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VLCT Welcoming and Engaging Communities Program

at Request of VLCT Members

The VLCT Welcoming and Engaging Communities Cohort is a partnership with Vermont cultural transformation consultancy Abundant Sun that offers municipal leaders participation in the firm’s Ethical Performance Improvement Campaign (E.P.I.C.). The E.P.I.C. Journey is a strategic methodology based on data and science aimed at catalyzing organizations to build better cultures from within. Cohort participants will join up to eight Vermont municipalities on a six-month journey including eight two-hour workshops on topics that include “Equality, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion,” “Employee Engagement & Client Service,” and “Data Analytics & Building Strategy”. The sessions are paired with an opportunity for municipalities to collect and analyze key inclusion and belonging metrics by surveying elected officials, appointed officials, and paid staff using Abundant Sun’s Inclusion and Belonging Survey.  
VLCT subsidizes ninety percent of the cost of participation in the Welcoming and Engaging Communities Cohort. The cohort program is akin to “Cultural Transformation 101”, aimed at helping communities enhance their equity journey. Each selected municipality will be asked to enroll three municipal officials to the cohort. Eligible officials who can enroll in the cohort include members of a municipality’s legislative body (city council, selectboard, trustees), a city or town manager or town administrator, a mayor, a clerk, or a department head.   

More about how to apply for the 2024 cohort is below. 

How to Apply

The Cohort application form is located on Abundant Sun’s website. Applications are due by close of business, Tuesday, December 12, 2023. 

Apply by December 12

Applications will include: 

  1. A letter of interest signed by a City, Town, or Village Manager, Executive Director, or majority of the municipal legislative body that expresses an interest to participating in the cohort, appointing three participants to the cohort, and agreeing to pay up to $500 to participate in the program. 
  2. Four questions: 
    1. Why does your municipality want to join the “VLCT Welcoming Communities Cohort”?  
    2. What does your municipality hope to achieve by participating in the cohort? 
    3. What efforts related to cultural improvements have your community already undertaken? 
    4. What obstacles do you foresee impeding your ability to create a more welcoming culture in your municipal workplace and in your community? 
  3. The names, positions, and email addresses of the three municipal officials who will be participating in the cohort. (Eligible participants include mayors, city councilors, selectboard members, village trustees, town managers and administrators, clerks, and department heads). The officials must have agreed to participate in the cohort before the application is submitted. Enrollees will be required to attend the first in-person cohort meeting on Tuesday, January 9 at VLCT’s offices in Montpelier. In addition, enrollees will participate in seven two-hour E.P.I.C. Education workshops between January and May of 2024 (most will be virtual), and a final in-person four-hour roundtable in May 2024.  
  4. The number of elected and appointed officials, staff, and volunteer positions (such as planning commission members) in the municipality. This information will be necessary for the data collection portion of the cohort.  

Selection Process 

The VLCT Equity Committee will review applications and recommend participants to the VLCT Executive Director. The committee will consider answers to the application questions, whether the municipality has appointed designees to attend the sessions, and whether the community has undertaken any equity efforts (such as adopting the Declaration of Inclusion or appointing an Equity Committee). Municipalities will be notified of their selection by Friday, December 22, 2023.  The first meeting of the cohort will be in person on Tuesday, January 9 at the VLCT offices in Montpelier. Participation in the kick-off meeting is mandatory.   


Program Announcement:     October 2, 2023 
Application Deadline:        Extended to Tuesday, December 12, 2023 
Notification of Selection:    Friday, December 22, 2023 
First Cohort Meeting:        Tuesday, January 9, 2023 
Conduct Survey:        January-March 2023 
Cohort Meetings:     

  •     IN PERSON – VLCT Office in Montpelier:  Tuesday, January 9, 2024, 12 p.m. - 2 p.m. 
  •     ONLINE: Wednesday, January 31, 2024, 3 p.m. - 5 p.m. 
  •     ONLINE: Tuesday, February 20, 2024, 12 p.m. - 2 p.m. 
  •     IN PERSON – VLCT Office in Montpelier: Tuesday, March 12, 2024, 8 a.m. - 10 a.m. 
  •     ONLINE: Wednesday, April 3, 2024, 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. 
  •     ONLINE: TBD
  •     IN PERSON – VLCT Office in Montpelier: Tuesday, May 14, 2024, 8 a.m. - 12 p.m. 


$500 per municipality, invoiced at completion of program. If a majority of a municipality’s cohort members attend 80 percent of the meetings, VLCT will reduce the cost to $100 per municipality. VLCT significantly subsidizes the cost of participation in the program thanks in part to a grant from VLCT’s risk-sharing pool, VLCT PACIF.   

Program FAQs

VLCT is subsidizing the cost of the program.  Municipalities will be charged $500 at the end of the program. Should a municipality participate in 80 percent of the meetings, VLCT will reduce the cost to $100. 

Each municipality must select three municipal officials to participate in the program. Eligible participants include mayors, city councilors, selectboard members, village trustees, town managers and administrators, clerks, department heads, and similar officials. While not required, VLCT encourages at least one of the officials to be a member of the municipality’s legislative body.

For VLCT associate members that do not have statutory municipal officials, eligible participants include executive directors, department heads, board members, and other officials in leadership positions. Should you appoint an individual that VLCT or Abundant Sun feels is inappropriate, you will not be disqualified from program participation, but you may be asked to appoint an alternate.

Over the six months of the program, participants will be asked to attend eight meetings: a ninety minute in-person meeting in Montpelier, and a two-hour remote meeting roughly every other week through April. In addition, there will be a four-hour in-person meeting scheduled for May. If timing allows, one of the biweekly meetings mid-program will be in person (currently scheduled for March 12th).  One of the virtual cohort meetings will be an opportunity for all elected officials and appointed officials from the participating municipalities to undertake basic education on cultural transformation, in an effort to expand the reach of the program beyond the three participants of each municipality. 

Welcoming and Engaging Communities Cohort Program is primarily focused upon the internal health of municipality organizations, its leadership and the satisfaction of those who work within and who serve our communities. This program aims to improve the overall leadership and governance of participants. It supports the work of IDEAL and at the same time is distinct from it. 
Watch a video that tells you more about the two programs.

Abundant Sun will issue a survey that helps you evaluate the culture in your town hall. This survey includes an employment Net Promotor Score, a well-tested and well-known gauge of workplace culture. Participant municipalities will be asked to share the survey link and champion survey participation amongst elected and appointed officials. Municipalities will be able to compare their survey data to other organizations Abundant Sun has worked with, including non-profit and for-profit organizations, and the first Welcoming and Engaging Communities Cohort.  Abundant Sun will present the results to your selectboard via virtual participation. 

Yes. Eligible participants from associate members include board members, executive directors, department heads, and similar officials. 

Not necessarily.  If your community has a municipal manager, the manager can apply on behalf of the city, town or village. For associate members, an executive director may apply. If your municipality or board does not have a municipal manager or executive director, the legislative body or board should apply.

Eighty percent. VLCT is providing a significant subsidy to municipalities to offer this educational opportunity for $500 per member.  To further incentivize participation, and to make the program accessible to our smallest members, VLCT will further subsidize the program by reimbursing the member $400 at the conclusion of the program if at least two representatives from the municipality attend 80 percent of the meetings.

Publication Date

Disclaimer: This resource is only intended to provide information and it does NOT constitute legal advice. Readers with specific legal questions are encouraged to contact an attorney. The use or downloading of this resource does NOT create an attorney-client relationship and will not be treated in a confidential manner. 

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