningtoolsexchange.org) for lots of great tools, project examples, resources and organizations related to Heart & Soul Community Planning. And please feel free to add your own!

     

Notes/Concepts from Call Betsy Rosenbluth:

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Heart & Soul Community Planning Conference Call Notes 12/15/10

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Heart and soul community planning is wider and deeper than traditional planning begin with connections with community - why you live here, why you stay here, whats important - helps to get to the heart of whats important to the community. storytelling - using local language that’s familiar, using multimedia approaches to share stories in different ways - this should be a fun way to express community pride. social aspects getting elevated. the process of telling and sharing stories builds connections across groups tools allow us a wider distribution of process

 

Jane Lafleur: • Damariscotta, ME: first step was storytelling and listening to people. • They then started to pull out themes and values that resulted in a values statement, which they validated with citizens (values included working locally, living locally, a high level of community involvement, etc.) • They’ve used a wide range of methods: Neighbor to Neighbor Chats, community potluck dinners, etc. Many methods to get feedback as well, including newspaper and paper survey, interviews with high school students, 4-day planning charrette. • So many groups should/can be involved in planning, from students to snowmobile club.... • Damariscotta now looking at Form-based codes, with a big series of very interactive workshops, now that they are starting to implement their planning   Lyman Orton: • This is indeed a bottom-up process, but elected officials have to be highly involved and have buy-in because they will be able to turn the H&S into code and town plans. • The more communities can do this process with greater specificity, the easier it will be for communities to act on it. • Would like to see towns make a stronger commitment to retain coordinator because it can’t stop 2-3 years after the initial process. There is a need for a paid position to help volunteers keep going. o Jane: In response to Lyman’s suggestion for making this long term commitment to community values, Damariscotta Board of Selectmen is considering a resolution of endorsement of the community values as a way of doing future business, measuring future town decisions and is considering having these values a part of the update of the Comprehensive Plan.

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Heart & Soul Community Planning Conference Call Notes 12/15/10

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