About the First Impressions Program
- First Impressions Summary Program Flyer (Free PDF)
- REVISED in 2014 Community Impressions Participant Guide (Free PDF or order formatted booklets)
- Original (2007) First Impressions Participant Guide (Free PDF)
- NEW in 2014 Neighborhood Impressions Participant Guide A simplified version of the original, for very small places or urban neighborhoods. (Free PDF or order formatted booklets)
- REVISED in 2014 Coordinator Manual (PDF – coming soon!)
- Original (2007) First Impressions Coordinator Manual
- Sample Final Report PowerPoint Presentations
- List of completed community reports
- Other resources and adaptations of the First Impressions Program
A program for community assessment & improvement
The University of Wisconsin-Extension often helps communities assess community development opportunities and develop strategies for community improvement. The First Impressions program helps communities learn about existing strengths and weaknesses through the eyes of the first-time visitor and provides a structured opportunity to learn about strengths and weaknesses of similar communities. The results from a First Impressions visit can serve as the basis for community action and as a way to document changes in the community over time.
All communities have difficulties viewing their surroundings as others—customers, visitors, potential residents, and potential businesses—see them. Our views are skewed by over-familiarization, a lack of differing perspectives, expectations, and a reluctance to be completely honest with our neighbors when dealing with difficult issues, such as the appearance of buildings, customer service, and the maintenance of public facilities.
How does it work? Volunteers from two somewhat similar communities in terms of size, location, and county seat, etc., agree to do unannounced visits and then report on their findings. Participants become “secret shoppers” for the day to discover what they can about a similar community or neighborhood. Participants follow procedures and document their visit using a participant guide or an online version of the guide to upload photos and comments. The guide, which ensures that evaluations and reports are thorough and uniform, requires minimal training.
First Impressions print materials and additional training and marketing resources are available on the UW-Extension Learning Store at learningstore.uwex.edu. For more information contact your County Community Development Educator or the Center for Community & Economic Development (CCED). CCED University of Wisconsin-Extension cced.ces.uwex.edu (608) 265-8136 TTY: 1-800-947-3529 firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s New in First Impressions?
- The questions you like, more adaptable for your community needs. Visit teams often find the reflection questions at the beginning and end of the booklet to be the most valuable. None of these questions have changed.
- Clearer and more consistent wording of questions and a revised table of contents that makes it easier for participants to locate topics during their visit.
- A new “grading” system for questions that eliminates the numeric rating system and encourages participants to grade based on their expectations and provide more valuable supplemental comments.
- More ways to access First Impressions materials.
- Communities can access the 8 ½- x 11-inch paper version of Community First Impressions (G4040-01) at no cost and at any time by downloading a PDF directly from the Learning Store
- Booklet-sized printed versions of Community First Impressions may be ordered from the Learning Store for a small per-unit charge.
- The online version is created on request. Inquire with the UW-Extension Center for Community & Economic Development.
- Supplemental training and orientation materials—including the coordinator manual, PowerPoint slides, and online videos— are also available on request.
- A supplemental, mobile-device friendly online version of the survey allows participants to enter observations, photos, and photo descriptions using either the paper tool or their smart phone or tablet. Visit coordinators can use the online survey tool to easily compile their report. To obtain a survey link for your community, contact the UW-Extension Center for Community & Economic Development.
- A new version designed for neighborhoods and small communities. Neighborhood First Impressions (G4040-02) is a simplified version of the original, for very small places or urban neighborhoods.
- New sections that specifically address downtowns, retail, and tourism ideal for use with Downtown or Main Street organizations. These sections are not included in the neighborhood version.
- More questions about timely, relevant issues, including changing demographics (an aging population, changing racial/ethnic demographics, and a focus on retaining young people), health and physical activity, sustainability and adaptation to climate change, and access to technology infrastructure. Overall, you’ll find more focus on questions to encourage community discussion about diversity and inclusion.
First developed by Andy Lewis and James Schneider in 1991, First Impressions has gone through several revisions that integrate questions about timely and relevant emerging issues that communities face. The communities of Fennimore, Wisconsin and Bellevue, Iowa first piloted the program on April 15, 1991. Since that time, hundreds of communities across the U.S. and Canada have found value in the program.
The final reports serve as a basis for community action and provide a “snap-shot” of the community at a specific point in time. These recorded assessments can be an outstanding way to measure progress within a community.
