"Engaging the Community for Stronger Economies, Healthier Places" with keynote speaker Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Ph.D., executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) was held in Brunswick on September 14. Dr. Lukensmeyer kicked off the day-long workshop with reflections on the state of civility today. Weber Shandwick, a large media/communications firm, has done a Survey on Civility
in the U.S. every year for the past seven years. When they did the survey near the end of 2016 they found that 75% of Americans say that incivility in the country is now at a crisis stage. NICD launched an initiative to revive civility, encouraging residents and policy makers nationwide to commit to civility. Dr. Lukensmeyer announced that Maine is one of four states where NICD is focusing resources, with more to come in 2018.
A panel session followed the keynote, highlighting Maine-based civic engagement initiatives with Anne Ball of the Maine Downtown Center, Tara Hill from Maine Cancer Foundation, Nancy Smith of GrowSmart Maine, and Jane Lafleur, principal of JBLafleur Consultants. Each described the program they work with to engage community members or constituencies. They were respectively the Maine Main Street Program, Collective Impact, Making Headway in Your Community and coaching Community Heart & Soul.
The afternoon was filled with interactive learning stations, focused on introducing practical tools for civic engagement:
The day closed with an exciting announcement and opportunity for Maine towns. Orton Family Foundation and JB Lafleur Consultants (Jane Lafleur) are joining together to Grow Community Heart & Soul in Maine. Over the coming year, Lafleur and the Orton Family Foundation staff will be working together to launch a three-pronged strategy to Grow Community Heart & Soul in Maine. This strategy includes outreach to Maine’s towns and small cities through a series of regional outreach workshops, in collaboration with regional partners; the creation of additional Heart & Soul training curricula focused on “Getting Ready for Community Heart & Soul”; and direct Community Heart & Soul coaching in towns.
The Community Institute demonstrated that there is incredible creativity in Maine when it comes to civic engagement, and that there are many resources for planners to tap into when thinking about how to engage residents.
--Caitlyn Davison, associate, Orton Family Foundation