Archive for Becky’s email newsletter – Page 3

Best practices for rural housing

There aren’t any

Howdy  

Each town I visit that has had any success with housing has it’s own special way they did it. 

Some places have special resources. South Dakota has a governor’s houses program. Kansas just changed their state housing bond initiative to make second story lofts eligible. 

But that doesn’t help you if you’re not in those states. 

Tionesta, Pennsylvania, is hemmed in by the national forest, the river, and the foothills. So they’re considering adding housing on an island in the river. 

That probably doesn’t help you unless you have a forest, a river and an island, too. 

What I’m saying is there are no best practices to solving rural housing challenges. But there is a best mindset. 

Cultivate the mindset of being open to new ideas, of testing each idea rather than trusting expert guesses, of taking small steps rather than making big plans and copying what worked somewhere else. 

You don’t have the reinvent the wheel, or the house in this case. But you will have to find a special set of people, resources and places that work in your town. 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS – Our video Improving Rural Housing is still available. 

 

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SaveYour.Town · PO Box 8 · Hopeton, OK 73746 · USA
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1 smart way to draw your community closer together

Fabulous homebuilding location! Close to downtown!

Howdy  

Whether your town is growing fast or in a decline, keep renewing your core. No one likes a mushy core, in an apple or a small town. 

Make the most of your existing water and sewer and street. Build more in the center, less on the outside. 

Draw your community closer together. People who live close to the core can walk and bike more to run errands. They can go downtown for shopping and events more easily. 

Here’s how you do it. Find the empty lots within your existing core residential areas. Then get together and brainstorm ways you can promote building in the core:

  • make people aware which lots are available for building
  • offer incentives like waiving utility startup fees
  • sell empty lots at low prices
  • remove zoning barriers

“Fabulous homebuilding location! Close to downtown!” 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS – Housing is our theme this month. Discover more good ideas for just $5 at Improving Rural Housing

 

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SaveYour.Town · PO Box 8 · Hopeton, OK 73746 · USA
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Why city people envy your small town life

One part of rural life that makes city people jealous

Howdy  

When I spoke to the Oklahoma State University’s rural economic development course again this year, the students had great questions as usual.

One student asked how the small town they were studying could stop people from going to the nearby big city to spend money at stores and restaurants. It’s a question I think many of you can relate to. 

I said to start with the one thing that the city people are jealous of the small town for. I couldn’t tell the student exactly what that was, but I knew there had to be something.

Then another student spoke up and said she had grown up in that small town we were discussing, and now she lives in the nearby big city. She was able to tell us exactly what that big city is jealous of. It’s animals!

She grew up showing animals and keeping pets. Now that she lives in the big city, she really misses having that option. 

See, the big city doesn’t allow people to keep livestock or even exotic pets within city limits. Families who want to show animals in 4-H or at the fair can’t keep their animals nearby. People who want a potbelly pig as a pet or want to keep a horse for recreation have to stable it far from their home. 

But in the small town, you can keep animals as long as you keep things clean. I’m sure this isn’t the only rural quality of life factor that city people envy. If we’d had longer, we could probably have come up with more. 

What things about your small town life do big city people envy? Take some time today to brainstorm a few items, then share them with a friend and see what else you can come up with. 

Your list will be all about your quality of life. You’ll have a list of reasons why people would want to move into your town. It’s also reasons people might want to stay rather than move out, and reasons former residents might want to move back. 

I’m sure you can come up with creative ways to use that list in marketing your community, talking to residents, and in deciding what projects you want to work on next. 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS – We share a trick to find out what makes your town attractive now so you can use that to attract and retain remote workers in our Zoom Towns video.

 

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SaveYour.Town · PO Box 8 · Hopeton, OK 73746 · USA
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Where will you get food in the next crisis?

Growing resilience–literally growing it

Howdy  

When the next crisis hits, where will your community turn for food? 

It doesn’t matter if it’s a disaster, a pandemic, an economic crunch, or some other variation of catastrophe. We all have been reminded that there will be a next one. Right now, a lot of work is going into being better prepared and more resilient as individuals, families and communities. 

No matter what the future throws at us, our communities will be better prepared with more food that’s locally grown and ready to share.  

That’s why farm shares and CSAs are already sold out for the year. It’s why even not-very-good gardeners like me are planting extra so we can share with our community. It’s why everyone from major corporations to cooperative extension groups are doing more to support the pipeline from gardens to local food businesses. 

More people growing more food will mean more “we could sell this” moments, more tiny starts at farmers markets, more experiments with recipes, more growing food businesses. And that’s good. 

Our economy will be stronger with a more diverse business base that includes locally grown foods.

