You don’t have to travel far to find examples of broken communities everywhere. In cities across our country, economies are sputtering and social ties to the local community have all but vanish. There seems to be little hope and too many political leaders seem unable or unwilling to do anything to find a cure for these ills.
Our communities do not need to remain broken if circumstances create that situation. Creative leadership can help rescue a down-and-out community and infuse it with renewed vibrancy and a reinvigorated sense of pride.
At the root of many problems are massive economic shifts in our generation. Countless industrial jobs have either disappeared or moved away from the central city and its neighborhoods where industries once made their home. Some inner cities have experienced rebirth with the creation of new jobs. Many communities, however, remain magnets for poverty, disease and crime.
Two approaches can be taken to find a solution. The first approach focuses on the needs, deficiencies and problems in a community and how to address those things. The second approach focuses on making a clear commitment to discovering a community’s capacities and strengths. It is in our best interest to take the positive approach. Find out what is good and work off of that to build up a stronger foundation for the community in need.
Historic evidence suggests that lasting community development occurs only when people in the local community commit themselves to investing their time, energy and resources in the effort. Successful communities are never built from by outsiders who do not understand them.
Teaching community leaders self-reliance is also a good thing because outside help rarely arrives. In those cities that have lost traditional industries, many of those industrial jobs are never coming back. Economic and social development must start with the community itself.
Regenerating a community depends on locating all available local assets and connecting them with one another to multiply their power and effectiveness.