Assessing your community's HEART-healthiness

Senast ändrad: 28 oktober 2013


The HEART model is designed to unify diverse interests around a common theme, taking an interpretive approach to community development. The model has been developed by long-time interpretation innovators Lisa Brochu and Tim Merriman from the US. Below, Sven-G Hultman, long-time interpretation inspirator in Sweden, reflects on their presentation and workshop about the HEART model.

Some 35 years ago, early in my career as a forester, I ran into a paper titled “The Omnipotent Forester" (Behan, R.W. 1966. The myth of the omnipotent forester. Journal of Forestry, 64:398-407). This memory popped up in my mind when I took part in the workshop by Tim Merriman and Lisa Brochu. A number of questions buzzed around in my head: Can interpretation be an all-powerful tool, a tool for any and all purposes? Does interpretation have a specific purpose – or is it “only” a tool among other tools-of-trade for the communication business? How does interpretation differ from other communication tools and strategies? 

Lisa described their “HEART” model. As far as I understood and now remember, the model did not differ much from other planning tools I have met: inventory the situation, state the goals, choose focus and central themes, decide what to do and who should do it – then do it, and evaluate! The “heart-part” in the model appeared to be to find the core value(s) of the place, of the resource, the community. What makes it “throb” – what is its “theme”, its “heart”? Tim followed up by giving some good examples of processes he has been involved, with very good results. Finally we all joined in an effort to define what the focus, the story, the “heart” of Stockholm might be.

To find the core value is tough, indeed. And in this process, a smart and emphatic “facilitator”, or interpreter, could be extremely important. The problem is not only one of finding the core(s), but equally much to get the concerned individuals involved, and eventually, to agree and join forces.

But again my questions pop up: What in this process is specifically “interpretation”? If the result is good, if the process ends in a happy and thriving community/place etc – does that prove that interpretation has been applied? Can interpretation then be defined as a communication process that functions, that gets good results? And conversely: if the process does not lead to a good result, then, by definition, not to be termed interpretation?

My question(s) may seem petty and trivial. Who cares about definitions, if the results are good? – But if you call yourself an interpreter, it seems important to know what the business is all about.

I am a believer in interpretation since many decades and Freeman Tilden is my Prophet. Tim and Lisa are certainly very good apostles, so I am sure they have the answers.  If other readers of my reflections find them worth musing over I am happy.

Sven-G Hultman 

[1]  Behan, R.W. 1966. The myth of the omnipotent forester. J. Forestry. 64:398-407