This initiative aims at painting a portrait of life in Sussex County, Delaware through community engagement events, essay competitions and surveys so that its citizens may make informed and enduring decisions about their community.
This Heart & Soul of Sussex County project asks Sussex County, DE residents what makes their county special and unique.
The initiative, sponsored by the Coastal Community Enhancement Initiative of the University of Delaware, brings together three colleges and their outreach arms that work at the community level. They are Cooperative Extension, Institute for Public Administration and the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service.
The project is based on Heart & Soul Community Planning process created by the Orton Family Foundation, and Orton's belief "that when a community takes the time to get to know itself, its Heart & Soul elements - it will gain a sense of identity and purpose that will empower its citizens to make strong enduring decisions and take right action to protect and strengthen who they are. And that only by going to, listening to, and learning from everyone - the influential and the forgotten, old timers and newcomers, young and old, rich and poor, business owners and workers, professionals and tradesmen, the noisy and the quiet - can shared purpose and identity live in and guide a community."
Heart & Soul of Sussex County invited the community to lend their voices and opinions in a number of ways including essay contests, "Sussex in a Sentence" challenges, photo contests and surveys; all with the aim of articulating the Sussex' community character. Project organizers followed up this community discovery process with dialogues and forums to dig into community values, and identified 6 Core Elements of Heart & Soul: farm community; small towns with rich character; beach communities; history; natural areas; and people.
Finally, project organizers produced a video and final report with a discussion guide and plan for moving forward through economic development, community building, and growth.