Manchester Proud recently wrapped up listening sessions across the city with a wide range of participants who wanted to have a voice in the effort to develop a new strategic plan for the Manchester School District. These sessions were crucial to the overall work of crafting a comprehensive and impactful plan that represents the needs and desires of the Manchester community.

Between November and February, the Reaching Higher New Hampshire team – which has led the community engagement and overall project management work – partnered with Manchester Proud volunteers to schedule 116 listening sessions. Sessions were publicized on our website, through our Facebook page, and additional outreach was done through schools and community organizations to encourage individuals across the district to participate, including parents and students who attend public schools, private schools, charter schools and those who are home-schooled. Sessions were conducted in the city’s schools, nonprofit organizations, and other community-based locations to reach the greatest number of people. The Manchester Boys & Girls Club, Breakthrough Manchester, Manchester Community College, Granite United Way, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, and The Bookery, were just a few of the community partners that opened their doors and welcomed community members in to participate.

“We scheduled 113 listening sessions across the city, which enabled us to gather a substantial amount of high-quality data to inform the work ahead. This is a very exciting time as we wrap up seven months of community engagement work and Manchester Proud embarks on the planning and design process”, said Liz Canada, Reaching Higher’s lead on the community engagement work.

The sessions were very structured to ensure consistency and maintain data integrity. Each ran for one hour, utilized a professionally trained facilitator, and included about 10-12 participants to ensure that all participants were heard.

Now that the sessions have been completed, Reaching Higher will aggregate the data collected from these meetings through qualitative data analysis program and use statistical outcomes to identify trends. Anecdotal comments will also be synthesized. The final data reports will then be turned over to the recently formed Community Planning Group. This group, which met for the first time last week, is made up of parents, students, and other community members who submitted applications that were reviewed by an independent Selections Committee made up of Manchester community members.

The Community Planning Group will be working directly with Manchester Proud’s planning and design partner, 2Revolutions. In March, they will take a deep dive into the data reports from listening sessions, canvassing, town halls, one on one interviews, and survey work. They will use what they learn from these reports to begin the planning and design process in early spring.