Why I didn’t ask what the group wants in your downtown

When I met with the people interested in forming a downtown development group in Pullman, Washington, I shared some basic ideas about the Innovative Rural Business Models, then we all walked through downtown together to spot opportunities. At the end, a reporter asked me why I didn’t start in the usual way.

He said he was expecting me to have everyone write down all the ideas for what they want in their downtown, then sort all the ideas into related goals, then let everyone vote on what they thought was most important. That’s the usual pattern for building consensus and deciding what the group will have as goals. Goodness knows I’ve been part of enough of those to know how to do one. 

But that’s the old model. A few people. Voting. Deciding for everyone.  

For me, it is not about building consensus; it’s about unleashing individuals. 

We don’t need to vote on what the group wants to focus on. We need to find out what projects people are passionate enough about to make happen.

Like #CleanYourOwnSidewalkDay. There was clear consensus that the dirty sidewalks were a problem. Consensus didn’t change anything. It was one person, Willow, who said she would clean her own sidewalk. One individual took action. That changes things. 

When one person takes action, she’ll draw people to her, people who agree that it’s important and worth taking action on. That’s the Idea Friendly kind of consensus. 

It’s not about voting for consensus and expecting everyone in the group to join the action whether they supported the idea or not. Instead, we let people be attracted to join the actions they already know they care about.

A group will emerge from the action, instead of action emerging from a group. 

Tiny steps of real change by people who care. That’s what I try to unleash.  

Keep shaping the future of your town, 

PS – What does an Idea Friendly town look like? It looks like Wall, South Dakota. Cheyenne McGriff explained why and how in their newsletter, Why Wall Rocks: Wall is Idea Friendly