Dying Communities v Successful Communities: What Characteristics Define Them?

Photo courtesy Robbie Skinner/Create Buckhannon

How is it that some communities in West Virginia seem to be dying on the vine, while others show a consistent pattern of improvement?

Is it just the roll of the dice? Is it geography? Or some unknowable combination of local industry and political support?

The study of community development experts over the decades has revealed that one of the most important determinants is the attitude of the communities themselves. 

In fact, the study of community development experts over the decades has revealed that one of the most important determinants is the attitude of the communities themselves.

Dr. Cornelia Flora originally compiled this list, below, and a variation was included in a speech by Mac Holladay of Main Street Services, Inc. to Vision Shared a number of years ago.

Dying Communities:

  • Avoid controversy.
  • Take positions on issues that are based largely on relationships rather the merits of the issue.
  • Are loyal is to individual people rather than the common good.
  • Want someone else to pay the bills and are unwilling to tax or invest in themselves.
  • Are controlled by longtime residents who won’t share power or authority with newcomers.
  • Have small groups that hold all the power – sometimes in a single person.

 

Successful Communities:

  • Commit to uniting for a better community and, put aside personal and professional differences for the common good.
  • Are willing to accept responsibility for the way things are and the way they will be.
  • Share a common vision for the future and a clear strategy to achieve it.
  • Maintain a proactive, action-oriented mindset and strong public-private-civic partnerships.
  • Invest in a diverse and participatory community leadership system.
  • Develop strong implementation plans with specific benchmarks and measures of success.

(Remember, the only difference between a vision and a hallucination is the number of people who see it!)

Where does your community stack up? Which of these characteristics are recognizable in your town? If a bit of an attitude adjustment is called for in your community, what is one concrete way can you contribute to that?

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