Political Capital: Manchester, Vermont

Manchester, Vermont contains both formal and informal leaders when it comes to decision making. There is a town manager, a board of directors, as well as all of the other formal positions. Manchester also works with the Orton Family Foundation. The best way to get an idea of what the Orton Family Foundation is, is to look at their mission, which is: “to empower people to shape the future of their communities by improving local decision-making, creating a shared sense of belonging, and ultimately strengthening the social, cultural, and economic vibrancy of each place. (Orton)” They use the Community Heart & Soul™ method in order to increase participation among the community. In 2007 the formal leaders of Manchester, along with the Orton Family Foundation, implemented a new idea that has since been successful.

They created a group of formal leaders along with Burr and Burton Academy staff members as well as five high school students from BBA. This group worked on a way for youth to be more involved in the community by looking at different models used across the country as well as laws and policies in Manchester that affect youth involvement. With help from Burr and Burton and the Orton Family Foundation, this group presented its plan to the Select Board in 2006. After unanimous approval from all municipalities, the appointment of three high school students to Manchester’s boards began in 2007. Students serve two-year terms, but have also created a Youth Commission, where youth that are not on the committee can have their voice heard as well.

This is a unique project that combines the influence of formal leaders and informal leaders in the community. By bringing in the youth of the community to influence decision making, it gives a whole new perspective and enhances the role that youth can play in the community decision making process.



Orton Family Foundation. (2016). Retrieved October 29, 2016, from http://www.orton.org/who/mission

Manchester Youth on Boards. (2007). Retrieved October 29, 2016, from http://www.planningtoolexchange.org/project/manchester-youth-boards