Examining the most important issues facing municipalities through trendsetting research and analysis, delivered to you monthly.
This issue will provide tangible ideas and action that you can bring to your community. Below is an example of the monthly newsletters.
- What’s On Our Minds
- Visitations & Staycations
- Invest In Yourself
- Thought Starter
- Lights, Camera, ACTION!
- Urban Food Interlude
- Leadership Happens
- Social Media Interlude
- Talking It Through
There were a lot of hopes out there 2021 was going to be a better year than last year. Most of us openly said that it could not be worse. And then the first couple of weeks blew up in our faces. Don’t give up yet. Our hope is that 2021 sees the death of rage. Rage has plagued our politics, polluted our social media feeds, and divided our friends and families from each other. It is time to stop the rage, because anger is a liar. Anger looks for more reasons to be angry, which further enrages us, causing us to seek out more reasons to be angry. We need to stop feeding the beast and stop the rage. Our hope is that this year becomes known as the one in which we overcome the pandemic and grow our collective ability to be calm and rational.
Visitations and Staycations
What You Need to Know: This short article (4 minute read time) is about two small communities who attract families, small businesses, and tourists (without the use of mountains or water) by investing smartly and offering up what they do have plenty of – community charm.
Why It Matters: Being a successful community doesn’t mean being like every other community or being something you are not. It means finding your niche, investing smartly to support that niche, and communicating directly with those families, businesses, and tourists who crave that niche. You do not have to be everything to everybody. You need to be something special to a few.
What I Would Do: We like to call it the ‘two-list’ exercise. Gather people who want to see your community succeed and who have influence (not the people of power or title, necessarily) and ask them to make two lists. The first list is of all the little things that need to be fixed, and can be fixed by you and your community. The second list is of all the things that make the community great. That’s it. Now you know where to start with what to fix, and what to invest in and market. Find what makes you special, and own it.
Invest In Yourself
What You Need to Know: Literally trillions of dollars ($68 trillion according to Forbes) will transfer from Baby-Boomers to Millennials before 2030. Municipalities spend a lot of time chasing down grants and money from other levels of government to keep infrastructure maintained, as well as services and programs running. They also take on tasks like economic development and small business retention Yet, community members are often invested in far off places that create jobs and economic growth in other communities.
Why It Matters: Many Baby-Boomers would welcome the opportunity to invest locally (and get modest returns) but the vehicles and methods usually do not exist. Millennials are not only moving to small towns (because they can work from virtually anywhere) for a community focused quality of life, but they also do not support ‘big’. They prefer locally owned over corporate. That is one reason why big department stores and well-known corporate brands are struggling. Both generations would welcome the opportunity to shop local, but they would also invest local, if you make it possible.
What I Would Do: Your community does not have to do everything on the list, and your municipal corporation does not have to be the organization to own it. Gather some key community leaders together, peruse this list, and identify a couple of things your community can do to create a vehicle for more local investment, or at least market the opportunities that already exist. Either way, make local investing an option and a priority.
Thought Starter –
Every community looking for prosperity is trying to attract businesses and people. They build programs and tax incentives and create brochures all intended to help with selling and marketing the community. When we meet these communities, we always ask what the first one looks like. What does the first person, or first family, or first business look like? Not one has been able to answer our question. How can you attract 100 of anything if you don’t know what the first one looks like? Picture that first person, couple, family, or business in your mind. Gather a small group and do it together. Be as specific, articulate, and clear as possible to create a profile. Now that you know who the first one is . . . go get them.
Lights, Camera, ACTION!
What You Need to Know: This community hired professionals to write a report (note: it’s a good report) with recommendations on how to improve quality of life and beautify the community. After 10 years little has been done to implement the recommendations and the community’s population continues to decline relative to the region. All the recommendations remain as important and valuable as they were a decade ago. They likely all apply (except #6) to your community, as well.
Why It Matters: This is evidence that hiring a consultant to write a big report does NOT ensure the betterment of any community. Only implementation and action get results. Action is more likely to result from a simple plan or a list of actions that need to be accomplished. A consultant can be helpful, but if the result is a big report that does not tell you what exactly to do, or you are not willing to act, perhaps your citizens’ tax dollars are better spent elsewhere.
What I Would Do: This article continues 13 recommendations with brief descriptions. Almost every single one of them (except #6) applies to most communities across North America. Before you hire a consultant, look at the list. Print it off. Circulate it. Assess if these items apply to your community, and what you can do to implement a version of them that is right for you community. You don’t need to have big plan to get started. You just need to get started.
