It’s the Community, Stupid!

The presidential race in 2012 is increasing attention and interest in local economies and small business.  So far the debate has focused on perceived economic drivers such as tax incentives and an educated workforce.  These have their place, but a three-year study by the Knight Foundation and Gallup shows that local officials and community groups do better to focus in three areas:

  • Increasing the Welcome Factor – how well does a community welcome and embrace all types of people
  • Aesthetics – how nice does the community look
  • Social Opportunities – how strong and plentiful are the opportunities to bump into and associate with other people

These are the three most common and powerful drivers of “community attachment.”  Community attachment is how good we feel about where we live.  Sounds like warm and fuzzies?  Like frosting on the cake?  Like luxury over basics?

Not really.  It turns out that economic productivity is dramatically influenced by community attachment.  Gallup first learned this in their study of corporations, organizations and schools.  The more people liked and felt good about and were engaged with their company, organization or school, the higher their performance.  In companies that translated to higher profits.  In schools that translated into higher test scores.  Directly.

In cities and towns, whether Aberdeen, South Dakota or Miami, Florida, the consistently strongest drivers of community attachment were welcoming, aesthetics and social opportunities.

So local officials and community organizations can influence their economy be increasing community attachment.  This appears to be best done by improving the welcoming environment, creating abundant positive social opportunities and paying attention to arts, streetscapes, parks and other physical amenities.

Re-posted by permission from Pacific Community Solutions. Home page photo: mugley





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About the Lead Author

Ron Dwyer-Voss
Ron Dwyer-Voss
Ron Dwyer-Voss is the owner and founder Pacific Community Solutions, Inc., a training, consulting and technical assistance company focused on working with community-based initiatives, nonprofit organizations and local governments. His work focuses on asset-based community development and organizing, community engagement and mobilization, participatory evaluation, education, and community health. Since 1982, Ron has been a community organizer, community development corporation director, leadership development coach/trainer and elected school board member. He began working with the Asset-Based Community Development model while organizing on the south and west sides of Chicago in 1991. Since then he has worked with faith-based communities; African-American, Latino and Southeast Asian and Native American and Hawaiian communities; and a mix of urban and rural communities. He also works with youth development coalitions and education-focused organizations. Ron’s education and training has come from both institutions and mentors. He earned a master's degree in planning and policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a master's of theology from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. He has been trained and mentored by John Kretzmann and John McKnight, co-founders of the ABCD Institute, for more than 20 years. For the last 10 years he has worked closely with and learned from Mike Green and Henry Moore of the ABCD Training Group. Ron is the past chairperson of the National Community Building and Organizing Initiative of NeighborWorks America, and has provided training in community building and organizing at NeighborWorks Training Institutes around the country. He has trained school board members and administrators on how to more effectively engage their communities in local schools, as well as how to mobilize their communities to advocacy. Ron’s work focuses on helping organizations understand and apply asset-based strategies to community revitalization and community organizing. This means discovering the power within a community and mobilizing the assets of a community before looking for outside resources. Community change is more authentic and more sustainable by working from the inside out rather than simply seeking outside resources to drop in or on the community. Asset-based approaches are also more fun and more sustainable for staff and volunteers as well as residents. Every community has assets from cultural to economic and environmental to individuals. Some of the most rewarding part of this work is organizing or re-organizing those assets to make a stronger community with powerful local leadership.

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