- Orientation Presentation for Visitation Teams (pdf 3-17-08)
- Beloit First Impressions Presentation (pdf 2-14-08)
Sample Final Report Community PowerPoint Presentations
- LaCrosse, Wisconsin First Impressions pdf
- Little Chute, Wisconsin First Impressions pdf
- Omro Wisconsin First Impressions pdf
- Winter, Wisconsin First Impressions ppt
List and Final Reports of Participating Communities
Past reports from the First Impressions program can serve as a useful tool for measuring progress within a community and to assess whether or not progress is being made. Communities could also benefit from the experiences of other communities participating in the program. Because leadership within communities is constantly changing, this section of the web site is used as a depository for First Impressions reports. If a community is not listed as a past participant but has participated, please send the report to to the address below and it will be added to this web site. An electronic version of the document that would be best. However, if only a hard copy is available, send the print version, and the document will be scanned and uploaded. Reports can be emailed to email@example.com or mailed to:
Center for Community Economic Development University of Wisconsin Extension 610 Langdon Street Room 328 Madison, WI 53703
To get a sense of what the final report should look like, refer to the Cable, Wisconsin report, Merrill, Wisconsin report, or Antigo, Wisconsin report. In 2007 the communities of LaCrosse, Wisconsin and Oshkosh, Wisconsin did a the first exchange between communities exceeding 50,000 in population.
To view a copy of the report simply click on the community name below. If there is not a hyperlink on the community name, it means that a copy of the report was not submitted to the CCED. The archived reports are available in Adobe Acrobat “pdf” form and require the free Adobe Acrobat viewer. The quality of the files varies due to the fact that most of the reports were created by scanning a print copy of the report. Following the scan, the images were edited using character recognition software so that the text of the report would be searchable (use the binoculars icon within the Acrobat Reader software to search a report by a keyword). In some instances the OCR software was unable to recognize text and converted text incorrectly.
As noted in the First Impressions Users guide, the final reports simply record the reactions and thoughts of a few visitors. The reports are not intended to be an objective review of communities….that’s not the intent of the program. While the comments are subjective in nature, these reports capture perspectives on a community at a specific point in time. These reports might assist communities interested in gauging progress on a number of community development issues.
Almena, Wisconsin Amherst, Wisconsin Antigo,Wisconsin Arcadia,Wisconsin Argyle,Wisconsin Arlington, Minnesota Ashland, Wisconsin Atchison, Kansas Baraboo,Wisconsin Baraboo,Wisconsin #2 Barron, Wisconsin Barron, Wisconsin #2 Beaver Dam, Wisconsin Bellevue, Iowa Belmont, Wisconsin Benton, Wisconsin Berlin, Wisconsin Black River Falls, Wisconsin Blanchardville, Wisconsin Bloomer, Wisconsin Bloomington, Wisconsin Boscobel, Wisconsin Boscobel, Wisconsin #2 Boscobel, Wisconsin #3 Brillion, Wisconsin Broadhead, Wisconsin Burlington, Wisconsin Cabin Creek, West Virginia Cable, Wisconsin Caldwell, Ohio Campbellsport, Wisconsin Cambridge, Wisconsin Cashton, Wisconsin Cassville, Wisconsin Centerville, Wisconsin Chetek, Wisconsin Chilton, Wisconsin Clinton, Wisconsin Clinton, Illinois Cokato, Minnesota Columbus, Wisconsin Columbus Junction, Iowa Cowen/Camden-on-Gauley, West Virginia Crandon, Wisconsin Cresco, Iowa Cuba City, Wisconsin Cuba City, Wisconsin #2 Darlington, Wisconsin DeWitt, Iowa Eagle River, Wisconsin Edgerton, Wisconsin Elkhorn, Wisconsin Elkins, West Virginia Ellsworth, Wisconsin Elroy, Wisconsin Evansville, Wisconsin Fennimore, Wisconsin Fennimore, Wisconsin #2 Fennimore, Wisconsin #3 Fennimore, Wisconsin #4 Fertile, Minnesota Florence, Wisconsin Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin Fountain, Minnesota Fulton, Illinois Genoa City, Wisconsin Back to TopGlenville, West VirginiaGrafton, WisconsinGrantsburg, Wisconsin Grantsvill, West Virginia Green Lake, Wisconsin Greenville, Maine Guttenberg, Iowa Hallock, Minnesota Hartland, Minnesota Harts, West Virginia, Harvard, Illinois Heritage First, Wisconsin Hinton, West Virginia Holmen, Wisconsin Horicon, Wisconsin Hurley, Wisconsin Hurricane, West Virginia Iron Heritage, Wisconsin Jefferson, Wisconsin Kaukauna, Wisconsin Kendall, Wisconsin Keokuk, Iowa Kewaunee, Wisconsin Kewaunee, Illinois LaCrosse, Wisconsin Lac Du Flambeau, Wisconsin Ladysmith, Wisconsin Lake Mills, Wisconsin Lancaster, Wisconsin Lancaster, Wisconsin #2 Lancaster, Wisconsin #3 Lena, Illinois Liberal, Kansas Livingston, Wisconsin Logan, West Virginia Lyndon Station, Wisconsin, Martinsburg, West Virginia Mauston, Wisconsin Mauston, Wisconsin #2 Mayville, Wisconsin Mendota, Illinois Menominee, Wisconsin Mercer, Wisconsin Merrill, Wisconsin Middleton, Wisconsin Milton, Wisconsin Montfort, Wisconsin Monticello, Wisconsin Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin