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Yes, I really do own a small town liquor store and a cattle ranch. It gives me a down-to-earth perspective. I’ve been a city administrator for a small town with a population under 1,000 and a nonprofit executive working the broad stretch of rural counties that no one else wanted. I’ve been an antiques dealer scouring rural auctions for bargains and a teacher of computer classes for rural small businesses and senior citizens. I don’t just talk about rural issues, I live them.
Because I care about rural people, I watch the global trends in the economy, technology and society. Then I give you the practical steps you can implement right now to shape the future of your town.
These big trends give me a positive view of rural, but I don’t paint an unrealistic picture of small towns, pretending that everything is quaint and charming. We have issues, and we have assets.
I’ve met the CAVE People (the Citizens Against Virtually Everything). I’ve had my ideas blocked and sabotaged. I’ve watched my work be dismantled, and I’ve had other people take the credit for my efforts. I’ve been fired from my job for small-town political reasons. I’ve had people write letters to the editor to run me down in public. So I know what it feels like, how it wears down your ambition.
And it’s not just my own experience. For over 10 years, I’ve been writing online about rural small business, and people have shared their struggles with me. My writing led to chances to get out to events across the US and Canada to speak with rural people. Every place I’ve visited, people have brought up the same issue that really holds them back: the naysayers, the negative people, the old guard. I would always answer with ways to be more positive and go around those negative people. But that wasn’t a good enough answer, and I knew it. I knew it from my own experiences.
Then when I surveyed 223 rural people about their challenges, they told me about the lack of cooperation, the obstinacy and stubborn pessimism, the people who hold them back. Whenever they bring up a new idea, they get met with brick walls. Our worst enemies are right here in our towns. Small town people are just too closed to new ideas.
Rural people have tried using frameworks from other organizations, but they didn’t solve the real problem. Either the formulas were focused on building more committees to plan our way out of a people problem, or they just didn’t recognize the realities that people like you and I live with in our small towns.
So I’ve been busy learning, researching change science, behavioral motivation, open networks, crowd innovations and how you build a revolution. And I brought in what I’ve learned of rural realities and trends from everyday rural people like you over the past 10 years.
What I’ve found is that we can change this. There’s a system, a method to bring the revolution to your town, to make it open and Idea Friendly. You do it with three elements: Gather Your Crowd, Build Connections and Take Small Steps.
You know you have to start with tiny, easy-to-do steps. That’s how we get things moving. You know that connecting people with each other is the essence of community. And you know who you can rely on to get started. You’ll draw more people to you as you go.
The same things that make rural places challenging can be turned into positives. You know how. There’s a lot of rural wisdom inside you; it’s just been covered up with the busy-ness of everyday life. It may feel like a refresher course in common sense. These are the bedrock principles that small-town business owners have survived by for years, but it’s not a return to the past.
It will never go back to the way it was. It has to start from here and go forward. You’re the person who is best positioned to spark the revolution in your town. You’ll build the small steps and tiny experiments that will add up to change the shape of your town. I’ll show you how.
Your town matters. It’s worth the effort. No place is quite the same mix of people and place, culture and heritage. You’re unique. Despite all the naysayers, your small town has a future, and you’re about to change it.
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