Community in Action
Examples of programs, policies, and tools in action.

Historygram Helps Rockingham County Build on Best of Past

November 5, 2014

There is a sense of loss in Rockingham County, NC. 

Historically, the community had a robust economy that was largely built on the textile and tobacco industries. In the mid-90s, Rockingham lost their tobacco industry and not long after that lost their textile industry. “We went from being a wealthy county to being a poor county very quickly,” said Jennifer Nixon, former Executive Director at the Rockingham County Healthcare Alliance. 

So when Nixon first began exploring the Historygram process she was concerned it would swing momentum in the wrong direction. Historygram is an interactive process that draws from a community’s history and helps groups recall and build on past change efforts. 

“I was afraid it would drag us back to all of the losses we had experienced in the last 10 to 20 years,” Nixon said. “But the way it was framed, it was also about finding things that were valuable about the community that you wanted to preserve.”

In November 2013, Rockingham County partnered with the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust to launch Healthy Places Rockingham County, which aims to build on the successes of past initiatives while also broadening efforts to improve health in the county. As part of their kick-off events, Nixon and other community partners came together for a half-day and worked through the Historygram process to create a visual timeline of the county’s history across a range of eras. The process captured what community partners wanted to keep, start, and stop doing, and celebrated different perspectives from the community. 

“My truth is my truth, and we forget that it’s not everyone else’s,” Nixon said. “The way the exercise is structured, it makes room for different perspectives.” 

In the end, the Historygram process has helped Rockingham County organizations commit to working together toward a future that builds on the best parts of the past. The tool also helped strengthen relationships among partners and community members. 

“We think we know each other well, and we kind of do, but we kind of don’t,” Nixon said. “The way the Historygram process works, there were all these interesting things that came out of it. It brought out a lot of commonalities that you wouldn’t think were there.”

Today, partners from all walks of life in Rockingham County use their experience with Historygram as a benchmark. “It ties what we said and what we said we wanted to do to a specific event,” Nixon said. “That process felt like a public commitment to doing something together.”

To learn more about Healthy Places Rockingham County and their experience with the Historygram process, contact Jennifer Nixon at [email protected].

Communities in Action provide examples of strategies or tools in action. Their purpose is to connect like-minded communities in their implementation efforts, giving insight into how others are tackling key challenges and what they've accomplished.

Date added: November 4, 2014