By Casey Hancock, Community and Economic Development State Program Coordinator
The UNH Cooperative Extension Community Development team has implemented Community Profiles across New Hampshire since 1990; since then 84 communities have created a vision through the program. Communities report that using the Profile has helped initiate and complete projects, increased local leadership and engaged new people in community life.
Due to New Hampshire’s changing landscape, the Community Profiles program has been recently updated. Candia was the first community to experience the updated program.
Community Engagement was a large focus of the Candia Community Profile—both at the Community Profile event in April and prior to the event. The steering committee used a variety of tools to engage a wide population of Candia Community members. They were successful in conducting a student artwork project at the local school, hosting long-time resident storytelling circles, and using posters for people to prioritize issues and share thoughts at the New Hampshire Primary Election and Candia Town Meeting. The additional input gathered through these activities added another dimension to the Community Profile, as it provided opportunity for input from a broader audience. Many of the comments gathered before the event were very consistent with conversations at the Community Profile event.
Another update was modifying the 10 components of a vibrant community. These components are a set of topics that help guide conversations at the Community Profile, and are representative of what makes a community successful now and in the long-term future. The components are drawn from the work of the National Civic League and adapted by UNH Cooperative Extension.
New topics have been integrated: economic vitality, climate and energy, broadband internet, and community spaces. Economic vitality focuses on the whole community, including local jobs and businesses, entrepreneurship, and workforce development. Climate and energy are relevant topics in New Hampshire as communities are beginning to consider alternative energy sources and plan for the impacts of climate change. Access to broadband internet is another important consideration for New Hampshire communities—high speed internet is crucial for economic development and connecting community members to resources. Community spaces are another often-discussed topic at Community Profiles, as these spaces are necessary for community members to have opportunity to connect and interact.
Many of the Action Groups identified at the Candia Community Profile directly connect to the new additions to the 10 components of a vibrant community. The following groups were formed at the Profile: 1) Natural Resources, Recreation and Cultural Heritage; 2) Communication, Leadership, and Engagement; 3) Community Spaces; 4) Balancing Economic Growth and Quality of Life; 5) Transportation and Infrastructure.
The updates to the Community Profile have been very successful. The increased amount of community engagement was certainly beneficial in gathering the most representative information about Candia by engaging a broader audience. The 10 components of a vibrant community also proved to be very relatable and relevant to Candia. Our next Community Profile has begun in Antrim and we look forward to their engagement efforts and their response to the new components of a vibrant community.