Rockland Heart and Soul gets ready to gather citizen stories

Posted:  Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 8:15pm

On April 29, 30 volunteers with Rockland Heart and Soul received the first segment of training to learn tested techniques for interviewing Rockland residents about what matters most to them. The training was led by Community Heart and Soul coach Jane Lafleur. A second training will be held May 20, 9 to 11:30 a.m. at Rockland Public Library and will include additional volunteers.

Community Heart and Soul works to help transform small towns across the country by bringing residents together to determine what they value most about their towns, and to identify strengths and ways to find common ground, according to a news release.

The Rockland Team is using the Community Heart and Soul process developed and field-tested by the Orton Family Foundation, of Shelburne, Vermont. 

Rockland Heart and Soul volunteers are being trained to gather and share stories by identifying and contacting the largest possible sample and most diverse participants for one-on-one interviews.

They seek to include everyone by asking for stories, then collecting and sharing them, based on questions such as:

What was it like to grow up here?
What brought you here?
Why do you live here?
What are your best memories of Rockland?

The resulting data are cataloged and recorded, then presented back to the community for analysis and further discussion.

The stories are to reveal what residents cherish about where they live; they allow for a community story to be created and understood; and they generate excitement about a plan for a future based on common values.

The Storytelling and Story Gathering process will take six to eight months to complete. Demographic data will be used to ensure broad participation by bringing together groups as disparate as students, fishermen, faith communities, SNAP recipients, long-term elderly residents, public safety officers, and governing officials—in short, everyone—to the table.

The Community Heart and Soul process has been successful in towns in nine states, including Maine.

In Biddeford, $21 million has been invested in the city's downtown, a major redevelopment of abandoned textile mills is underway and 90 new businesses have emerged.

In Gardiner, more than $500,000 in Community Development Block Grants has been awarded for a food co-op, a meat processing facility, and a craft cider operation.

In Damariscotta, the process provided a framework to get the community engaged, produced a roadmap for directing the town's growth and involved youth who eventually were given a place to hang out.

Rockland Heart and Soul is open to anyone who wants to become involved in this exciting process. More information can be obtained by emailing or visit the organization’s Facebook page.