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS – Deb and I focused the second half of this month’s video on how food builds a more resilient community

 

Becky McCray from SaveYour.Town speaking about how food builds community.
Watch this free sample from our video Food Builds Community.

 
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SaveYour.Town · PO Box 8 · Hopeton, OK 73746 · USA
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What if your town park had a honey-do list?

Why the city blew its top at the bridge ninjas 😡

Howdy  

Just a few months ago, some anonymous good neighbors noticed a dangerously dilapidated footbridge on a city park walking trail, so they replaced it with a new safe footbridge. The city didn’t take it well.

The city posted on Facebook asking people to turn in the bridge builders, as though they had committed a crime. Of course, the city got roasted in the comments. Ultimately, the city edited their post to show appreciation for the good intentions and to call for a formal committee to handle dialogue with trail supporters.  

This isn’t a huge city; the population is around 17,000. At that size, sure they need more planning and coordination than a town of 1,700. But maybe that could happen in an Idea Friendly way. Maybe using this suggestion from the same person who sent me that Facebook post. 

Why not create a honey-do list for your town? You know, a list of little jobs or tasks that anyone could take on for the benefit of all. 

Then if you found yourself with a little extra time after pressure washing your deck, you could check the list and maybe pressure wash a few picnic tables in the park. Or if you had some paint left over, you’d know you were welcome to paint the railings along the trail. Or if you had the skills and resources, you could replace a footbridge.

You don’t have to be an official to start a list. But you should definitely invite your officials to get involved. They can tell you what’s already planned, and how to adjust the list to work together. Anyone could post suggestions and invite others to add to the list. That’s a lot more natural dialogue than any formal committee could generate. 

Our public places like parks and trails belong to all of us. When we help maintain them, we’re acting as good stewards. And when officials help us, they’re being good stewards, too. It’s all part of pulling together as a community. 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS – For $5, you can get a whole bunch more practical ideas for building community stewardship of your parks, trails and waters

  

 

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SaveYour.Town · PO Box 8 · Hopeton, OK 73746 · USA
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What to do about toxic divisions: practical steps

Bring your community together

Howdy  

At the end of 2020, Deb and I talked about what is going on in the world. We wondered what we could do to make a difference in the face of so much division and hatred. Here’s what we decided. 

Throughout 2021, our commitment to you is to help you build community and unify diverse groups in your small town. 

Connection in the local community is a powerful antidote against divisions and hatred. Bringing people from your community together across divides is the best thing you can do to rebuild the fabric of your community. 

Every video we present to you throughout 2021 will support building community locally. 

We started in January with the video Building a Unified Community. We’re keeping it available for sale throughout the year as the foundation of building community. 

We’ll be covering more essential community building topics like these in our upcoming videos: 

  • Rural-urban connections
  • Diversity in rural communities 
  • Food as community building block 
  • Public places for building community
  • Commerce builds communities

We’ll also present some videos that might not sound like community building at first, but that we see as closely related. In our February video, we are focusing on retail businesses with Beating the Online Competition. We made sure to include the ways that strong local retail businesses support a strong local community. 

Two other frequently-requested topics we’re looking at for this year: 

  • Workforce
  • Housing

Again, they might not sound like community building topics, but both housing and workforce are essential building blocks for a resilient community. 

Another essential part of building community is helping people see that everyone has gifts and talents to share with the community. All people are contributing members of society. We just each contribute in different ways. 

Throughout 2021 and always, we teach you the method that unleashes the power of everyday people like you to take action. Little by little, the actions rewrite people’s programming and values in positive ways. And that is how we are going to do our small part to rebuild the fabric of our communities and countries together. 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS – Read more on this, including how we came to this idea and how diversity fits into it, at SaveYour.Town.  

 

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SaveYour.Town · PO Box 8 · Hopeton, OK 73746 · USA
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Have you seen the #EverySingleStreet challenge?

Walk, bike or roll, but bring your team

Howdy  

Scott Clark travelled #EverySingleStreet of Cornwall, Canada, and shared his thoughts on Twitter. “You can observe so much more on foot or by bike,” he said. 

As soon as I saw it, my brain lit up! 

What could we–all of us in small towns–do with an “every single street” project?

You could walk (or bike or roll) your entire town. It could be just you, you and some friends, or even a town-wide challenge. Invite those local officials to join you. 

Take a lot of pictures. Show the good things, and show the potential to get better. Show us the kind of town you want to become.

