The First Impressions program was developed to help 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. It’s a program that has stood the test of time (23 years).
First developed by Andrew Lewis and James Schneider in 1991, First Impressions has gone through several revisions that integrate questions about timely and relevant emerging issues faced by communities. Since its inception, hundreds of communities across the U.S. and Canada have found value in the program.
Volunteers from two somewhat similar communities (size, location, county seat, etc.) agree to do unannounced visits and then report on their findings. Participants became “secret shoppers” for the day to discover what they can about a similar community or neighborhood. They 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.
Thanks to the work of Laura Brown and Amy Greil, there is now a 2014 version that can be found at the Learning Store: Community Participant Guide.
In addition, there is now an on-line tool that can be used to collect your visitation team comments and compile your final report. This requires the use of the Qualtrics survey tool. Any Extension faculty/staff member can use Qualtrics by using their net i.d. name and password: https://uwex.qualtrics.com/ The CCED can you send you the appropriate survey template to edit for use in your community, or you can click here for instructions on how to download and manage the files: instructions: https://drive.google.com/a/ces.uwex.edu/file/d/0B1edxvwfJTKRWWJISlgzYTBIRDg/view?usp=sharing
Thanks to the work of Laura Brown, Laura Dombrock, and Ann Wied, there is also a “Neighborhood Version”. The Neighborhood First Impressions Participant Guide is a simplified version of the Community First Impressions Participant Guide (G4040-01) that is intended for very small places or urban neighborhoods. That version can be found at the Learning Store: Neighborhood Participant Guide.
For more information on the First Impressions program please visit the CCED website.