How Members Foster the Strong Towns Conversation in their Communities


As a small (but mighty) team, we understand that one of the best ways to grow our movement is to encourage readers and members—just like you—to share the Strong Towns message locally.

And you accept the challenge, in several ways. Maybe you share our articles on your social media feeds; maybe you email your council people a timely article. Or maybe you tell like-minded friends in your neighborhood about the Strong Towns message.

However, one of the most powerful ways you can share the Strong Towns message is through Local Conversations. These are groups of readers and members who share a common geography and meet locally—either online or in-person—to discuss how Strong Towns concepts can make their unique place stronger.

Today, as you can see in the map below, Strong Towns has over 80(!) Local Conversations happening all across the world.

 
 

That’s over 80 groups of Strong Towns readers and members who not only believe the Strong Towns message can make their place stronger, but get together and discuss ways to make it happen. Pretty amazing.

But what kinds of conversations are these groups having? How are they fostering the conversation locally? And most important, why did they start the Local Conversation at all?

In this article, I’d like to share with you the stories and inspiration behind three new Local Conversations, as told by their primary organizers. The Local Conversations include:

  • Strong Towns - Sioux Falls

  • Stronger Denton

  • Strong Towns White Plains

Some of these groups are new (like, just-last-month new). So while their stories are still unfolding, their ambitions are palpable. Others are more seasoned, such as Strong Towns - Sioux Falls, and have already completed a few tactical urbanism projects. Nonetheless, all three groups will remind you that Strong Towns members—when they team up locally—have the power to make their unique places stronger.



Strong Towns - Sioux Falls

Flashback to Spring 2018, when Strong Towns President and Founder Chuck Marohn visited Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to present his classic Curbside Chat presentation. The result: later that fall, a new Local Conversation—Strong Towns - Sioux Falls—was born.

Jordan Deffenbaugh: primary organizer at Strong Towns - Sioux Falls.

Jordan Deffenbaugh: primary organizer at Strong Towns - Sioux Falls.

Led by Strong Towns member Jordan Deffenbaugh, Strong Towns - Sioux Falls made an immediate impact on Sioux Falls—throwing a community potluck to discover the ideas residents had for stronger Sioux Falls.

(We interviewed Jordan last year to learn more about the potluck and how residents responded.)

Below, Jordan shares with why he started Strong Towns - Sioux Falls and how he hopes the Local Conversation will impact Sioux Falls.

What inspired you to start Strong Towns: Sioux Falls?

In March of last year, Chuck Marohn came to Sioux Falls to speak about his organization, Strong Towns. I had been following the blog for a few years, so I was aware of the general idea behind the motivations of this organization. Having Chuck break down his own personal experience in making his home of Brainerd, Minnesota, a stronger community struck home with my own journey. I needed to take action. The first step was to get Strong Towns: Sioux Falls going.

How have you fostered the Strong Towns conversation in Sioux Falls?

Since last year, our group has been getting together weekly to talk about city development. We have held potlucks, discussions, forums, and other events to spark action in our community. We started a Facebook group with regular postings everyday, from different community members all with their own perspectives and interests.

Last week, I turned a friend’s boulevard from a lawn to a flower-producing garden. Just before writing this post, I was in a coffee meeting discussing all the low-hanging fruit that existed in downtown and what bottom-up actions could be taken in the next year.

What do you hope to achieve through Strong Towns - Sioux Falls?

Strong Towns - Sioux Falls is spurring a conversation—and from there, incremental action. Not just in the Sioux Falls community, but in my own personal journey. My purpose in all of this is getting the conversations started.

Stronger Denton

Sometimes you need a disagreement locally to inspire a new group of like-minded individuals. That’s what happened in Denton, Texas, as the City of Denton began to finalize its new development code.

The code included a provision that any Strong Towns advocate would protest: ban duplexes in the city’s core neighborhoods. So the group decided to gather and use Strong Towns concepts to protest to the provision. (They even wrote a critique of the provision on the Strong Towns site.)

