A Program for Community Assessment & Improvement
Have you ever wondered what people think about your community?
All communities have difficulties viewing their surroundings as others see them—customers, visitors, potential residents, and potential businesses. Our views may be skewed by familiarization, a lack of differing perspectives and expectations, and a reluctance to be completely honest with our neighbors regarding difficult issues such as the appearance of buildings, customer service, or maintenance of public facilities.
The First Impressions community exchange program was designed to help communities learn about their strengths and shortcomings through the eyes of first-time visitors. First Impressions is a structured community assessment that offers a fresh perspective on the appearance, services and infrastructure of each community. Volunteer teams undertake unannounced visits, record observations, and give constructive feedback to the exchange community. Team members receive training and follow procedures and reporting guidelines using a response manual. Reports from the program are often used as part of broader community assessment or planning processes to inform community policy and action. Hundreds of communities across the U.S. and Canada have used and found value in the program.
How the program works
Volunteer teams from two somewhat similar communities in terms of size, location, amenities or natural features, agree to do unannounced visits and then report on their findings. Participants become “secret shoppers” for the day to discover what they can about a similar community or neighborhood. Participants follow procedures and document their visit using a participant guide or an online version of the guide to upload photos and comments. The guide, which ensures that evaluations and reports are thorough and uniform, requires minimal training.
The University of Connecticut in partnership with the Connecticut Main Street Center has conducted the first Connecticut First Impressions Exchange since the fall of 2015. An application for future participants is available on “Download the Program Application” link above. Please read the information below and contact us if your community may be interested in conducting a visit. Laura Brown, Community & Economic Development Educator, University of Connecticut – Extension (203) 207-0063, firstname.lastname@example.org. Text below was adapted from the University of Wisconsin- Cooperative Extension First Impressions Coordinator Guide.