How does a Community Visit work?Concord Community Dinner

The Community Visit program is a three-month series of public meetings, bringing together a broad mix of community members with a Visiting Team, made up of state, federal, non-profit, and philanthropic experts, to create tailored work plans for long-term local success. VCRD provides the structure and neutral facilitation each step of the way.

The Visit begins with a series of focus forums (step 1) followed by a community wide discussion where residents champion their ideas for the future of their town and choose their priorities (step 2). Then, interested citizens join local task forces to work forward on the community goals set through the process (step 3). Each task force has a chairperson who will manage meetings and keep work moving forward. A local Community Visit chairperson (“chair of the chairs”) will help to keep the community informed and involved as the program progresses.

VCRD offers its services free of charge to communities. The only costs towns agree to cover (or find funding for) include fees related to a mailing about the process to all residents and the community dinner on Community Visit Day. Community members are also asked to contribute their time, energy, and skills to make sure the process is well-attended and capacity is built locally to follow through on the identified priorities.

During the Planning Phase, VCRD convenes a group of community members representing diverse interests in the community to identify community forum topics, discuss logistics, and build a plan for extensive and inclusive invitation and outreach. A local chairperson is identified who can be a point person for the process locally, advise VCRD, and help to coordinate and connect task forces as they get to work on selected priorities.

On Community Visit Day (step 1), community members come together in 4-6 focus forums to discuss assets, challenges, and ideas for the future of their town and enjoy a free community dinner. Topics for discussion are chosen in advance by a planning committee of local leaders. A listening team of federal, state, business, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders join the forums and dinner.

Following Step One, VCRD compiles ideas into a shared list of concrete action items for review by community members for a Community Meeting (step 2). In this meeting, community members will review, discuss, and “champion” the ideas they think will be most impactful, actionable, and important for the future of their community. Then, through a dot-voting exercise, participants will prioritize several key ideas and then sign up to join local task forces that will move each priority forward.

Community Resource Day (step 3) brings community members back together for the final step of the Community Visit process. The new task force groups (determined during Step Two) will convene to build action plans and strategies, set the scope of their work, and meet with a visiting team of resource providers and experts to identify available resources and funding opportunities. Each Task Force has a chairperson who will manage meetings and keep work moving forward. Local leaders will continue to have direct access through this process to statewide resources, grant opportunities, non-proft, state, and philanthropic partners, yet all action is focused at the local task force level.

Following Community Resource Day, Task Force groups will begin implementing the identified priorities through local volunteers. From here forward, all action is focused at the local task force level. VCRD staff will provide follow-up resources and assistance as needed to help communities succeed and also publish a final report and action plan that captures all of the inputs to the process, outlines the plans for action, and shares contact information for the visiting resource team.

What to Expect if Your Town is Hosting a Community Visit

The Community Visit program provides a structure for communities to determine priorities together, so results vary from town to town. Overall, towns report energized volunteers, better community engagement, and new connections to state, federal, and regional resources. For some towns, the Visit creates community goodwill and celebrations, such as Rutland’s Friday Night Live series; outdoor each summer week with live music, food and shopping opportunities. For others, it is used to leverage funds or planning resources, such as Pownal’s affordable housing project or Montgomery’s wastewater infrastructure and streetscape redesign. For some towns, the Visit provides a mechanism to talk about important issues and begin long term work for the future, as in Vernon’s village revitalization, or Killington’s 4-season tourism planning. And for still others, it is a chance to help the community get healthier; Brighton started a recreation program and Troy, Westfield, Jay, and Woodstock built and advertised new walking trails.

Thanks to the many funders of VCRD’s Community Visit Program who make this program possible. In 2023, financial support for the program came from Northern Border Regional Commission, Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Community National Bank, Lintilhac Foundation, National Life Foundation, Vermont Community Foundation, Vermont Humanities Council, and the Windham Foundation.

If your community would like more information about this program or is interested in hosting a Community Visit, please contact us at 802-223-6091 or [email protected]. A Community Visit One Pager Overview is also available to share with your fellow community members to learn more.