Connected Community Initiative to foster collaboration among Deerfield boards

Staff Writer
Published: 11/9/2021 2:10:56 PM

DEERFIELD — In an effort to tie town board and committee efforts together, the town is launching the Connected Community Initiative, which will help create an “overall vision” for Deerfield.

The umbrella committee, which was devised by resident Lili Dwight and will be headed by Planning Board member Denise Mason, will seek to foster, as described by Mason, “better communication, collaboration and innovation” among the town’s many projects and undertakings.

“We know that old ways don’t open new doors,” Mason said at an Oct. 12 Select Board meeting. “CCI creates a platform for transferring institutional knowledge more efficiently and promotes greater continuity.”

Dwight said the idea came out of her time serving on the Ad Hoc Senior Housing Committee and her observations that many boards are working toward similar goals, but don’t always cooperate with one another.

“We realized there are a lot of committees and organizations with parallel visions,” Dwight said. “It was a race with 20 chariots running in this general direction colliding all over the place.”

The Select Board said the initiative will be a great way to round up all the projects the town is undertaking and find ways to tie them together that would allow the town to qualify for additional grants.

“We’re missing out on a large number of grants the town of Deerfield could get,” commented Select Board Chairman Dave Wolfram. “There’s money out there, with few strings attached. It’s important to get together.”

Wolfram said the town needs to get the Connected Community Initiative off the ground as soon as possible, as budget season is approaching.

“It’s important we get it going sooner rather than later,” Wolfram said. “It’s time to grab the bull by the horns and get it done.”

Fellow Select Board member Carolyn Shores Ness said the initiative could tap into the “synergy” of town committees and get projects moving in the right direction.

“It’s really important we have an overall vision,” Shores Ness said. “We have very limited resources — how do we get maximum dollars for every project as efficiently and effectively as we can?”

Shores Ness nominated Mason as chair of the new committee and said this will help every board involved. The committee will feature representatives from the Finance Committee, Conservation Commission, the Zoning Board of Appeals and other town boards.

“Our efficiency level and ability to pull a plan together will be so enhanced,” Shores Ness said. “It’s less work and we’ll have more of a product in the end.”

Dwight said in an interview that the Connected Community Initiative is the first step in “revitalizing” South Deerfield.

“Everybody needs to be at the table,” Dwight said. “This is the groundwork that needed to be done.”

She added that the town coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic represents a perfect opportunity for a drastic change in how town boards work together.

“There’s moments in time when things can happen and this is one of them,” Dwight said. “There’s been so much disruption and people are open to positive, community-based projects because they haven’t been feeling much community.”

Members of the Connected Community Initiative will host their first meeting on Nov. 10, at 6 p.m.

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