First Impressions Community Exchange

Is your community interested in developing an action plan to enhance or build on your strengths, and address your challenges?

First Impressions Community Exchange (FICE) is a structured and cost-effective process that reveals the first impression a community conveys to potential visitors, investors and new residents. It is a good place to start your first economic development planning endeavour.

What is a First Impressions Community Exchange?

FICE is a partnership with another peer community where each community visits the other and uses a checklist to inform each other of the strengths and challenges identified during the visit. FICE is beneficial to communities that are developing a plan for the future. It offers a fresh perspective of your community. The Ontario government initiated the FICE program in 2005, since then FICE has been successfully implemented in more than 150 communities in Ontario.

FICE is a straightforward, structured community process. A visiting team is typically made up of 6-8 community residents with diverse backgrounds, occupations, ages, etc. in order to assess the exchange community from a variety of perspectives. The team travels together to the exchange community, where they spend several hours gathering information individually or in pairs. The visit may include an overnight stay to assess the community's night life and accommodation services. The team then prepares a report and presents it to the exchange community. The exchange community reciprocates with a similar visit and report-back.

Why is it important?

By participating in the FICE program, your community will benefit from the feedback you receive from the visiting team. In addition your community volunteers will gain insights from their visit to the exchange community. The program supports and catalyzes voluntarism and a community's sense of belonging.

There are a number of reasons for asking people from outside your community to do the assessment.

  • As a resident, it may be difficult to be objective.
  • It may be more effective for an outsider to provide constructive feedback to your own friends and neighbours on things like their customer service skills, the appearance of their sites, etc.
  • The knowledge gained through a FICE can be the basis for positive and effective community action.

FICE options:

Depending on the interest of the two exchange communities, FICE is available in four versions.

  1. Full Picture - is designed as a comprehensive guide to help the visiting team evaluate the overall community aspects. This includes entrances, housing, education, heath services, businesses, environment and welcoming new residents.
  2. Tourism - is focused on tourism attractions, services, amenities, environment and welcoming to tourists.
  3. Downtown - is focused on downtown revitalization, downtown appearance, downtown businesses and infrastructure, entertainment and recreation.
  4. Agricultural Societies (piloted in 2012) - identifies a fair/exhibition's appealing features and opportunities for areas of improvement. The program will match two different but compatible agricultural societies in order to reveal how each fair/exhibition is perceived by visitors, exhibitors and local residents. It can assist an agricultural society in identifying priorities that lead to the development of action plans for visitor attraction, marketing and promotion, entertainment improvements, parking and accessibility constraints and increasing the availability of local food options.


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

Advisors are available to provide support to your community through:

  • Providing guidebooks and templates.
  • Advising if and/or what version of FICE is suitable for your community.
  • Orienting communities to the FICE process.
  • Providing training and resources (Guides and Assessment Tools).
  • Helping in identifying appropriate exchange communities and brokering a terms of reference.

How do I get it?

Regional Economic Development Branch Advisors are available to provide additional information and advice on the FICE program. Contact your Advisor or call the Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300.

Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 27 April 2011
Last Reviewed: 09 October 2013