On Wednesday, May 23, our GreaterTogether Listening Tour 2018 stopped at the Cheney Hall in Manchester. Nearly 35 residents joined Hartford Foundation President Jay Williams for an inspiring community conversation. After a short introduction, the floor was opened to give those in attendance the opportunity to share what they love about living in Manchester, as well as some of the challenges facing their community.
Here are a few things we learned throughout the course of the evening:
Manchester has a lot to offer residents! As one resident said, “If you can’t find anything to do in Manchester, I can’t help you!” From festivals to street fairs and art shows the first Thursday of every month, there is something for everyone. There are afterschool and summer programs for students interested in the arts. However, there is still a contingent of people who do not know what is going on in town. How can these residents be better engaged in their community?
As we’ve heard at almost every Tour stop, there is a need for gathering spaces in town to serve a variety of different functions, from a meeting space for nonprofits, a safe place for children to learn and grow, a place for seniors, an arts center and a modern library. Would a community center be the answer? How can the Foundation be a partner in this?
Manchester has a lot of diversity and celebrates it. However, during our discussion, some voices were missing. It was clear that segments of the town's population were not represented. As we move forward with these Listening Tours, how can the Foundation encourage a diversity of voices to take part? Who can help us get the word out to these communities?
A few residents raised concerns about the perception that Manchester’s education system is low performing, and that is keeping new residents from buying homes in town. This perception is not entirely correct. While there is still more work to do in closing the achievement and opportunity gaps, great strides have been made to improve the performance of the district by working to strengthen school, family and community partnerships. How can we continue to work together to not only improve education, but also change perceptions?
Volunteerism in Manchester is not only declining but also aging. How can we help inspire a new generation to give of their time and serve their community? Other towns are experiencing the same issue — what might we learn from others?
There was a discussion about regionalism. How do we act as a region while still maintaining the specialness of Manchester? One suggestion was to map the region's assets as a way to share with other towns what is already in place.
Thank you to everyone who attended our seventh Listening Tour event! If there are any additional ideas you would like share, please email them to email@example.com. We would love to hear from you! Our next stop is Auerfarm in Bloomfield on June 13. Visit greatertogether2018.org for more information on how to register!
Constanza Segovia of Veo Veo Design created this drawing based on the conversation at our Manchester Listening Tour event.