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.