Making Headway in Your Community is a community development program that helps residents identify what they value most in their town and provides tools to protect and build on these assets. The process lead by GrowSmart Maine and the Maine Downtown Center, a program of the Maine Development Foundation, funds a series of three public meetings over 6-8 months where small projects are funded with a local match to draw attention to good work and improve connection both within the community and across Maine for information and inspiration.
Makingheadway.me is a website designed for sharing these success stories and connecting with local, regional, statewide and even national organizations offering information and services to help communities in these efforts. Making Headway in your Community provides a spark; a connection to information and inspiration.
One of the best pieces of advice for community outreach is “don’t hold meetings, hold events.” Having participated in the release of the locally-produced short film “Reviving the Freedom Mill” in 2013, we engaged with the film’s creator Tony Grassi to bring the movie and his story to Maine communities. The Movie Night event kicks off the Making Headway in Your Community process, and is set up following discussions with engaged local leaders, both elected and appointed and “grasstops”.
Grounded in Smart Growth
Making Headway in Your Community is adaptable to cities, towns, and neighborhoods in Maine, supported by experienced facilitators, and lead by engaged community members. The program has its roots in smart growth and offers the following five principles as guidance to communities considering what values they share and how to build on those assets.
- Community Connections: Housing for all, Effective Public Participation & Civic Engagement, Schools & Local Organizations
- Local Economy: Small Business Development, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Arts & Culture, Hospitality & Tourism; Farming, fisheries, & Forestry
- Smart Design: Conservation of water access, productive lands, & open space; Brownfield Restoration; Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit; Connecting Downtowns with Rural Areas; Natural Resources; Alternative Transportation & Public Transit
- Climate & Energy: Energy Independence & Resiliency; Increase Energy Efficiency in Municipal, Institutional, Commercial & Residential Spaces; Locally Sourced Food
- Healthy Communities: Bicycle, Walking, & Boating Options; Farmers’ Markets, CSAs, Co-Ops; Parks & Public Gathering Spaces; Street Trees & Urban Forests; Safe Sidewalks & Crossings
The Making Headway in Your Community Process
1. Movie Night: Showing the film in the community or region and then guiding a conversation to identify those unique assets and current initiatives that matter in their town or area. The movie is followed by a facilitated conversation about what the community values.
Our Making Headway in Your Community (MHYC) worksheet provides a base for viewing a community in four areas of community growth, Smart Design, Community Connections, Local Economy, and Healthy Communities with a pathway to get others involved to identify goals and on the ground projects. This connects to the online resource www.makingheadway.me
2. Capacity Building: Along with inspiration and information, all communities can use some nuts and bolts training for the grasstop leaders, be they volunteers, appointed, elected or staff. There are wonderful opportunities throughout Maine for this to happen and sometimes a little encouragement and MHYC covering the registration cost are all that’s needed. We encourage several people from each community to go together, improving chances that the experience translates into constructive changes when they get home. Opportunities for the GrowSmart Annual Meeting, Maine Downtown Conference, regional technical assistance trainings and forums are offered throughout the state.
3. Community Conversation: In the second event, the community is empowered to vote and determine how a small amount of money will be spent to raise awareness and support for a larger initiative or project in town. Participants have the fun of using keypad polling to choose from a short list of projects developed in small group settings. Through this process they identify lead and support organizations, individuals, and matching support in either in-kind or cash.
4. Projects and Initiatives: With budget determined and a plan developed by the participants, work begins. Our role is a balance of guiding the process while allowing it to go at their pace, with partnerships that make sense for the community.
5. Community Celebration! : Once projects are completed, we’ll bring community together to celebrate, determine what they see as their next steps, and ask their advice on how to improve our process for future communities.
As part of the closing celebration the projects must be posted on www.makingheadway.me with resources noted, so other communities can learn from the experience.
We look forward to working with you as Making Headway in Your Community provides the foundation for discussions and decisions about the future of your town as well as a structure to manage and connect strategic actions at the local level.
Contact us if you feel your community is ready!