#6 – Community Diversity, Inclusivity, and Resident Experience

Designing communities for a range of ages, physical capabilities and cultural preferences is key to creating a strong sense of place and healthy, successful communities. Ensuring widespread accessibility of public space and a welcoming culture is an increasingly vital issue worldwide. As community demographics change, ensuring that the community welcomes diversity and embraces inclusivity and accessibility will become increasingly important to maintaining residents’ quality of life. Inclusion occurs in spaces and places that are designed for multiple public needs, cultural attitudes and social preferences.

People choose a range of types of engagement and where/how to spend time at events and gatherings differently. From work meetings and neighborhood gatherings to athletic fields, playgrounds and event venues, communities need to support a diversity of social interactions and experiences to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all residents.

Diversity, equity and inclusion is important for many people in our community and for those that consider joining our community. These demographics can include but are not limited to race, ethnicity, age, people struggling with mental health, people with physical and neurological disabilities, LGBTQ+, and more.

What we know so far (from the Community Survey results and background research work):

HISTORY

  • As of 2019, 18.7% of Falmouth’s population is 65 years and over. 24.9% of the population is under 18 years old.
  • As of 2019, 95.7% of Falmouth’s population identify as White alone, not Hispanic or Latino. 2.9% of the population identifies as Asian alone, 0.8% identifies as Hispanic or Latino, and 0.6% identifies as two or more races.
  • The 2019 U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year estimate median household income is $121,285 and the per capita income is $67,161. As of the 2019 survey, 2.7% of Falmouth’s population are persons in poverty.

RELATED MACRO TRENDS

  • The future focus for healthy communities comes from a preventative perspective, a holistic approach to physical and mental wellness, which includes a balance between work, family and other activities, and should be accessible to all income levels. It includes increased physical activity, stress reduction, healthy food, and community connections. To address this, communities are evolving to include improved designs for walking, cycling, playing and working, as well as integrating local food production opportunities, and facilitating community development. Especially emphasized during the pandemic, access to green spaces and ecosystems has positive effects on human health through various means.
  • Future trends in parks and recreation encourage diversity and inclusion by demanding a wider range of recreational practices. Gender neutral signage and services, for example, are slated to increase in demand and frequency. ESports is increasingly popular among younger people, presenting valuable potential for greater integration into public spaces. Sponsoring eSports events in public spaces can link sedentary gaming practices with associated events and activity challenges. Dog parks are another programming type growing in popularity. Larger dog parks have become destinations and can contribute significantly to community revenues and tourism.
  • To help communities build more equitable services for underserved community members, a current macro trend among many towns and cities is to establish Race and Equity Departments, hire Directors of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, or dedicate staff time to equity issues.

WHAT IS CURRENTLY HAPPENING IN FALMOUTH

  • The Falmouth School Department established an Intercultural Awareness and Inclusion Committee and has undertaken several diversity, equity, and inclusion activities in recent years as documented
  • Since Summer 2019, the Town of Falmouth has begun taking steps to understand racial justice issues as they exist in Falmouth and promote improvement, transparency, and accountability in our community by hosting a community-wide forum on police practices in Falmouth, enhancing access to police policies, hosting educational programming on Black history for senior staff members, and the Town Council’s considering of a Resolution on the Commitment to Racial Equity and Social Justice.
  • Falmouth Community Programs offers robust programming for youth, adults, and 55+ residents. The 55+ offerings, administered by the Department’s Senior Services Coordinator, include dedicated Senior room at the Mason-Motz Activity Center, free activities, and 55+ newsletter.
  • In 2019, the Town established a Community Wellness Committee charged with determining best strategies and practices to inform and promote wellness for individuals, families, and the community of Falmouth as a whole, educating and engaging the public around available wellness resources, and responding to relevant and current challenges and opportunities that impact community wellbeing.
  • The Falmouth Food Pantry serves approximately 500 families per year, in Falmouth as well as in neighboring communities such as Portland, Westbrook, Cumberland, and Yarmouth. In addition to providing food, the Food Pantry also helps families find affordable housing, job training, affordable medical care, and whatever else it takes to help neighbors in need.
  • Since 2019, the Town has had a strategic plan to provide assistance, education and awareness around substance misuse.
  • The Town is currently considering an evaluation of mental health needs in the community.

WHAT THE COMMUNITY SURVEY RESULTS SHOW

  • Falmouth Community Survey participants were asked to indicate how important they believed the following community and social fabric topics will be in shaping the future of Falmouth. Using a scale of 1-3 (not important), 4-7 (neutral), and 8-10 (important)., below are the results:
    • Accommodating aging-in-place: 4% not important, 33% neutral, 63% important
    • Attracting under-represented populations: 21% not important, 34% neutral, 45% important
    • Creating health and wellness opportunities: 8% not important, 33% neutral, 59% important
    • Creating a sense of belonging to a community: 4% not important, 23% neutral, 73% important
    • Embracing equity and inclusivity principles: 14% not important, 28% neutral, 58% important
    • Ensuring community safety: 1% not important, 14% neutral, 85% important
    • Fostering distinct neighborhoods each with their own sense of place: 30% not important, 50% neutral, 20% important

CONSULTANT’S INSIGHTS and POTENTIAL TRADE-OFFS

  • During the Future Summits held in March 2021, in response to a question ‘How important is the overall ‘community experience’ of Falmouth to you?’ Almost all respondents said it was relatively to critically important. This suggests that focusing on fostering the sense of place and sense of community is a good long-term approach.
  • There is no doubt that most people in Falmouth want to create an open, safe, inclusive, and healthy community. This type of ‘community building’ can be more complex in today’s busy world, where people are torn between demands of work, commuting, family and community.
  • Community diversity and inclusivity is a big topic, and top-of-mind for many communities and people. Creating greater social and demographic diversity can bring many benefits, but it also can bring change. Understanding and intentionally thinking about the purpose and values of advocating for greater diversity and inclusivity is important. If this is to be a key community value, it is essential to understand why it is a key value.

