How do you make a 5 year bridge plan Idea Friendly?

There’s always that one guy in the back. This time, he was a county commissioner. He’d just heard the Idea Friendly method for the first time, how it could be an alternative to writing formal plans and how it can apply to anything. With maybe just a hint of smugness, he put this out there:

“So Idea Friendly really can’t help with my Five Year Bridge Plan.”

Except, of course, that it can. (Hey, if we can apply Idea Friendly to a landfill, of course we can apply it to a bridge plan.)

What goes into a five year bridge plan, in the Idea Friendly way? 

Gather Your Crowd 
We have to start by thinking about the purpose of the bridge plan. At its heart, the bridge plan is about moving people and things around the county. Who else might be interested in that? I’m thinking landowners, businesses, utilities, natural resources people, mineral developers, field staff, extension specialists, tourism pros, transportation companies and development staff from municipalities, at a minimum.

Remember, it’s not about gathering “the public” for a complaint session. It’s Gathering Your Crowd so you’re not the only one making the big goal happen. Because it turns out that a bridge plan is about more than bridges and more than plans.  

Build Connections 
Now that we have a lot of people who care about moving people and things around the county, let’s start connecting them to each other and connecting to the resources we need.

  • Who has what we need or need to know?
  • What are landowners’ plans out there?
  • What are development patterns around the county?
  • Who’s working on development plans, transportation plans or business plans?
  • How do they connect?
  • What outside experts are available to us?
  • Who knows about the regional biking and hiking trails? 

Take Small Steps 
This is the key. We’re so used to the Old Way, with just a few guys writing the whole plan with little input, that we don’t really know how to involve a lot of people in tiny ways that add up to a real improvement. Now that we know that the bridge plan is just one part of moving people and things around the county, we can look at it differently.

I’m picturing driving tours of proposed bridge improvements that includes the recreational, business and agricultural developments in the area. Or a picnic and informal discussion on a county site that includes a walking tour or demonstration. Or building a temporary model of the whole county in an open field to visualize and walk through all the different systems that make up the whole. 

The end result is you know a heck of a lot more about which bridges are priorities and where to invest your limited resources. 

Once you see your plan or project as something more than a box to check on your to-do list, you can start to see an Idea Friendly way to get there.   

Keep shaping the future of your town, 
Becky

PS –  What kinds of things have you tried to improve your small town? Strategic planning, economic gardening, arts districts or regional cooperation? What else? We’re going to add this to the Survey of Rural Challenges, and you can help by hitting reply and telling me what you’ve tried or are trying right now. 

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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