One of the things that Heart & Soul Monticello has strived to do is to make sure that everyone in the community could participate in the community-planning process. After conducting a “community network analysis” the core team had a roadmap that identified the different voices in Monticello, many of whom had not had much involvement in past planning or visioning processes. Sometimes these groups were not involved because “town hall” type meetings were not convenient. For Monticello, that has meant meeting people where they are.
“When they hear someone talk about Heart and Soul, they feel like they made a contribution.”
â€“ Jean Sullivan, Monticello Heart & Soul
“We said, â€˜how can we reach out to kids?’,” says Sullivan. “We put out coloring sheets and asked them, what do you love most in Monticello? Some took the opportunity to draw their favorite place to go like the cone shop (ice cream was a big item for the kids) and the pool, but some of them were even deeper. Some of them were pictures of rolling hills around the community and those were the things that they loved. Some drew pictures of their families because that’s what matters most to them. I’m not sure how we ever would have gotten that if we had them fill out a survey”
High School Communications Class Project
At Monticello High School, students conducted video interviews with other high school students, families, and friends as part of a class project. Not only was this a good way to get more stories about what matters most in the community, but it was fascinating to see who the students chose to interview and get authentic stories from a wide range of residents.
Outreach at Jones County Fair
“Everyone who is familiar with this area has heard of the Great Jones County Fair, so I parked myself at the Fair and asked people, â€˜What do you love and what would improve Monticello?’,” says, Jean. “I got hundreds of responses and people loved it.” Some of the people interviewed weren’t actually residents of Monticello, but it’s also important to hear from people for whom Monticello is an important place to recreate, shop, and do business.
The team collected surveys online and in person from all voices in the community including food pantry patrons and meals on wheels recipients. The survey questions are similar to what have been used for interviews so that the data collected can be repurposed in many ways. The online surveys often solicited deep, thoughtful responses to the open-ended questions because the respondents had time to compose their thoughts and provide insightful information.
Community interviews were conducted at local businesses, the public library, the Laundromat, and other locations to capture voices that weren’t included in surveys. Local leaders were sought out to ensure their ideas were heard, but we also found people who may not have been otherwise included because they have can’t easily attend meetings due to transportation, childcare, work, or other barriers.
Area Focus Groups
Focus groups included target audiences like Camp Courageous employees, Rotary, and other social clubs. Going to meet these people on their turf and solicit their ideas was a powerful way to get good insights and ensure that all community voices are at the table. Volunteers on the core team received special training on leading focus groups and capturing the data from the discussion.