We would love to hear your thoughts!

Falmouth residents highly support creating a sense of belonging in the community, and the majority of residents consider embracing equity and inclusivity principles as an important part of the future for the Town.
How do you think the community can achieve these goals? What do you think would be the best approach for the community to foster community diversity, inclusivity and a desirable resident experience?
Comments made via this portal are public. We expect conversations to follow the rules of polite discourse. Messages containing inappropriate content or language will be removed at the discretion of Future iQ.

9 Comments

The top priority for the community is safety…by a long shot. This is not mentioned in the consultants comments. Inclusivity and diversity is not in the top 3 and should not be commented on as being a big topic. According to the survey results it is NOT a big topic. The big topics that Falmouth wants to focus on are 1. safety 2. accommodating age in place 3. health and wellness. Let’s focus where the people want to focus!

Well stated Todd. We need to use the survey to determine what Falmouth residents are really concerned about. The macro trends are interesting but in many cases do not apply to Falmouth.

I agree, this is not a top priority for the community, and flat out a recipe for disaster cooked up by some a small number of elites who think they know what’s best for everyone else. These elitists believe they are better than you, enjoy telling how everyone else should think and behave, telling you that your are discriminating a group or a racist if you think differently, a form of discrimination in itself. While I believe Falmouth and our community at large are all in for having a welcoming community that is open to diversity, treating all who come here with respect and dignity, this topic is not worth our spending our hard earned tax payer dollars, funding social justice consultants to divide us. We should focus less on equity but continue to focus on equality, equality of our individual rights (essential, moral rights, opportunity). Equity of outcome, which equity is, means to take from one group and give to another (forced redistribution), and to blame discrimination for the disparity – that is evil and must be opposed at all costs.

58% of town residents who responded to the survey felt that “Embracing equity and inclusivity principles” was important. Given this information I believe that we need to be aware of this as decisions are made regarding affordable housing. Without at least some affordable housing we are clearing excluding a large number of individuals who could add great value to this community.

All residents should be able to enjoy life to the fullest of their capabilities with liberty and freedom for all. We should ensure that the community operates within the Constitutions and Laws of the United States and Maine. No group should receive preferential treatment and the Town should not institute any programs which give special benefits to any group. The Town should not initiate any programs other than supporting the Laws and Constitutions. All residents should be treated equally and without prejudice!

MODERATOR COMMENT: It is great to see these conversational threads evolve.
These Discussions Boards are being moderated to match the stated guidelines: “Comments made via this portal are public. We expect conversations to follow the rules of polite discourse. Messages containing inappropriate content or language will be removed at the discretion of Future iQ”. To date, we have had to exclude a number of comments that are critical about people or groups, or are obviously off-purpose (unrelated political commentary; for example). PLEASE remember, these are open community conversations, to which a wide range of people are contributing – including school students. These Discussion Boards are an opportunity for thoughtful, polite and convivial community discussion focused on exploring specific important issues. Please consider ‘tone and content’ before submitting, as we will draw a clear line – and exclude – inappropriate messages. Thank you.

I believe that community diversity, inclusivity and resident experience is very important and I look forward to further discussion on this topic. I attended the town council meeting on April 12th at which they received public comment on their statement “Town of Falmouth Resolution On the Commitment to Racial Equity and Social Justice”. At that meeting I heard residents comment that they don’t believe there is any inequity or racism in Falmouth, and I heard others talk incidents in which they, and their loved ones, have experienced lack of inclusion in Falmouth. If a priority for our discussions is safety, as commented above, then safety of all residents (and future residents) must be considered. Given how dynamic this discussion was at the town council meeting, I believe it is equally important as part of the Visions and Values process now.

There are, of course, lots of ways to look at statistics. But my reading of the responses suggests that 58% of Falmouth residents see inclusivity and equity to be important issues, compared to only 14% of Falmouth residents see these issues as not important, the remainder being neutral. The importance of safety has been mentioned above, and in reality, if you don’t feel included in a community, you can feel unsafe. Falmouth prides itself in its excellent schools. In my opinion and understanding, where economic, ethnic, and racial diversity exist in schools, and where equity and inclusivity are encouraged, young people are provided a richer educational experience – they are better prepared for the world they will live in.

Thank you for the great discussion at last night’s focus group! I look forward to continuing the conversation at an upcoming Think Tank.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

MORE INFORMATION​

For more information about the Town of Falmouth Vision and Values project, please contact:

David Beurle, CEO
Future iQ
Phone: (612) 757-9190
david@future-iq.com

Skip to toolbar