First Impressions Community Exchange

What is a First Impressions Community Exchange?

The First Impressions Community Exchange (FICE) provides an opportunity for communities to gain a fresh perspective on how they are seen through the eyes of first-time visitors. The program provides a structured opportunity for communities to learn about the first impressions they convey to visitors.

Volunteer teams from partnered exchange communities each conduct an unannounced visit and record their observations on a variety of topics such as community entrances, downtown amenities, services available in the community, and tourist attractions. The observations from the visit serve as the basis of a report back to that community. The report can assist decision makers with economic development planning.

FICE Options:

There are three FICE assessment options available:

  1. First Impressions Full Picture is a comprehensive guide to help the visiting team evaluate the overall community. This includes entrances, housing, education, health services, business activity, environment and the extent to which new residents are welcomed.
  2. First Impressions Downtown is focused on downtown revitalization, appearance, businesses, infrastructure, entertainment and recreation.
  3. First Impressions Tourism is focused on tourist attractions, services, amenities and environment.

Why is it important?

FICE can be undertaken as a stand-alone project for communities who are seeking information that will help guide future economic development plans, or as a component part that will support a broader strategic plan.

FICE can help communities:

  • Source new ideas to improve competitiveness
  • Identify its strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities
  • Support a strategic or community action plan
  • Foster community linkages

What is the First Impressions Community Exchange Process?

There are four stages to every FICE. The first two stages involve the preparation for and execution of the community exchange. The third and fourth stages involve the report back meeting that will take place when your exchange community presents their observations to you. This report back will then allow your community to develop and implement its action plans.

  1. Prepare: Preparation is critical to the success of any project. A realistic assessment of community readiness, and a clear understanding of the resources required, will help the project run smoothly.
  2. The Exchange: The exchange visits are where volunteer teams visit their exchange community and note observations in order to prepare a report back. Ideally, exchange visits occur within a month of each other so each team is visiting at a time when there are some similarities such as the season.
  3. Report Back and Action Plans: A presentation of the report back will be made to you by your exchange community coordinator. This meeting should take place while the information is still fresh. The information you receive will help support your community when developing specific action plans.
  4. Implement and Monitor: Implementation of your action plan/s and then monitoring is at the heart of the FICE program and requires commitment and resources from your community.


a) Advisors

If you feel that a First Impressions Community Exchange would benefit your community, we encourage you to contact your Advisor on the eligibility of your community and next steps.

Advisors are available to provide support to your community through:

  • Identify and match appropriate exchange communities
  • Orientation through the FICE process
  • Training
  • Assessment Tools
  • Advisory services

b) An in-depth step-by-step Coordinator’s Manual

How do I get it?

In southern Ontario, Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Advisors from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) can help communities determine whether a FICE will help support broader planning initiatives. Agriculture Development Advisors from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) provide this service in northern Ontario.

Map of Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Advisors

Map of Agriculture Development Advisors

If you would like to receive a copy of the FICE Coordinator’s Manual, complete a FICE Information Request Form.

For more information on FICE, contact an Advisor or call the Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300.

Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 27 April 2011
Last Reviewed: 1 November 2016