Start With People

By kfischer

Start with People

“Start with People” was the theme throughout the 2019 Community Heart & Soul Coach & Champion Gathering. Here’s a look at how that theme developed during the four-day event:

Come together in the same place.

We can video chat, hold conference calls, and email each other all day long; but nothing replaces the many benefits of bringing people together in person. More than 65 people from states across the county came together in our home state of Vermont to make connections and share insight related to the Community Heart & Soul model. This was also the first time that all Community Heart & Soul Coaches and Champions were together under one roof talking to and learning from each other.

Get to know each other.

While various ice breaking exercises might seem silly, sometimes they do really help! Coaches walked through a deeply engaging “Pig Analysis” to discover their true strengths. And in the spirit of “friends who shop together, stay together”, the Champions took a bus trip to Weston, Vermont to experience the Vermont Country Store. Getting to know each other requires uninterrupted time and space for connection. On an autumn evening in Vermont, binge-watching Netflix simply can’t compete with singing campfire songs and searching the skies for shooting stars.

Listen authentically.

There is power in being heard. How often do we trust that we are listened to, that we are truly seen? How often can we say, “I heard you,” and mean it? We all want to be good listeners, but often things get in the way—we are distracted by our phones, our thoughts, or our to-do lists. To enhance their listening skills, Coaches participated in a session called The Art of the Heart & Soul Interview, which included opportunities to practice asking good questions and authentic listening.

Tell Stories.

Storytelling is a key piece of the Community Heart & Soul model. We wanted to ensure our gathering created space for storytelling because we know it builds relationships and bridges gaps. Coaches and Champions shared stories through a World Café format, offering personal accounts and reflections from their Heart & Soul experiences.

Ditch the Conference Room.

It’s hard to feel inspired in a stark room with beige walls. That’s why we made time to get out and about in our host community, the Community Heart and Soul town of Essex, Vermont. Activities enjoyed by our Coaches included bike riding, apple picking, and walking along the famed Church Street in downtown Burlington. Champions participated in a guided walking tour around town.

Celebrate Success.

Community Heart & Soul takes a commitment and our Coaches and Champions know that best. The gathering offered an opportunity to recognize significant achievements of people within the Heart & Soul network. Three Heart & Soul Coaches were recognized for completing the two-year Coach certification process: Jenny Robbins from Georgia EMC, along with Trish Sears and Steve Mason from NEKTI Consulting in Vermont.

Inspire a Movement.

When Lyman Orton established the Orton Family Foundation, he chose to invest in the future of small cities and towns. In his remarks to attendees, Mr. Orton articulated a vision for Community Heart & Soul that extends beyond the foundation, saying, “For Community Heart & Soul to succeed, it has to have an energy force that compels small cities and towns to want to do it.” Heart & Soul Champions and Coaches are essential to growing the Community Heart & Soul movement and we know we need to invest in our network to sustain the success of our mission.

Capture the Memories.

We wanted to make sure that the 2019 Community Heart & Soul Coach & Champion Gathering had effects beyond our time in Essex, so we built-in opportunities for continued reflection and connection after the event. Coaches and Champions received a postcard at the gathering, which they will return after sharing their favorite memory.

Here is a photo gallery full of images that capture the activities and spirit of this event: