Can you make a small town more open to new ideas? Yes, and it may be the most important thing you can do.
In a world driven by frenetic change, which small towns are going to thrive?
We know rural people play a key role in our society, so some small towns will have a future. Some small towns are innovative and progressive. Other small towns are stuck in the past.
Is there anything that tells us which towns will survive and prosper? The key factor is openness to new ideas.
Openness to new ideas is an advantage for rural areas addressing change, a Christian Science Monitor article said, pointing to work by Dr. David Peters, Iowa State University, and Dr. Linda Lobao, Ohio State University.
Small towns that are open to new ideas will be the best positioned to thrive no matter what change comes their way.
Great. Now what? How do we make our towns more open to new ideas? There are three parts to making your rural community more Idea Friendly.
Gather Your Crowd
It doesn’t do any good if you are the only person in town open to new ideas. You’re going to need a crowd of people. The crowd here isn’t like a mob with pitchforks or a crowd of people watching a train wreck. It’s crowd sourcing the future of your town, a crowd of people with a positive intent.
You gather your crowd with a big vision. You start a public discussion about the kind of town you want to live in. You create the public focal point for the kind of positive conversations you want to start.
You can take actions like talking to people about the big vision, posting on social networks, showing public appreciation for others, giving awards for people who try new things, and welcoming newcomers.
You turn a crowd into a capable network through building connections. You need to connect your people to each other so they become more than just a crowd, they become a network. In order to make your people even more capable, you connect them with resources and training.
You can take actions like holding networking events. You can help create shared workspaces like co-working, maker spaces, shared arts studios or business incubators, so participants get a chance to connect with others like them.
You can also build connections outside your local network. Bring in outside resource people to provide training or information. Connect aspiring artists or entrepreneurs with the resources that exist outside your town.
Take Small Steps
You and the crowd accomplish the vision through small steps. When you start by taking small steps you make it possible for more people to be involved, you cut down the scale of the vision from huge and scary to small and doable. You also make it easier to fail (and learn) at a small scale rather than crash and burn with a huge effort all at once.
Stephanie Ray, Economic Development DirectorStillwater County, Montana
Learn more about Idea Friendly
Deb Brown and I walk you through all of this in detail in our Idea Friendly Method video. You get practical steps you can put into action right away to make your town more Idea Friendly.