4 Ways to get Started Building Strong Towns

So you've been reading Strong Towns for a while now. Maybe you even took the next step and became a member (if so, thanks!) ... But now what? Here are four basic things you can do to get on the right track to being a strong citizen who is working to make your town better:

Source: Sarah Kobos

Source: Sarah Kobos

1. Find a place you love that needs you.

The drive to build strong towns requires one thing to begin with: a love for your town. If you aren't passionate about your community, you probably won't have the lasting motivation to help make it better. So find a place you love that needs you and then figure out exactly what it needs from you.

For a healthy dose of inspiration, read Strong Towns member Sarah Kobos' story about how she found an old house in her city that needed some serious attention and used that as a catalyst to help understand and strengthen the neighborhood around it.

2. Start with your story.

If you're hoping to build a strong town and convince others around you to participate in that, you're going to need more than an article about the Growth Ponzi Scheme or a graphic illustrating tax productivity. We want you to take what you learn from those resources and then apply it to your own town, with all its unique challenges and quirks. To do that, you need to start with your story. Data is important, but if you don't have a compelling narrative about why your town needs to grow stronger and why you care about its future, you won't convince very many people.

Read Strong Towns member Mike McGinn's thoughts on how to build a persuasive case for changing your city to get started.

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3. Meet your neighbors.

You can't build a strong town on your own. One of our core principles is: Strong cities, towns and neighborhoods cannot happen without strong citizens (people who care). Notice that says "citizens," and not "one strong leader." You'll need to get to know your neighbors, understand their concerns, and work with them in order to build a truly strong community.

Strong Towns member Adam Greenfield has some excellent advice for how to meet your neighbors and host neighborhood events. 

4. Pick a project to focus on.

Once you've got a place you care about, a narrative about why, and a connection with your neighbors, it's time to get to work on a focused goal to improve your town. Maybe you want to slow down traffic to create safer streets (here are some resources for accomplishing that) or convince your local government to remove parking minimums to make way for more economically productive development (check out these resources if that's your goal). Whatever it is, start by picking one goal and working with your neighbors to achieve it. 

Check out Strong Towns' Community Engagement Director Kea Wilson's seven tips for identifying and tackling an issue that matters and you'll be on your way to success.

(Top photo by Johnny Sanphillippo)

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