Muscoda, Wisconsin Necedah, Wisconsin New Glarus, Wisconsin New Holstein, Wisconsin New Lisbon, Wisconsin New London, Wisconsin Norwalk, Wisconsin Oelwein, Iowa Omro, Wisconsin Onalaska, Wisconsin Oregon, Illinois, Oregon, Wisconsin Oshkosh, Wisconsin Phillips, Wisconsin Phillips, Wisconsin #2 Plain, Wisconsin Platteville, Wisconsin Plover, Wisconsin Plymouth, Wisconsin Polo, IllinoisPortage, WisconsinPotosi/Tennyson, WisconsinPotosi/Tennyson, Wisconsin #2 Pynette, Wisconsin Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin Prescott, Wisconsin Preston, Iowa Princeton, Illinois Random Lake, Wisconsin Reedsburg, Wisconsin Reinbeck, Iowa Rhinelander, Wisconsin Rhinelander, Wisconsin #2 Rice Lake, Wisconsin Richland Center, Wisconsin Richwood, West Virginia Rio, Wisconsin Ripon, Wisconsin River Falls, Wisconsin Rochelle, Illinois Rupert, West Virginia Salem, Illinois Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin Seymour, Wisconsin Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin Shell Lake, Wisconsin Shullsburg, Wisconsin Sigourney, Iowa Sister Bay, Wisconsin Sisterville, West Virginia Sparta, Wisconsin Spencer, West Virginia Spooner, Wisconsin Spring Green, Wisconsin St. Mary’s, West Virginia Stevens Point, Wisconsin Stoughton, Wisconsin Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin Sun Prairie, Wisconsin Teas Valley Area, West Virginia Terra Alta, West Virginia Tomah, Wisconsin Tomah, Wisconsin #2 Trempealeau, Wisconsin Washburn, Wisconsin Waterford, Wisconsin Waterloo, Wisconsin Waupaca, Wisconsin Waupun, Wisconsin Wausau, Wisconsin Wautoma, Wisconsin Wautoma, Wisconsin Wayne, West Virginia Webster, Wisconsin Weirton, West Virginia Westfield, Wisconsin West Side Charleston, West Virginia Whitehall, Wisconsin Whitewater, Wisconsin Wittenberg, Wisconsin Wonewoc, Wisconsin
These materials could be used to introduce a community to the First Impressions Program
- Sample PowerPoint Presentation
- First Impressions Video – 7 minute version (Produced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ontario, Canada (Copied with permission from Clare Wasteneys, Program Lead, Community Economic Development Unit. This unit will play in Windows Media Player and may take some time to begin playing.
- First Impressions Video – 2 minute version (Produced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ontario, Canada)
- First Impressions Flyer
- Sample Newspaper Article Summarizing a visit to Fort Atkinson, WI, Nov 17, 2010
Adaptations of the Program
The notion of using the “secret shopper” approach to evaluating communities has gotten a number of people excited about using this same approach in other settings. Others have chosen to make modifications to the program for use with their own communities.
First Impressions of the U.W. Extension Office – Andy Lewis (2002) (html web-page version only)
- Community Programs
- Community Assistance Teams: Increasing Community Readiness for Recruitment of Health Care Providers – Dr. Ken Shannon (firstname.lastname@example.org), Dept. of Family Medicine, Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center, Morgantown, WV
- Community Connections: A First Impressions Program for Campuses – Steve Kohlstedt, U.W.-Extension Community Educator & James Schneider, Blue Chip Consulting, modified the program to utilize students to evaluate the U.W. campuses at Richland Center & Platteville. Results were shared with the campus in a Powerpoint format.
- Community Swap, University of Illinois Extension
- Designing the Future, Deptment of Design, Housing, and Apparel, college of Design, Univesity of Minnesota, Sherri Gahring
- First Impressions Community Exchange, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ontario, Canada
- First Impressions Community Exchange, Ministry of Agrictulture and Rural Development, Alberta, Canada
- First Impressions, Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, Kansas State University
- First Impressions, Greenville, Maine, Roger L. Merchant, Regional Extension Educator, UMaine Cooperative Extension utilized the First Impressions program in a tourism planning class (PRT470) to provide Greenville with an assessment and recommendations for their tourism industry. For a copy of the report and evaluation, click on the appropriate link.
- First Impressions, Mississippi State Community Action Team, Mississippi State University
- First Impressions, West Virginia University Extension
- First Impressions, Part of the Municipal Economic Development Toolkit, USAID, LED Ukraine, There is currently a version in English, Ukranian, Spanish and Russian.
- First Impressions, Ohio State University Extension
- Main Street First Impressions Program
- County Fair Programs
- Resort Programs
- Resort Impressions Manual: Guidelines for Using the First Impressions Program for the Tourism Industry (1997) (Adobe Acrobat pdf file version only)
- Final Report for Burnett and Washburn Counties (Adobe Acrobat pdf file version only)
- Resort Impressions Manual: Guidelines for Using the First Impressions Program for the Tourism Industry (1997) (Adobe Acrobat pdf file version only)
- Heritage Tourism Sites Programs
- State Park Programs
This material was prepared by Andy Lewis