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Change or Become Irrelevant!

27 November 2023

Change is a constant in the evolution of societies, and small local communities are no exception. However, creating, and sustaining change in these local settings can be a real challenge. Urgency is often the catalyst for effective change, prompting communities to address pressing issues before they escalate. Here are a few considerations to help implement much-needed change.


It is critical to articulate the need to change along with the challenges and issues facing the community. Use data, stories, and real examples to make the situation tangible for community members. Emphasize the potential negative consequences of not addressing the issues promptly.  That might be a decline in local businesses, a shrinking job market, or stagnant property values can have a cascading effect on the overall prosperity of the community. Presenting economic projections based on trends can be a powerful motivator.


Outline a positive, compelling, and inspiring vision for the community's future. Help people see the benefits of change and how it will improve their lives.  Break down the vision into specific, achievable goals to make it more manageable and actionable.  This is done by fostering open communication channels within the community. Create forums, town hall meetings, or online platforms where citizens can express their concerns, ideas, and feedback.  Encourage dialogue, making community members feel heard and valued.


Identify key influencers and community leaders who can champion the cause. Their support can lend credibility and influence others.  Build partnerships with local organizations, businesses, and educational institutions to create a united front for change.


You must share success stories from other communities that have successfully overcome similar challenges. This can provide inspiration and demonstrate that change is possible. Showcase local success stories and celebrate small victories along the way to build momentum.  Conduct workshops, seminars, or informational campaigns to educate the community about the issues at hand and the potential solutions.


Use various communication channels, including social media, local newspapers, and community events, to reach a broad audience.  Cite studies or statistics that correlate the economic well-being of communities with proactive, positive change. Communities that invest in education, infrastructure, and social programs often experience long-term economic growth. Providing a tangible connection between positive change and economic benefits reinforces the urgency of taking action.


Engage young people in the community and emphasize the impact that positive change will have on their future.  Leverage schools, youth organizations, and other platforms to involve younger generations in the change process.


Establish timelines for achieving goals and milestones. This creates a sense of urgency and helps the community track its progress. Regularly communicate updates on progress to maintain transparency and accountability.


Identify and address potential sources of resistance within the community immediately. Understand the concerns and work collaboratively to find solutions.  Emphasize that change is a collective effort and that everyone's contribution is vital.  Illustrate the potential long-term consequences of inaction. Use projections and models to demonstrate the trajectory the community is on if current trends persist. As mentioned above, factors such as population decline, increased crime rates, or a decline in the quality of education are real issues that impact the entire community.  For example, if the community is experiencing a decline in population due to outmigration, project how this trend will impact the community's infrastructure, tax base, and overall vibrancy. Presenting a future scenario based on current trajectories can be a powerful wake-up call for community members to act urgently.


As with anything, breaking down the larger goals and place them into smaller, manageable, bite-size actions that individuals or groups can take. This makes the change process less overwhelming and more achievable. It is critical to have short-term wins, this will fuel the long-term objectives and goals.


Also know that change can and will be difficult, it is a learned skill and not very intuitive for most people. It must be practiced and perfected over time. It is always much easier to take the road most often traveled, that is safe and usually gets you the minimum gain.  It is the road less traveled that is often the best route to your destination. The masses rarely travel this road as it can difficult, but the rewards are always far greater.


John Newby is a nationally recognized Columnist, Speaker, & Publisher. He consults with Chambers, Communities, Business & Media. His “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” column appears in 60+ newspapers and media outlets. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists chambers, communities, media, and businesses in creating synergies that build vibrant communities. He can be reached at: John@Truly-Local.org.