Every once in a while a really good how-to manual comes across my desk. Yesterday the Orton Family Foundation (based in VT and CO) sent out an email entitled The Key to Successful Communities. A report called Planning for Stronger Local Democracy, written by Matt Leighninger, Executive Director of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, offers “fundamental building blocks of strong local democracy” and breaks down the blocks into actions. You can also listening to a one hour Community Matters conference call discussion on Civic Infrastructure to learn more about the subject.
The email states:
“Signs of success are everywhere in our Heart & Soul communities: young people are getting involved in Cortez, CO; neighborhood conversations are underway in Essex, VT and Polson, MT; story sharing has begun in Gardiner, ME and the North Fork Valley, CO. As these towns continue to shift the community-planning paradigm, Orton staff is looking ahead to how today’s positive momentum becomes tomorrow’s long-term success. A big part of the answer lies in developing strong civic infrastructure. Communities spend lots of time thinking about built infrastructure—the roads and bridges, water mains and power lines that are essential to a functioning municipality. But what about civic infrastructure—the social connections, decision-making processes, difficult conversations and informal networks that influence how the people in a community function? While many towns spend millions of dollars building roads, not a lot of places invest in getting civic infrastructure right.
“This is where the CommunityMatters Partnership comes in. CM believes that without a strong civic infrastructure, great ideas get lost, innovative breakthroughs get bungled, and positive momentum comes to a jerking halt. Communities can write fantastic plans supported by equitable visions, but without strong civic infrastructure, those plans could end up buried on a shelf or co-opted by special interests. Heart & Soul incorporates civic infrastructure development into planning, so that by the time a community plan is written, residents will know about it, they will feel their voice helped shape it, and will therefore be invested enough to help put it into action.”
CommunityMatters® offers a monthly conference call for 60-minute conversations about critical issues, tools and inspiring stories of community building. You can subscribed to their blog for the latest posts associated with each call or you can listen to all of the archived calls. The next call will be hosted from 4-5 Eastern time on December 13 on the topic of Engaging Diversity.