Sometimes YOU just need to make your city a great place to live!

Guest post by Paula Jensen

I watched Jon Stewart's political comedy "Irresistible". The story takes place in a small town in Wisconsin. The community recently suffered a devastating loss of its main employer. In response, a failed political consultant from Washington, D.C. is awarded a gig to help a local veteran run for mayor against the longtime incumbent. The consultant, planning to use this situation for his own political gain, sends out his first national media press release titled, Small spirits of small towns. When I saw this title on screen, I said to my husband, who was half asleep, 'Have you seen this title? I can't believe it was said Small Towns Small Minds! "This is where you tell me – this is just a movie – but why are small towns almost always presented as marginal and fragile communities separated from the rest of the nation?

In a January 3, 2020, Washington Post article titled, Popular misconceptions about rural AmericaChristopher Ingraham, journalist and small-town Minnesota resident wrote: "There are as many different ways of being American as there are cities, families, or individuals living in this country. The 'real American' mantle – and all the examinations, assumptions, and myths that go with it – is a burden none of us should have to bear on our own, but one that we can all share. "

Paying the attention that these rural stereotypes bring us is a complex challenge. It will take collaboration, innovation, and hard work. Communities with strong human capital, regional connections, and a focus on available assets can create opportunities to address this complex and long-standing problem.

By taking a step towards action, overcoming differences, engaging with other influencers and focusing on local strengths, YOU can make your city a great place to live and break stereotypes. rural. Here is a list I have started for you:

  1. Identify existing assets that offer growth opportunities and develop strategies to support them. Assets can include infrastructure, skills, culture, people, social, funding, green spaces and leadership.
  2. Involve all residents and organizations to develop a vision for the future of the community. Stakeholder engagement will ensure that the vision reflects existing goals and generates public support that can maintain momentum for change during electoral cycles.
  3. Seek external support and funding which can be strategically applied to the vision of the community. Even in small amounts, these resources can increase local engagement and incentivize private investment.
  4. Encourage collaboration within the community and across the region reinforce joint priorities.

We must not allow negative language to persist in our small towns. So, commit to creating solutions to overcome rural stereotypes that tarnish our public image.

About Paula Jensen

Having a passion for leadership and community development is what drives Paula Jensen's personal and professional life. Paula resides in her hometown of Langford, South Dakota with a population of 318+. She is a grants writer and community coach for Dakota Resources based in Renner, South Dakota. Dakota Resources is a mission-driven 501c3 community development finance institution that works to connect capital and capacity to empower rural communities. Contact her at [email protected]

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