While the provision passed, Stronger Denton has used the momentum to tackle new challenges in creating a more financially resilient Denton.

Eric Pruett: a primary organizer at Stronger Denton.

Eric Pruett: a primary organizer at Stronger Denton.

Below, one of Stronger Denton’s primary organizers and member Eric Pruett shares the group’s goals and what they hope to achieve in Denton.

What inspired you to start Stronger Denton?

As residents of Denton, we have a lot to be proud of: a historic downtown, two universities, residents who enjoy supporting small business and enjoy walkability, and regional growth.

But Denton also has a lot of challenges: Texas’s endless land encourages inefficient land use policies, long commutes to employment centers outside of town, and big roads. Financial strain comes from being lower wealth when compared to the surrounding Dallas Fort-Worth area.

We want to ensure our local elected officials continue to support downtown and encourage financially productive development so that the town has the fiscal strength to invest in the things that make it unique.

How have you fostered the Strong Towns conversation in Denton?

We’re small—but ambitious. Denton residents who were already pushing for different Strong Towns principles individually are now more organized and dreaming big. We meet a few times a month and have a list of projects we plan to begin this summer.

We hope to expand the group soon with more community outreach to help those already engaged in local initiatives proactively shape our town’s priorities rather than reacting to things after they happen.

What do you hope to achieve through Stronger Denton?

Near-term, we want to shape the priorities included in the mobility and parks master plans this year to focus on connecting neighborhoods. Long-term, we want residents to dream big to improve their neighborhoods where they can by working together to make Denton stronger.

Strong Towns White Plains

This past April, Strong Towns member and long-time reader Nick Grecco created one of our newer Local Conversations: Strong Towns White Plains out Westchester County in New York.

According to Nick: “I’m hoping to get a conversation going among people who live and love this area and want to see it become all-around stronger.”

The group, though only one-month old, already has 13 members and has met once in person—with more in-person meet-ups scheduled each of the following months.

Below, Nick shares why he started the group and—despite being a new Local Conversation—how he can already envision his group shaping conversations in Westchester County.

Nick Grecco: primary organizer at Strong Towns White Plains.

Nick Grecco: primary organizer at Strong Towns White Plains.

What inspired you to start Strong Towns White Plains?

I started Strong Towns White Plains after I hit a turning point: it was no longer enough for me to read articles or talk about ideas to the occasional friend or neighbor. I wanted to set up a regular conversation with people who lived nearby and start figuring out what we could do to make Westchester County stronger.

How have you fostered the Strong Towns Conversation in Westchester County?

In the first week of April, Strong Towns sent an email about Strong Towns White Plains to all subscribers who live in or near Westchester County. A few people responded, and so far we've gotten together at a diner to talk things out.

A couple of the early responders were developers with organizing experience, which was awesome. Andy Malone (another Strong Towns member) set up a Facebook page for the group, and our next meet up is scheduled for the 28th.

What do you hope to achieve through Strong Towns White Plains?

I'd like the group to help people in Westchester treat their streets and towns with the same care and thoughtfulness that they'd treat their homes. Education on the Strong Towns approach and volunteering will be a big part of that, with walking tours, trash pick-up, lectures, etc. Westchester should be a flourishing place for the whole spectrum of people who live here.

How You Can Support Local Conversations

As a small staff leading an international movement, we can’t take the time to visit every community in the nation and encourage their residents to start a Local Conversation. That’s why we need people like Jordan, Eric, and Nick who understand the movement and are willing to start and foster Strong Towns conversations in their own communities.

However, we can’t do this without the support of members.

Members of the Strong Towns movement ensure that we can create the content, plan the events, and run the organization that inspires the existing and future Local Conversations of Strong Towns.

Because of support from Strong Towns members, we have over 80 Local Conversations. And, as you learned today, they’re fostering the Strong Towns conversation in ways only locals can.

If you become a member of the Strong Towns movement, together, we can support another batch of Local Conversations.