My buddy C. Brandon Chapman, aka Chappy® ⚾ saw my first tweet about this, and he is already on board. He’s a city councilor for Pullman, Washington. He tweeted: 

“Today I started a new project called #EverySingleStreet. This year, one of my goals is to walk every single official Pullman street and learn more about our city and find ways we can improve. I’m taking lots of pics to document. #PullmanProud
 
Pick your local hashtag. Walk, bike or roll, get out there. Share #EverySingleStreet.

Are you in? 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS – If you’re in, hit reply and let me know! I’ll do my town of Hopeton, Oklahoma, even though we only have two streets and one is the bank drive through 😂

 

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SaveYour.Town · PO Box 8 · Hopeton, OK 73746 · USA
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Paint by numbers community building

Rally your town to come together

Howdy  

What brings your community together?

What gets people to rally around your town? 

What if it was as simple as paint by numbers? 

In Webster City, Iowa, four groups (government, business, education and a nonprofit) created a creative placemaking art project that everyone in town could be involved in. 

They picked a downtown building with some boarded up windows on the second floor that they could use as a canvas for some art. The building was a good choice for bringing different groups together: it is owned by a Latino, and many of the businesses in the ground floor serve Hispanic people and young people in the community. 

A student artist from the University of Iowa drew a simple paint-by-numbers design of colorful geometric shapes, featuring subjects from the town’s history. The design was transferred onto panels to fit the windows. They took all the panels to the fairgrounds and laid them out, ready to paint. 

Then they invited everyone in town to come paint, even a tiny bit. Anyone could go for even a few minutes and be part of painting the designs. The local newspaper took pictures. You could see the camaraderie created when people come together to make art.  

Now that the panels are installed over the boarded up windows, that building is now a place the locals love to look at, and share with their friends. 

You build a stronger community through experiences that bring people together from across different groups to each play a meaningful role.

These experiences change the way people see themselves, the way they think and the way they act within your community. 

Deb and I talk more about this in our latest video, Building a Unified Community

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS – See two pictures of the paint-by-numbers window murals here.   

 

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SaveYour.Town · PO Box 8 · Hopeton, OK 73746 · USA
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We’re not going to save your town. So why is that our name?

The rest of the story 

Howdy  

Here’s how we picked our name. Deb and I had decided to do a project together to work with small towns. We were trying to decide on a name. Deb was searching for domain names, and found out .town was a thing now. Almost immediately, she came up with SaveYour.Town, and it was available. So that sounded great, and she bought the URL. 

You can hear the rest of the story on our About page. It’s the first video. You can also scroll down and watch videos with Deb’s superpower, what our red and blue colors represent, and the story of how Deb and I actually met. 

These are our founding stories. Since Deb and I have been doing this for 5 years now, we decided to share them. If you need something to do for an hour, you can watch the entire recording of our FaceBook Live session here

Enjoy your holidays. Thank you for all your do for your own community. You’re part of a whole movement of people building community from the ground up. We love that about you!

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS – I asked the economic developers at MidAmerica Economic Development Conference for their best tip to support tiny businesses. I shared 17 tips here. I think number 17 is the best one. 

 

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SaveYour.Town · PO Box 8 · Hopeton, OK 73746 · USA
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Volunteers not doing enough? Check 2 simple things

I promise – no mention of the election

Howdy  

Small towns run on volunteer energy. In the new Idea Friendly way of volunteering, not everyone has to volunteer in the same way. Even clicking ‘like’ can count as a small but meaningful part of a project.

But how do you get people to even click ‘Like’?
That was the question in the chat at one of our recent virtual conference presentations.

First, the people have to actually like the idea. Maybe the people you’re asking don’t like the idea. And that’s OK.

Second, maybe they really aren’t online people. Like your Old Way board members and volunteers, for example. Some of them are probably not good at clicking ‘Like’ because they aren’t really comfortable online. Not all, but some of them. 

Look at it from a Fogg Behavioral Model perspective: you want to make the action you ask a person to do match that person’s level of motivation and their ability.

So make sure you’re the people you are asking to click ‘like’ are people who both have the ability and enough motivation to do it.

There you have it. Two simple things to check every volunteer ‘ask’ against: 

  1. Is this person able to do what I’m asking?
  2. Does the effort it will take them match their motivation level? 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS – No one knows quite how holiday shopping is going to go this year. I shared a challenge and an opportunity I see for small towns in this post on LinkedIn. I’d love your thoughts on it.
 

Also, the Survey of Rural Challenges is open for your input. Pass it on!

 

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SaveYour.Town · PO Box 8 · Hopeton, OK 73746 · USA
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Get a weekly dose of positivity for small communities from Becky McCray and Deb Brown, co-founders of SaveYour.Town. We share practical steps you can put into action right away.
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