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Better Manchester Magazine

Many organizations and schools capture great data about their young people. Once they have the data, however, it’s tricky to get the attention of parents and the greater community.

One organization in Connecticut got creative. To communicate data about the young people in their community, they published a magazine and sent it to everyone--all 28,000 households in the town of Manchester.

The lively publication told a compelling story about their young people and gave everyone a sense of next steps to make the town a better place for youth.

Chris Silver and Rosaleen Torrey, from The Town of Manchester (CN) Office of Neighborhoods and Families, say the magazine gives them a tangible way to communicate the city's youth-related survey results to caring adults in their community.

How It Began

In 2008, the Town of Manchester created a Children, Youth and Family Master Plan for the community to address the needs of young people. As part of this master plan, the Office of Neighborhoods and Families was developed to provide long-term oversight for the plan and communicate progress related to the well-being of Manchester families and youth.

When creating this plan, the Town of Manchester implemented Search Institute’s Attitudes and Behaviors (A&B) survey to collect data about what young people were thinking and how they perceived supports from the community. “We knew that we needed baseline data to see if we were moving in the right direction,” said Silver. The Office of Neighborhoods and Families also used the results to make better-informed recommendations regarding youth.

“This was one of the first times we really listened to young people to create a strategic plan for the town,” said Silver about the A&B survey.

To keep the community informed on progress related to the plan and to other important initiatives involving families and youth, the office created a tri-annual publication. Better Manchester Magazine was created to communicate the plan progression with stories about how the community was becoming a better place for children and families. “[With the magazine] we are trying to change the way people think about the community by sharing information and being transparent,” said Silver.

A Community Report Card

Silver and Torrey said the decision to do an entire issue of Better Manchester Magazine on the Developmental Assets and the results of the A&B survey was an easy one. “It really was a community report card of where we’ve come in the last five years,” said Silver. “It was a perfect way for us to report the latest survey data and compare it to the data we collected in 2008.”

The magazine, which uses many colors, charts, images, and cartoons to illustrate the data, is a user-friendly guide to the Developmental Assets and Manchester’s youth. “I received comments from some friends of mine that they would not have picked up a report on the survey, but they liked being able to pick up the magazine and page through the images very quickly to discover where we are as a community,” said Silver. “The [data] visualization pages were very helpful in getting them to read the content.”

The magazine acknowledges up front that although Manchester has made some great strides in the last five years regarding young people, there is still a long way to go. “The advantage of transparency is that you can make things better when you acknowledge where you are currently,” said Torrey. “When we report information and candy-coat it, we’re never going to really get to the solution to the problem. We must be upfront and honest about it.”

Silver and Torrey encourage those who have given a Search Institute survey to communicate the results to the community. “You’ve done the research, here’s what young people are saying they want and need, so go do it,” said Silver. “That’s the best way we can create broad change in our community.”

Learn more about bringing the Attitudes and Behaviors (A&B) survey to your community >>


Publish Date: 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

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