What is Community Heart & Soul?
Community Heart & Soul is a resident-driven process that engages the entire population of a town in identifying what they love most about their community, what future they want for it, and how to achieve it.
Developed and field-tested over a decade in partnership with over 100 small cities and towns across America, Community Heart & Soul is a proven process for engaging a community in shaping its future.
How it Works
Community Heart & Soul is an ongoing practice that provides municipal officials with a clear understanding of what matters most to their constituents–all the residents–and forges a partnership that builds on the first thing everyone has in common: they all live here. It’s not a report that sits on a shelf; it’s a way of coming together to make your town a better place to live in and visit.
Community Heart & Soul begins with a four-phase, step-by-step process that brings residents together to identify and honor the unique character of their town and the emotional connection of the people who live there.
“The Community Heart & Soul model has been the perfect fit for my organization as we work to strengthen rural Iowa communities. I’ve learned so much about community engagement, helping emerging leaders, and developing authentic relationships with people in our small towns.”— Jason Neises, Certified Coach Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque
Phase 1: Imagine
Heart & Soul teams are formed to build awareness, interest, and commitment in all segments of the community.
Phase 2: Connect
Stories are gathered from residents, leading to the development of Heart & Soul Statements that identify what matters most and reflect what they love about their towns.
Phase 3: Plan
Residents develop action plans to guide future town planning based on their Heart & Soul Statements.
Phase 4: Act
Heart & Soul Statements are officially adopted by town and city councils, incorporated into comprehensive and other plans, and are used to guide future policies and decisions.
Galesburg, a small city in northwest central Illinois is a three-hour drive from Chicago, 50 miles northwest of Peoria. The town’s biggest employer was Maytag until more than a decade ago, when the manufacturer closed its Galesburg facility. In 2015, the Galesburg city council appropriated $50,000 and, with the Galesburg Community Foundation, which also funded the project, committed to Community Heart & Soul. Galesburg is avoiding the typical strategic planning approach where consultants come in, hold “stakeholder” meetings, leave, and write a report. Instead, Galesburg on Track, the name of the Community Heart & Soul project there, was focused on listening to the stories of the people who live here. To know where Galesburg wanted to go, residents needed to appreciate their past and understand what they cherish about where they live.Galesburg, Illinois
Local groups came together
to develop a volunteer hub where individuals and organizations can match needs.
Community and city worked
collaboratively to clean up a minimum of one park per year.
“We are seeing lots of movement towards solutions and a different way of thinking, and reinventing ourselves,” Moreno said. “We have to stay on the path. We can’t just say, ‘oh, we did this for a couple of years.’ We’re playing the long game.”— Deborah Moreno, Project Coordinator of Galesburg on Track
Community Heart & Soul Towns
From Downeast Maine to the Heartlands to the Pacific Northwest, towns and residents are making change in their communities. Click on the map to see where it’s happening and hear their stories. Let us give you a guided tour through the transformation with Community Heart & Soul.