Posted by Paula Jensen
I was at my second video conference of the day earlier last week and a peer at the meeting said, "Time-out! I have to ask everyone a question. We all agreed and he said, "What would you do this weekend, if the world hadn't collapsed?" Some people responded by saying that they would meet friends or family for a meal. Others have offered special events like getting in shape for their wedding dress. Many have mentioned normal things – laundry, cooking, children, housework or Netflix. But whatever the answer, we all agreed that the way we live and work today is very different from that of a month ago.
So what if I change this question a bit and ask, "How is your community after the world has collapsed?"
Things are changing fast around us – what we knew to be true yesterday, may not be true today and our future is unclear. And I'm told that change is something that rural communities don't do very well.
Rural communities are often publicly criticized for being slow to change. We prove this by making disparaging remarks about our own hometowns, and we quickly reject new ways of getting things done. Too often, people around us say, "We are fine as we are." These actions lead the world to believe that we are in a waiting pattern. This sends a negative message that rural communities are not worthy of investment. And, if these mindsets are believed locally, it leads to a path of decline.
My life's work is focused on empowering and connecting rural communities. To support this work, I recently learned a new facilitation practice called Strategic Doing. It is based on four principles of collaborative action that can lead to change in our organizations, our communities and our society. We believe… 1) that we have a responsibility to build a sustainable and prosperous future for ourselves and future generations; 2) no individual, organization or place can build this future alone; 3) open, honest, focused and caring collaboration among diverse participants is the way to go to achieve clear, valuable and shared results; and 4) doing, not just talking – in alignment with our beliefs.
When I think of the rural relationship with change, the practice of Strategic Doing excites me! It has the potential to help diverse groups of people create lasting change through a new way of working together. Doing strategically isn't about repairing the old system – it's about designing what's next based on what's most valued!
And what I have discovered in the past few weeks, due to changes due to the pandemic, has been quite the opposite of criticism – the rural is slow to change. I have observed that rural communities, with well-connected economic development professionals and progressive local leadership, are reacting quickly to learn new technologies so that they can proactively connect with many partners to meet immediate needs and future of the community. Rural leaders and their partners naturally intervene in parts of the strategic realization process to ask the questions: what could we do? What should we do? What are we going to do? and who will?
The real test for all of us in rural communities will be based on how we continue to embrace change – new ideas, new support practices, new technologies, new leaders and new ways of leading – after the end of the pandemic.
About Paula Jensen
Having a passion for leadership and community development is what drives Paula Jensen's personal and professional life. Paula lives in her hometown of Langford, South Dakota, population 318+. She is a grant writer and community coach for Dakota Resources, based in Renner, South Dakota. Dakota Resources is a mission-oriented 501c3 community development financial institution that works to connect capital and the capacity to empower rural communities. Contact her at [email protected]
- What would you do this weekend, if the world had not collapsed? – April 12, 2020
- The Stop Doing list for communities – January 20, 2020
- How parents prevent children from becoming the next generation of leaders – December 28, 2019
- Gather the actors – November 22, 2019
- Why do we never do anything in this city! – October 12, 2019
- Wishing vs hoping that your city will improve – July 27, 2019
- What is the life expectancy of our community? – June 22, 2019
- We have tried this before and it has not worked! – May 26, 2019
- If they want to lead, empower them to lead – April 27, 2019
- Are all small towns dying? Can you save a small town? – March 23, 2019