Urban Food Interlude
Too often there is an urban mindset that agriculture is a dirty and smelly business that should happen beyond the town limits. Yet, all over the world research and investments are supporting and embracing urban agriculture. Innovative economies and companies are finding new crops and incorporating new technologies into new food production initiatives, but they are also changing mindsets about what agriculture is and how it is done. Semi-retires and young people want a deeper connection to the communities they call home, deeper connections to the businesses in which they shop, and deeper connections to the food they eat. This change provides magnificent opportunities for businesses, economic growth, and improved quality of life for our communities and the people who live in them. If you would like to know more, we recommend you start HERE.
What You Need to Know: In less than 6 minutes, the young and inspiring Jaixai Reineke explains how big change can happen in small towns, and she does not just talk about it. Her story is about taking the lead and making it happen, and about what she actually did in her community.
Why It Matters: We all say nice things about our youth, with, ‘the youth are the future,’ being the most popular refrain. It leaves them, and us, waiting for the moment their certificate of permission comes in so they can officially lead. Leadership is not about age. It is about mindset. Being older does not qualify any of us to lead and being young doesn’t disqualify them. The youth are also leaders of the present, and we need their help now.
What I Would Do: Ok, I know there are a lot of youth not focused on the future of your community. We hear so many of them say they cannot wait to get out of their small community, but we remind them anywhere they go they are still part of a community, and that community is a reflection of them. Many still don’t want to lead, and that is ok. We can’t all be leaders. Somewhere in your community, however, there is an amazing young leader just waiting for permission. Do not tell her she will lead in the future. Empower her now. Make it happen today for the sake of your community’s future.
Social Media Interlude
This was so powerful and so poignant that we thought we would just leave it here unfiltered and unchanged. Writing credit goes to someone named Rich O’Connor.
“Huge numbers of our population, good people on both sides, believe in a complete alternate reality. Alternate facts as it were. But just as intensely as I believe they are deluded, they think I am the one who is deluded. Maybe I am. So how can I be confident in my perception? It can be quite difficult. But I have found that in times of confusion, particularly when emotions are running high, and creating tunnel vision, the presence of Nazis can be an extremely helpful indicator. If I am attending a local demonstration or event and I see Nazis . . . neo-Nazis, miscellaneous-Nazis, I figure out which side they are on. And if they are on my side of the demonstration? I am on the wrong side. It is tough to argue moral equivalence when I am standing next to a Nazi. Look to my right. Is there a guy wearing a 6MWE (6 million wasn’t enough) t-shirt? I am on the wrong side. Look to my left. If that guy is wearing a Camp Auschwitz t-shirt? Wrong side. Speakers referring to things Hitler got right? Wrong side. I can always, always, always rely on the presence of Nazis on my side as proof that I am on the wrong side.”
Talking It Through
What You Need to Know: This community is typically rather open and welcoming. There has been disagreement about putting rainbow flags on lampposts. In other years the banners have been allowed, but with a new LFTBQ Center opening there are protests that the flags represent political speech that goes against a city ordinance. The debate may be drowning in details and missing the bigger issue. LGTBQ students consider suicide at a rate 2.5 times higher than the heterosexual students. How can the community come together through meaningful conversations, get to know each other better, and find ways to help each other?
Why It Matters: Every community, even very open-minded and welcoming ones, will face factions of resistance to being open and inclusive. Likewise, communities you may think that are not open-minded may surprise you with their actions. Don’t make presumptions about any community, and group, or any person. Talk with them about what is most important to you and you will find out often that you can find common ground. A community is built on what brings us together, not on what divides us.
What I Would Do: The first step in finding common ground is to get to know each other. We fear what we do not understand, and that lack of knowledge and understanding is what continues to feed our fear. However, it is important to note that when we debate the other side, they do not often change their minds, but rather entrench their position. We need to talk to each other rather than debate about who is right. Every community has factions that don’t like each other, because they don’t understand each other. Our team always says that beers and burgers build break barriers and build bonds (wow, that’s a lot of ‘b’s). Start small and start with understanding.
Final thought: When we think to ourselves, ‘It won’t work. It cannot be done. That is impossible for us,’ than you have already chosen failure. You cannot expect to be a winner if you wake up every morning, look in the mirror, and call the reflection a loser. That is true for communities too. Of course, you know that. You also know none of this is easy. If it was, you wouldn’t be part of the Community Hub. But here you are. It can be done, and you are the person to lead them.
Keep Building Your Community. It’s the MOST Important Job on Earth.