A Program for
Community Assessment and Improvement
"First Impressions" is just what the name implies, capturing the thoughts and observations of visitors on their first visit to a community. These observations, both positive and negative, are then used to raise issues that the community can evaluate and prioritize for in-depth study or immediate action.
In 2006, The Mississippi State Community Action Team (MSCAT) first partnered with the Mississippi State University Extension Service to implement a statewide "First Impressions" program designed to help communities assess and improve themselves through a structured visitation program. Developed by Professor Andrew Lewis, University of Wisconsin, and James Schneider, Grant County (WI) Extension Office, in the early 1990s, the program has now been successfully used in many states and hundreds of communities across the country.
Response for the program has been exciting. To help meet the demand and serve more communities sooner than later, MSCAT partnered with the West Alabama-East Mississippi (WAEM) Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) Team from Jones County Junior College in 2007. Now, JCJC manages and leads first impressions teams in their region.
The idea is for a team of five or six individuals from diverse backgrounds, interests, and occupations from one community to visit another community with some similar characteristic, e.g., population base, river town, historic/tourism base, etc., and record observations on specific issues like education, health care, housing, infrastructure, amenities, retail business, industrial activity, etc. A written report is then provided to community leaders to be used in a town hall type meeting to inform and solicit input from citizens on issues that may need to be addressed. A key component of the program is a commitment by the visited community to identify five or six individuals willing and able to serve as team members ("visitors") for another community visit. The process perpetuates itself until all communities desiring a visit are served.
Any recognized group representing community-wide interests, such as a Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Association, city hall, or formalized citizens group can make a request for a community visit. Since the program is largely volunteer-driven and funding has been secured to cover the introductory phase, the program is free to communities until initial funds are depleted.
This project was initiated by a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). SBA's funding should not be construed as an endorsement of any products, opinions, or services. All SBA-funded projects are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.
MSU Led Projects:Aberdeen, MS
Bay St. Louis, MS
Blue Springs, MS
French Camp, MS
Horn Lake, MS
Pass Christian, MS
Port Gibson, MS
Rolling Fork, MS
Walnut Grove, MS
Water Valley, MS
JCJC Led Projects:Bay Springs, MS
Mt. Olive, MS