Design Assistance

This small town was experiencing double-digit unemployment and severe strains when they brought a national Design Assistance team to town in 2009. The civic mood was nostalgic. As one resident remarked, “I’ve seen Newport come, and I’ve seen it go.” Following the process, a dramatic transformation took place. As Mayor Paul Monette stated, “It wasn’t the usual political process. Everyone was heard.”

The city held a ‘Sugar on Snow’ festival to kick off the process. This involved hundreds of residents, generating community momentum and encouraging a positive attitude among civic and business leaders.

Newport was able to achieve success through broad partnership and involvement. It also leveraged small actions to build momentum for larger investments. For example, a workshop recommendation was to create an urban community garden. 32 organisations collaborated to make it happen and programmed it to have a transformational impact. The “Grow a Neighbourhood” program teaches neighbourhood residents about urban agriculture, providing space for family plots, and engaging local restaurants in a farm to table initiative. Six new restaurants opened in the downtown during the first two years of implementation.

Newport also took advantage of widespread community participation in the R/UDAT to engage citizens in planning code changes, designing a participatory process to create the first form-based code in the state. This enabled new developments including boutique hotels, a tasting centre featuring regional agriculture, and a waterfront resort. The city also created the state’s first foreign trade zone, attracting a Korean biotech and other firms. They implemented a branding strategy, and formed partnerships on tourism, and a host of other initiatives. Just 3 years later, Newport had over $200 million in new investment and 2,000 jobs in the pipeline– an incredible achievement in the midst of a severe national recession.

Mayor Paul Monette stated, “I attribute our success to the successful R/UDAT in 2009 followed by the great public/private partnerships which have developed.” As one local resident explained, “When you have people working together, things can happen and do happen. That’s the most important change that has occurred – a change in attitude. All of a sudden, nothing is impossible.”

Newport was the recipient of the Platinum Award for Facilitation Impact from the International Association of Facilitators in 2013. In addition, the Federal Reserve’s New England Community Development Advisory Council chose Newport as a host location for a 2013 convening to highlight its successful model.