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.
Sanford, Maine Holds a Steady Course in a River of Change
Sanford, Maine is one of the newest recipients of a Community Heart & Soul Seed Grant. They are putting the funds to good use as they work to reach new voices in the community. Leaders of the former mill town are eager to include all residents in the process of charting a new course–and defining a new identity–for this city of 20,000.Read More
AL GETLER JOINS COMMUNITY HEART & SOUL®
Al joins our organization after serving as publisher for several newspapers, including the Burlington Free Press here in VT. He will be working closely with our Heart & Soul Coach network, helping to bring Community Heart & Soul to hundreds of new towns across the country, and will also lead the expansion of our partnership network.Read More
With partnership from the Arras Foundation in Lancaster, South Carolina, Kershaw initiated Heart & Soul to build local communication networks, involve youth, seniors, and community in revitalizing community life, and to create a new culture of collaboration and connection to act upon shared community goals. Town leaders envisioned increased local participation in municipal life so more voices could be heard. Business owners relished the chance to build stronger relationships within the community, and nonprofit partners dreamed of rebuilding the trust and pride needed to expand and strengthen educational and social services.Kershaw Heart & Soul, South Carolina
The Town has a renewed focus on solving zoning challenges, engaging the community, and working closely with the Heart & Soul Stewardship Team on the Collaborative Community Action Plan.
Relationships with residents and town officials have been established and strengthened. Heart & Soul reports at Town meetings.
“The overall take away here is that we discovered the joy of collaboration. Heart & Soul served as a shared agenda and centerpiece to keep everyone together and moving in the same direction.”— Kershaw Heart & Soul Team Member
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.