FOCUS GROUP SUMMARY

#6 – Community Diversity, Inclusivity, and Resident Experience

The Vision and Values Community Diversity, Inclusivity, and Resident Experience Focus Group met virtually on September 23, with 29 participants attending the session. Future iQ introduced the format of discussion for the evening, the purpose being to explore the three questions below as they related to the topic of community diversity, inclusivity, and resident experience.

Participants were randomly assigned to breakout groups of 5-8 and asked to report back to the large group. The following paper synthesizes participant notes and live discussion of these questions; it concludes with some initial insights on the role community diversity, inclusivity, and resident experience may play in planning for the future of Falmouth.

1. What are the key things we are learning about this topic - from the surveys, background information, future trends, and Discussion Board comments?

  • What we have learned is that topics related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are important and valid in our community, whether people are aware of their biases or not. All should feel welcome and safe in Falmouth.
  • From experience (participant), being a non-white in Falmouth is difficult and more education about bias is needed. We need to stop using the term ‘from away’ and other code words.
  • The school system does a good job at creating a sense of community, but otherwise there is a sense of isolation for many. Affordability is a part of this and the lack of diversity in school administration affects education. Schools in Falmouth also have a challenge retaining students of color.
  • Survey indicates ‘aging in place’ is highly valued and we need to find ways to allow our aging population to feel included; a related topic is housing affordability.

2. What are the one or two important potential future-splitting decisions or issues facing Falmouth, related to this topic; and, what are the implications and trade-offs of these different future directions?

 *(Definition of a future-splitting decision or issue: Something that represents a fork in the road, where future outcomes are significantly shaped by the decision or direction)

  • Future-splitting condition: Welcoming vs. Unwelcoming. Falmouth has a golden opportunity to actualize a sense of welcoming in the community. We are relatively homogenous and therefore need intentional effort to take this direction. 
  • The future of inclusivity in this community is tied to real estate values, rising costs of living, multicultural learning, and support of DEI.
  • Where we end up on this issue may depend on whether or not we acknowledge diversity and inclusivity as issues of importance in the community.
  • The pathway is threefold: preserving experience, actively recruiting diversity, and education (diversity is key). 
  • How money is spent by the Town is future splitting for residents.
  • Community wellness and attitudes are future splitting for the Town. 
  • Potential strategy/solution: The Town can help by providing direct assistance to immigrant families (example, the Food Pantry in Portland); note suggestion to do away with the $10,000 payment needed to attend Falmouth schools if not a resident of the Town.

3. With regards to this focus group topic, where is the future ‘sweet spot’ for Falmouth?

*(Definition of a sweet spot: An optimal point or combination of factors or qualities)

  • Vision statements are sweet spots for intentionality; we want people to be richer, stronger and happier living here; eliminate labels.
  • Sweet spot: Think intentionally of what people need. For example, people with physical or neuro disabilities – we can do more with our trails and park experiences to be inclusive. Create more public spaces and community events for people to get together (social infrastructure). Developing a town center is a critical sweet spot for building community.
  • There is opportunity for Falmouth to become a welcoming beacon for inclusivity in the State of Maine through its education system, shared and green spaces, and social infrastructure such as the Library.
  • The Focus Group process is a reminder of how technology can bring people together, a potential sweet spot for Falmouth. The Town could provide more services using technology to bring diversity forward.

Consultant’s Insights:

  • Note the importance of intentionality for this topic. If change is to truly occur, the Town and its residents must be truly intentional about actions to change, especially in the areas of affordable housing and leadership. The Town and its residents will need to be intentional about including people.
  • On a macro level, the country is divided. We are seeing this issue all over the country and communities are trying to figure out how to come together. The Vision and Values process is a key start in building community and reaching common ground.
  • Society is becoming more complex; the door of inclusivity must be opened with intentionality. This is a topic that runs deep in the community and is impacting its social evolution.

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

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