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), supports a series of three community-driven meetings over 6-8 months. During the program, 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.
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 the beginning of 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– People & Infrastructure:
- Effective & Inclusive Public Participation & Civic Engagement
- Leadership Training for Volunteers
- Access to High-Speed Broadband Internet
- Welcoming Schools & Local Organizations
- Choices in Transportation Including Public Transit
Local Economy– What a Community Can Do:
- Innovation & Entrepreneurship Training & Support
- Targeted Small Business Development Incentives
- Arts & Culture
- Hospitality & Tourism
- Farming, Fisheries & Forestry
- Manufacturing & Maker Businesses
- Main Street Businesses
- Predictable & Reasonable Local Regulations
Smart Design– Thoughtful Regulations & Incentives:
- Housing for All Ages
- Incomes & Abilities
- Strategic Conservation of Water Access
- Productive Lands & Open Space
- Brownfield Restoration & Reuse
- Historic Rehabilitation & Low-Income Housing Tax Credits
- Enhance Economic & Physical Connections between Downtowns & Rural Areas
Climate & Energy– Community Resiliency & Independence:
- Minimize Risks to Infrastructure & Property
- Improve Energy Efficiency in Municipal, Institutional
- Commercial & Residential Spaces
- Use incentives from Efficiency Maine to Reduce Costs
- Local Energy Production
- Buy, Grow & Harvest Food from Maine & New England
Healthy Communities– Encourage Smart Lifestyle Choices:
- Physical Activity: Bicycle, Walking & Boating Options
- Healthy Foods: Farmers’ Markets, CSAs & Co-Ops
- Outdoor Recreation: Parks & Public Gathering Spaces
- Green Infrastructure: Street Trees & Urban Forests
- Self-Powered Transportation Choices: Safe Sidewalks, Crossings & Trails
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.
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 include the GrowSmart Annual Meeting, Maine Downtown Conference, regional technical assistance training and forums which 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. Through this process, the community identifies 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 the 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.
Communities We’ve Worked With
GrowSmart Maine has worked with 13 communities across Maine and helped to advance a total of 19 projects. Click on the town or region name to see the report.
Where to Start?
Contact us if you feel your community is ready!