So today I find myself in Denver in a hotel conference room, sequestered away with a small group of brilliant minds assembled by the Orton Family Foundation in an off-the-agenda gathering. Don't ask me why I was invited -- after listening to this group I was even more honored and humbled to be among them. It was great conversation and I walked away with about eight pages of notes. A lot of it was quasi-off-the-record so I am not going to blog about it in detail, but tomorrow I'll post a few things I know people will not mind me sharing.
In the meantime (and because it is late and I have been up since really, really early this morning and need sleep), I'm going to share a collection of "clues" -- you could call them indicators or attributes even - that identify rural communities designed to succeed. The list was developed by the Heartland Center for Regional Development with a lot of research and thought, which you'll appreciate once you read it. What a brilliant collection of observations.
Ask yourself if the places you care about have these attributes.
20 Clues to Rural Community Survival: An Annotated List
- Evidence of Community Pride Successful communities are often showplaces of care, attention, history and heritage.
- Emphasis on Quality in Business and Community Life People believe that something worth doing is worth doing right.
- Willingness to Invest in the Future In addition to the brick-and-mortar investments, all decisions are made with an outlook on the future.
- Participatory Approach to Community Decision Making Even the most powerful of opinion leaders seem to work toward building consensus.
- Cooperative Community Spirit The stress is on working together toward a common goal and the focus is on positive results.
- Realistic Appraisal of Future Opportunities Successful communities have learned how to build on strengths and minimize weaknesses.
- Awareness of Competitive Positioning Local loyalty is emphasized, but thriving communities who know who their competitors are and position themselves accordingly.
- Knowledge of the Physical Environment Relative location and available natural resources underscore decision-making.
- Active Economic Development Program There is an organized, public/private approach to economic development.
- Deliberate Transition of Power to a Younger Generation of Leaders People under 40 regularly hold key positions in civic and business affairs.
- Celebration of Diversity in Leadership Women, minorities, youth and newcomers are welcomed into leadership circles where their ideas are treated as opportunities.
- Strong Belief in and Support for Education Good schools are the norm and centers of community activity.
- Problem-Solving Approach to Providing Health Care Health care is considered essential, and smart strate-gies are in place for diverse methods of delivery.
- Strong Multi-Generational Family Orientation The definition of family is broad, and activities include younger as well as older generations.
- Strong Presence of Traditional Institutions that are Integral to Community Life Churches, schools and service clubs are strong influences on community development and social activities.
- Sound and Well-Maintained Infrastructure Leaders work hard to maintain and improve streets, sidewalks, water systems, and sewage facilities.
- Careful Use of Fiscal Resources Frugality is a way of life and expenditures are considered investments in the future.
- Sophisticated Use of Technology Resources Leaders access information that is beyond the knowledge base available in the community.
- Willingness to Seek Help from the Outside People seek outside help for community needs, and many compete for government grants and contracts for economic and social programs.
- Conviction that, in the Long Run, You Have to Do It Yourself Thriving rural communities believe their destiny is in their own hands. Making their communities good places is a pro-active assignment, and they willingly accept it.