PRS Students Testify Before the Board of Directors of Vital Communities
On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, Class of 1964 Policy Research Shop students, Wafaa Ahmed ’17 and Joby Bernstein ’17, traveled to White River Junction, VT to testify before the Board of Directors of Vital Communities, an Upper Valley nonprofit organization that focuses on economic development, energy and the environment, and social capital building. The students conducted two distinct analyses in their report, “Upper Valley Needs Assessment Research: Surveying Upper Valley Community Leaders,” PRS Policy Brief 1617-10.
The intent of the report is to provide evidence of community needs to the Vital Communities board in its strategic planning process. First, the students conducted a meta-analysis of previously published needs assessment conducted by nonprofits, hospitals, and government agencies in Vermont and New Hampshire. The themes that emerged from the meta-analysis included access to employment and affordable housing, access to health care, education, and community engagement. Second, the students conducted a survey of community leaders in all of the 69 towns that comprise the Upper Valley. More than 100 community leaders, including at least one leader from each of the 69 towns in the Upper Valley, responded to the 19-question survey created by the students.
The substantive policy issues of importance identified by the community leaders included taxes, jobs and economic development, affordable housing, infrastructure, drug addiction, school financing, and transportation. The survey also analyzed areas of coordination between communities in the Upper Valley. Respondents identified emergency services, transportation, health care, senior citizen programs, food banks, and drug abuse treatment programs as areas of coordination between communities. Finally, the community leaders identified a variety of nonprofits that are having a positive impact across the entire Upper Valley region; these organizations include: The Haven, Vital Communities, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Upper Valley Land Trust, Visiting Nurses, Advanced Transit, the Thompson Senior Center, and regional planning commissions. Following their presentation to the board, Ahmed and Bernstein responded to questions from the board members and Vital Communities staff members. Vital Communities Executive Director Tom Roberts thanked the students for their excellent work on both aspects of their report.