Small Community Development Institutes

“The significant problems that we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”  Albert Einstein

Effective measures of every rural economic development effort should be: 

  • What we are doing to increase our population?
  • What are we doing to decrease poverty? 

Since rural counties across the country have lost more population than gained, this quote and goal should be in every conversation of every rural board, organization, and business if there is to be growth in rural America.

Gil Gillespie, retired professor of sociology at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, points out, “population and poverty are complex issues with many causes. Population is important, but having a citizenry with a good balance of ages, a high rate of good livelihoods from their own businesses and employers, and interest in and commitment to the locality, are also needed."

    This pyramid shows where new jobs are created, but most economic development programs are geared to recruit “that” business to town so we can create “good” jobs. If we attract “that” business, it may be good for the community, but a loss for the community “that” business left. We’ve just shifted location, and perpetuated a win-lose game plan.

    Small business is the backbone of this country, creating 98 percent of all jobs on Main Street, in our neighborhoods, and countryside. Rural communities must undergo cultural transition in their economic development mentality that recruiting businesses will be our saving grace for jobs, because rural communities don’t have the workforce and can’t afford to give away the taxes required to compete to get corporations to locate in their town.

    Small communities must work differently – together – to grow, and may have to work around “good ol’ boys” clubs. Leaders may say, “We don’t have to do anything different, we're already doing this.” Recruitment approaches and decades-old methods of attraction worked then, but if still the primary form of economic development, communities lose population, schools, hospitals, and youth.

    What's needed: a systematic process for small community development

    Communities need a systemic, organized entrepreneurial process that allows people to explore business creation, ownership, and succession. There are resources to create pieces of the system such as business plans, financial statements, goal-setting, and pots of revolving loan funds. However, the best approach is a complete ecosystem that instructs, supports, and nourishes business owners AND a community who buys their goods and services.

    Processes that begin steady, consistent, long-term cultural transition to increase new leadership, address long-term, cultural issues and bring historically "warring" communities together see lasting success. Using bottoms-up, relationship-building, image-changing, sustainable approaches to grow rural areas, these Institutes build civility and have great growth benefits through building and strengthening relationships within and between communities.

    What can I do?

    Think of your community. Are any of these issues being addressed at your city council/board of supervisors/economic development team/school board meeting or coffee shop?

    • Do you have young people that are engaging in leadership positions and new ideas being promoted?
    • How do does your community get along with neighboring towns? Collaborate or resent? Why? Is it beneficial to either of you?
    • Are elected officials talking about population decline and increasing poverty? More importantly, what is being done about it?
    • Is economic development being done the same way as it has for the last 100 years? What's happening?
    • How are attitudes? What is said of each community and the county? What do you say about it? Your youth? If asked by a stranger, “What is great about living here?” and the answer is, “There’s nothing to do here, I can’t wait to get out,” is that the message to send guests who could be looking to bring a family and/or business?
    • What about income opportunities? Not everyone is cut out to work for someone else. Do you encourage and support people starting or own businesses?

    Rural economic development must address people and poverty. Approaches must change if rural America is to grow. 

    Learn how with Global Horizons' Small Community Development Institutes. 

    Cultural Transition Institutes

    Cultural Transition Institutes

    Some Places Just Don't Want to Grow!

    C.A.V.E. people - Citizens Against Virtually Everything.   

    W.A.V.E. people - Workers Against Virtually Everything.  

    P.A.V.E. people - Parishioners Against Virtually Everything.  

    N.I.M.B.Y. people - Not In My Back Yard! 

    Every state, community, organization has people like these folks, but we tend to discount them or say, “That's just them. They always look at the negative.”

    If you want to grow, but have issues in your community where you just can't get moving because of some people or obstacle, take an honest look at the issues that keep your community/ies "stuck." 

    Look at your community culture.

    I have served in chamber of commerce and economic development organizations my entire professional career and I know those organizations are paid to promote all the good the community has to offer.

    However, communities that thrive are those who will publicly look for the bad, as well as promote the good. Thriving communities commit to being better.

    If you are committed, you will do whatever it takes. You stop blaming other people and circumstances for your situations. You learn what you need to learn. You practice what you need to practice. You put all attention / focus on how you will achieve your goals.

    How do you know what needs to be addressed if you don’t look at the downside of your community?

    Here are two pain points:

    • Are you increasing population?  and
    • Are you decreasing poverty?

    Making headway on these two goals signals how welcoming people find your community.

    In my research, states with a higher population of non-native-born citizens - people who were not born in, but are living in your state - are growing at a faster rate and have higher incomes than states with a higher population of native-born; those born in and living in the state.

    Ask those who moved into your community - people who do not have grandparents buried in the local cemetery - if they feel welcome and feel they belong. Even if they've lived there 20+ years.

    Ask those who come to your church and sit in somebody else's pew.

    Ask your youth. Do they feel they belong? Do they see a future in your town?

     

    Look at your culture. How your community "grew up."

    To address these issues, you need to start with Why? Why does your community exist?

    Do you know “why?" Are you asking? 

    Are you digging to find the "problem behind the problem" when the community disagrees? Do you ask for value-based opinions from your citizens on issues your community needs to solve?

    Convene a Community Engagement Institute to find your culture.  http://www.bewuca.com/blog/community-engagement-institute

     

    Neighboring Towns and Growth

    Why do we not like the community down the road? Is it because of athletics? A school merger? Because they stole our county charter 120 years ago? Or maybe, more than 100 years ago, our community had a competition who could hate their neighbor the most. One did.

    Identifying, understanding, and breaking down the walls of conflict, perceptions, and hate is the first step toward growth as a region.

     

    How Issues Become "Issues"

    Whether in a family, church, school, business, organization or government, an issue goes through stages. When an issue is emerging, those involved and affected perceive their choices and choose their "sides" in resolving the matter.  The more involved we keep people and include as many choices as possible to solve the issue, the less disruptive the issue.

    If we take away choices, voice, and input from those involved and affected, the issue becomes increasingly disruptive. People who do not know how an issue is decided, and are not a part of how the decision is made, do not trust the outcome.

    So, the more disruptive the issue, the higher the cost that issue is to resolve in time, manpower, and/or money.

    Some communities do not want to know other people’s opinions. It is like they want their deep, dark, secrets to stay hidden, thinking, "if we don't talk about it, it doesn't exist." 

    Are you like that? Or do you want to change so you can grow with new people, ideas, energy?

     

    You go to the doctor's office to find out why you are not well. You want that doctor to be honest with you and tell you how to get better. 

    The "doctor" is in.

    Global Horizons has championed civility-building, community growth processes for more than 25 years.

    Build civil relationships to address motivation and community issues that keep you "stuck." 

    Give us a call. 712-250-0275.

     

    Native-Born per state 25+ -  http://www.governing.com/gov-data/census-migration-homegrown-populations-for-cities-states.html
    Growth rate per state - http://www.usa.com/rank/us--population-growth-rate--state-rank.htm?tag=Fastest+Growing+States+in+U.S.
    Richest States by income - http://www.usa.com/rank/us--median-household-income--state-rank.htm?yr=3000&tag=Richest+States+by+Income+in+U.S.