Why do some communities grow and others stagnate?

A recent study supported by the Knight Foundation provides some interesting and empirical evidence that:

  1. The drivers that create emotional bonds between people and their community are consistent in virtually every city and can be reduced to just a few categories.
  2. Interestingly, the usual suspects – jobs, the economy, and safety – are not among the top drivers. Rather, people consistently give higher ratings for elements that relate directly to their daily quality of life: an area’s physical beauty, opportunities for socializing, and a community’s openness to all people.
  3. Remarkably, the study also showed that the communities with the highest levels of attachment had the highest rates of gross domestic product growth. Discoveries like these open numerous possibilities for leaders from all sectors to inform their decisions and policies with concrete data about what generates community and economic benefits.

Community attachment is an emotional connection to a place that transcends satisfaction, loyalty, and even passion.

A community’s most attached residents have strong pride in it, a positive outlook on the community’s future, and a sense that it is the perfect place for them.

They are less likely to want to leave than residents without this emotional connection. They feel a bond to their community that is stronger than just being happy about where they live.

The study has found a positive correlation between community attachment and local GDP growth. Those communities whose residents were more attached saw more local GDP growth. This is a key metric in assessing community success because local GDP growth not only measures a community’s economic success, but also its ability to grow and meet residents’ needs.

Key Community Attributes:

Social Offerings - Places for people to meet each other and the feeling that people in the community care about each other and includes perceptions of:

  • Vibrant nightlife
  • Good place to meet people
  • Other people care about each other
  • Availability of arts and cultural opportunities
  • Availability of social community events

Openness – How welcoming the community is to different types of people, including families with young children, minorities, and talented college graduates and includes perceptions of:

  • Good place for older people
  • Good place for racial and ethnic minorities
  • Good place for families with young children
  • Good place for gays and lesbians
  • Good place for young, talented college graduates looking for work
  • Good place for immigrants
  • Good place for young adults without children

Aesthetics – The physical beauty of the community including the availability of parks and green spaces and includes perceptions of:

  • Availability of parks, playgrounds, and trails
  • Beauty or physical setting

Education – One of the higher rated key attachment

drivers and includes perceptions of the quality of:

  • Colleges and Universities
  • K-12 public schools.

Read Study: http://www.soulofthecommunity.org/sites/default/files/SOTC_2010_Report_OVERALL_11-12-10_mh.pdf

Thanks to John Dahlgren, URA-Main Street Administrator – City of Green River

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