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5 Messages to Encourage Community Involvement

WV Litter GittersPhoto courtesy of Richard Cobb and the
Huntington, WV Litter Gitters.

The people in your community are your most valuable resources.

Even the richest local asset will sit dormant and under-utilized without the innovation, creativity, passion, and engagement of community citizens. The experiences and talents of your neighbors are essential ingredients to economic success. When these forces are activated in a cooperative and focused way, small, individual actions can translate into big change.

The development and activation of local human assets can be a challenge. Many people have gotten discouraged by the scale of the work that needs to be done and don’t see how they can possibly change things. They don’t see themselves as the “big leader” who they feel needs to step in and take charge to make things better. They may not have had role models in their life to show them how to participate and teach them that what they have to offer the community is essential to progress.

Before you can activate your assets, you have to activate people. That is sometimes easier said than done, particularly in regions where discouragement has become generational. Here are some messages you can use when you are recruiting valuable people for your efforts:

1) You can be a leader of little things. You don’t have to conquer the world. Little efforts make a big difference. By stepping up to do the smallest of tasks you set an example and inspire others.
2) What you have to offer is essential for change. Your talents, unique point of view, and one-of-a-kind experiences are all important and needed. There is no one like you, and no one else in the community can replace what you have to offer.
3) You are not alone in this effort. No one expects you do it all or do it alone. We can work together and help each other. You will teach me, and I will teach you.
4) When you participate, you will be rewarded. In doing this work you will find yourself positively challenged. You will grow as a person, meet new friends, and build strong community connections. You will get back what you give, and more.
5) You can leave a legacy. You are about to participate in change that our children’s children will learn about in school. You will be able to share and teach your grandchildren about leadership by your stories and example.

Community change doesn’t happen because of one person, or a group of people following the orders of one person. It happens when individuals express their passions and interest in civic engagement. It happens when they learn to work cooperatively with others to maximize results. And in so doing, they build social capital, accelerating the community’s momentum forward.

Can you envision what could be done if every single person in your community could activate their fullest potential for change? Even a fraction of that energy could produce riches beyond imagination.

This post is an excerpt from a guide I wrote for the Farm2U Collaborative, Mining for Gold: Capitalizing on Your Local Treasures – A Guide to Community Assessment and Engagement. It can be downloaded for free at http://farm2u.org/resource-center/toolkit/ along with several other free guides and resources for helping to build heritage and culinary tourism in communities.


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