Millenials are interested in experiences, not material things. That's what consumer data tells us and so companies go to great lengths to advertise based on those values.
The same is true for people who live in cities. People want great amenities, they want transportation, they want great childcare and pre-K education all because it provides an experience.
However, when we think about how to accomplish this, and what sets of amenities are going to get us there, we need to use not just quantitative data but qualitative data as well. What are the stories, the experiences, the challenges and the victories of city life? What do people celebrate and what do they value?
To find the answers to these and other questions we need to explore alternative methods of soliciting information. For example, here are 5 ways to get unconventional data about city life:
1) Give kids a disposable camera for the day so they can take pictures of life from their point of view
2) Use a hashtag and let people record a 1 minute fb live describing what their city means to them, or what they do in the morning, what they do at night, etc. It helps to know how people are experiencing city life at all points in the day.
3) Hold a workshop where you provide pictures of amenities, of facial expressions, of different situations, and let participants craft what their city looks like now and what they want it to look like in the future.
4) Interrogate the good as much as the bad. Find out why things are working as much as why they aren't working. If there's a program that's great, start a discussion board about it and ask why.
5) Ask for documentation. Whether it's a city hall meeting, a neighborhood civic association or another type of meeting. What are people saying? In order to craft a better story you have to have a baseline. You can't draw a baseline if you don't know that the current narrative is, not just overall but within each aspect of city life that you want to explore (i.e. housing, criminal justice, education, environment, transportation, etc).
Be creative. The future of your city will depend on it.
Guiding documents are critical to community development yet most people don't know what they are or what they mean so you have to take time to explain it. Below is an example!
The Comprehensive Plan is a document that fundamentally alters how a community looks and feels over the next 10, 20, 30 years. That is what it is supposed to do. It is often crafted by the Urban Planning Department of your local government and can take anywhere from 1 to 3 years to update. Want to learn more, including what questions to ask? Watch this 6 minute video!
So often we think about engaging "experts" for our community development initiatives. We need to find someone to do a needs assessment, someone to calculate the tax credits, someone to do a market analysis of the properties we want to revitalize...
And that's all well and good. We need experts. Heck, I wouldn't want someone tearing down buildings and bringing in 4x4s in my neighborhood unless they knew what they were doing!
However, while we're engaging experts we also need to think about what we can do to build the capacity of people within the neighborhoods we are tying to revitalize. It's not enough to improve the physical condition of communities when we need to improve the human condition.
Building capacity means taking the time to understand what skills are needed to advance the true goals of community revitalization. If people need jobs we need to give them the skills to get a job and if people need their civic associations to be more active, we need to give them the skills to get people to come to those meetings and and want to be part of getting the work done.
There are people in the community who are stepping up to lead, oftentimes when no one else will and we need to do more than say "congratulations!" We have to give them the support to be successful.
If you know anyone who could benefit from leadership development training, I want you to send them this link: How to lead EFFECTIVE working groups.
I'm not the type to just complain. If I see something that needs to be addressed, I provide a solution.
If you know someone who is leading a team and struggling, help them out and send 'em my way.
When I say plan for transition, I mean from one administration to another and one employee to another.
There are so many times that information falls through the cracks and is forever lost because there was no transition plan. No one expected Ms. Lee was going to retire suddenly or that Jack would go on medical leave never to return or the previous Mayor's appointee would not be carried over to the next administration, etc.
We just assume everything is going to keep ticking along just fine, and then BOOM. Something unexpected happens and people try to quickly pick up the pieces and make excuses about operating with fewer staff and blah blah blah.
I get it. These things happen and once they're done, they're done. However, I have less sympathy for organizations as long standing as the government. Local governments have been around for hundreds of years and they have experienced at least thousands of transitions yet few take the time to create transition plans.
Transition plan: A formal business transition plan puts the goals, priorities and strategies in place for a successful transition. Without a clearly defined plan, business owners are leaving their personal and financial future to chance. (source: entrepreneur.com)
Crafting a transition plan takes work and vision. You need to take the time to sit down with your team and figure out the short and long-term priorities, what is needed to execute them and how could things be completed without you. Of course the new person or administration may change the priorities but there should be at least some continuity to avoid projects completely stalling and constituents left wondering what is going on, which can grow into distrust and disdain.
Transition plans also signal to your internal and external stakeholders that you are forward thinking and prepared for the future- two attributes we need more of these days.
Does your organization have a transition plan?