When the local officials shut you down

B.C.  wrote to me about her town officials and how they keep shutting her down. I want to share it with you because I want you to know that you are not alone. You’re not the only one who gets shut down when you try to do good things. And I want to share with you what I shared with her as a completely different approach to changing things in her town. 

Here’s what B.C. said: 
I am a small business owner in a small town. When I read one of your most recent posts about how to attract and retain millennials I couldn’t help but break down and cry. Myself and many others who have invested in our town feel like our town is drowning and our “leadership” is doing nothing to stop it.

For example, this past year our City Council voted to have a consultant come in and do a strategic plan to plan for the future of our city. We were all so excited and hopeful and two of my friends were actually on the steering committee. The City Council just voted in May to adopt the recommendations made by the consultant and steering committee. Unfortunately we are already seeing that it was a complete front and that City employees are not going to execute it. $80,000 down the drain.

What’s worse is that the editor of our newspaper is married to a person at our Chamber of Commerce and all of the articles that our public sees are not only exaggerations but sometimes complete lies about things going in our City… skewing them so leadership looks like they are doing more than they actually are.

I promise we have tried everything… going to council meetings, serving on committees, but all we do is get shut down. At this point we feel that unless they are exposed nothing will happen. I know your articles are written in a positive light and believe you me I get it but really hope other towns can learn from our mistakes and maybe once we hit rock bottom we can rise back up.

B.C. and all of you can take heart from this: You are not the only one. Small towns all over are saddled with officials and the Old Guard who just can’t give up doing things in the worst old way. Everything B.C. described echoes the challenges that others have shared with me from small towns all over, including from other countries! 

Turns out, it may be a good thing that she has been shut down in all the traditional avenues for getting involved because it’s going to point in the right direction for the future for all of us. 

Turn your back on every formal organization, every official group and every part of government where you have been shut down or shut out. Let them go on with their business. It doesn’t matter to you whether they execute those plans they paid so much for, because formal organizations are not the future.

Right now, we are in the middle of an epic shift in power. What used to take formal organizations to accomplish can now be done, and done better, by individuals just organizing themselves as needed. We have the technology, the ability to communicate, and the skills to do more without needing officers or officials. Trendwatching.com is writing about this wave of empowerment, and almost 10 years ago Clay Shirky explained it in his book, Here Comes Everybody.  

How does this relate to B.C.’s town and your town? You turn to the people. Your hope is in taking small but meaningful actions yourself. When you do that, you’ll start to Gather Your Crowd. See, lots of other people are interested in making it a better place to live, but they’ve been shut out of the official channels, too. They’ll be excited to find a way to take small but meaningful actions with you. You may start with something as small as cleaning your own sidewalk. Then when you talk about that and share pictures online, others are going to be attracted to the possibility of making a difference. 

Take Small Steps. Focus on the small but meaningful. Start in your own back yard, or front yard, or your own businesses, or your own group that meets just to have a beer and talk positive. Figure out what you care about enough to take action on, and remember that it never has anything to do with formal organizations. It’s only to do with tiny steps you can take right now.

  • Invite a young, potential entrepreneur to do a pop-up inside your business.
  • Hold a picnic on an empty lot or in a pocket park along with your friends.
  • Shop at the farmer’s market and post a photo online 

Focus on what people can do. That’s your light. Move towards it. Forget you ever heard of anyone with an official title. Gather Your Crowd. Take Small Steps. That’s the Idea Friendly future of your town. 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 

PS –  We are cooperating with over 100 organizations to conduct new research into the attitudes and challenges of small business owners. I would love for us to get a whole bunch of rural business owners on here! It takes about 10-15 minutes to share your thoughts on the Crack the Challenge Code survey