Your small town is like a website; you may need to clear your cache to see the current version.
Your town is changing all the time. People move out, and people move in. People are born, and people die. Businesses start, and businesses stop. Staff turns over, and new people are working in different jobs. People are working remotely, using online tools to serve customers half a world away. You never see them. Businesses you don’t even know exist are doing global trade from your small town.
The resources from outside are changing. Once-reliable outside funding is gone, and new ways of funding projects are at hand on your smartphone.
It’s really hard to see this. If you’ve lived in the town for more than five years, you probably don’t see the change anymore. If you have lived there all your life, you really have to pay attention to notice it. If you moved out decades ago, and you come back only to visit, then you’re going to get stuck in the same conversations, seeing the same things. You’ll have to make a huge effort to find out what is different.
You have to clear your cache. Your brain is like a web browser, and it’s bringing up the cached version of your town that it stored away in memory long ago. Until you hit refresh, you’re not going to see what is going on.
You hit refresh by making a deliberate effort to go different places in town, talk to different people, and listen for the stories of what is happening now. You look for the people who aren’t waiting for permission, the ones who are working outside the old organizations.
You hit refresh by publicly planting a flag in the kind of town you want to live in. Different people will respond, and you’ll have to listen carefully and without judgment when they tell you what kind of town they want to live in. It won’t be the same as your vision. Listen with respect and without jumping in to respond. Their vision is just as important as yours.
You hit refresh by helping people take small steps, without having to jump over hurdles you put in their way. You use your authority to cut down barriers, do away with rules and eliminate asking for permission. You wait and see what people come up with.
How do you refresh your view? What has surprised you lately about your town?
Keep shaping the future of your town,
PS – Have you counted your empty buildings downtown? Deb Brown did when she started as chamber director. There were 12. They filled 10 in one year. That’s just one story from our next live-streamed workshop. (It’s like a webinar, only less boring.) Live August 16, replay August 17-30 only. Details: Webinar – Filling Empty Buildings