The Heart of the Revitalization Process: Community Engagement

Warrenton has earned more than 25 years of wisdom as a Virginia Main Street Designated Community. In 2017, their Main Street program celebrated a reboot, a new “booster club” and mantra:  Experience Old Town Warrenton.  To get there, the first thing the community leaders did was invite all stakeholders to be proactive participants in the downtown’s future.  The meeting was so well attended that Virginia and National Main Street staff, as well as town employees, were scrambling to accommodate the standing-room-only crowd. This effort launched a wave of community interest that rippled into volunteer commitments and a meaningful program direction.  The future is bright and the board is feeling it!

“The Main Street Approach situates community engagement at the heart of the revitalization process…it always reflects the input, wisdom, and perspective of local leaders, business owners, and residents.” – Main Street America’s Community Engagement for Main Street Transformation Guide

Warrenton used multiple platforms to reach a diverse audience including an online vision survey and a facilitated public meeting – but each community should look for the tools that will be most effective for reaching their stakeholders.  Don’t be afraid to be creative! Main Street America recently rolled out a new resource to strengthen your efforts, Community Engagement for Main Street Transformation.  It provides a practical framework and includes actionable tools to put to use in your own community.  It will help you:

  • Get to know your stakeholders and future partners;
  • Celebrate the different voices in your community;
  • Generate ideas for the best solutions to the greatest challenges; and
  • Celebrate your accomplishments!

Preempt STP Syndrome, the Same Ten People making all the decisions and doing all the work, and visit the  Main Street America’s Resources Center >>

 

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Create a Stronger, More Cohesive Community

Our hearts are deeply connected to our communities, so we want to be part of the decisions that impact our community’s future.  They can affect our quality of life, job opportunities, public health and most of all, our families.  But, how do we become part of that decision making, a real participant that impacts direction?

This question was posed to the crowd attending a session at the 2016 Main Street Now Conference, and the response was uplifting, providing “a-ha” moments and real tools for the task. Who was at the podium? The leadership of the Orton Family Foundation, who believed that the strength of a community lies in the hand and the hearts of the people who live there, and that the community’s heart and soul is the common cause that they will rally around.

The foundation developed the Community Heart and Soul Field Guide to help communities build a better future based on what matters most to its residents.  The guide rests on three key principles and gives clear steps to follow:

  1. Involve everyone
  2. Focus on what matters
  3. Play the long game, meaning target long-term success

The field guide just got an update, too, after a year-long evaluation done by Wake Forest University.

Now it is time to connect in your community for a real, old-fashioned barn raising!

Community Heart and Soul Pic

Community Heart and Soul Field Guide