This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Finding the soul of your community and the reason to create your own community paradigms

In the last post, Placemaking - for communities the canvas becomes the art, we began exploring the concept of  Place and Placemaking from the perspective of  Project for Public Spaces or PPS and similar organizations.

Placemaking, was defined by PPS as both an overarching idea and a hands-on tool for improving a neighborhood, city or region.  The linked to site went on to say of Placemaking:
Put simply, it involves looking at, listening to, and asking questions of the people who live, work and play in a particular space, to discover their needs and aspirations. This information is then used to create a common vision for that place.
The New Community Paradigm Places wikipage  which will serve as a depository for community resources on Place was also introduced.  Community Places, was examined in the last post.  This post will deal with what has been described as the  Soul of a Community.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Gallup joined forces and following an approach similar to PPS studied cities across the country to determine what attaches people to their communities by launching the Knight Soul of the Community project in 2008.  Three years and close to 43,000 interviews later with people in 26 communities, the study found three main qualities responsible for attaching people to place:
  1. Social offerings, such as entertainment venues and places to meet, 
  2. Openness (how welcoming a place is) and 
  3. Area’s aesthetics (its physical beauty and green spaces)
The same three answers apply to cities across the country as shown by the Vimeo video below An Explanation of Community Attachment - Soul of the Community Project.

What is even more interesting is that these three aspects which provide for Residential or Community Attachment also have a strong correlation with economic prosperity.  By studying the 26 individual cities that participated in the study, it is possible to determine what steps can be taken to replicate the same results.  The study showed both good and opportunities for improvement in each city. Each city had a its own story to tell. The stories were of place and, more importantly, the stories were of people and how they interacted with the place they called their community.

From the Aberdeen post:
Despite its high ratings of resident caring, social offerings remains a challenge area for Aberdeen, specifically in the areas of local night life and arts and cultural events. This must be addressed as these areas are particularly important to young people. Over the past three years of the study, Aberdeen has made significant gains in attaching young people 18-34 years old to the community. Imagine what could be possible with more attention to these aspects of social offerings.
From the Corpus Christi post:
The comments I had read in the article announcing the presentation flooded my mind as I stood facing what seemed to be a completely different crowd that night. And I worried about deflating that crowd with my honest response. But I said, “It seems to me that some of you, and I’m not sure if you’re in this room, but some of you are stuck in place.”
The Soul of the Community study helps identify new approaches to help create transformational change and new possibilities for continued progress, in other words it helps in creating new community paradigms.  A community can use the study’s findings to help optimize the strengths of their community and address the challenge of improving of areas community attachment thereby potentially increasing local economic growth.

This effort' to create new community paradigms began by looking at economic development in working to create Liveable Cities through Liveanomics.  The relationship of community attachment to economic development in the Soul of the Community Study provides particular relevance for this effort by going beyond the recent economic crisis as the study's findings can help leaders include new ideas into the existing economic rebuilding and development conversation.

Good economics and finance are essential to the sustainability of a city but they are not the soul of the community and do not make up the all of that community's wealth.  This was demonstrated in the one Southern California city included in Knight Soul of the Community Study - Long Beach, California..
Ratings of the local economy increased in 2010; however, the economy is still not a key factor emotionally connecting residents to their communities. Perception of local leadership is rated lower in 2010, but it is not a key driver in attaching residents to Long Beach.
To increase its community wealth, Long Beach added to its own natural assets of good weather and relaxed Southern California attitude by investing in high-quality bicycle infrastructure and encouraging bike-related businesses.

Long Beach according to PPS offers charisma according to their online article How Charismatic Is Your City? showing that there is more to a community than just the city budget and that investments into the livability of the community can have a long term return on that investment.  Charlie Gandy, mobility coordinator of the city of Long Beach, California talks about his city and what they have done to enhance their charisma for the members of the community and others in this TEDx. video.

Past Posts