Cities or communities need to inspire a spirit of creativity and generosity and become a kind of platform that draws in creative, entrepreneurial, and innovative people. Author Peter Kageyama posits that if cities could enjoy Apple-like love from their citizens, how much greater would it be as a result? Certainly, our level of satisfaction with our cities would increase, and our relationships with them would take on new levels of sophistication and complexity. We would become friends, fans, and co-creators of our cities and communities.
Kageyama also believes when you ask a fan or supporter to do something, they are far more likely to make the effort than when someone who feels “neutral” or “unengaged” does. I can tell you my Lockhart, Wekiwa Springs, and Clarcona-Ocoee area folks have enjoyed working with me and in their community. I know because they tell me. Well, guess what? Now, they do extraordinary things as they are fully engaged. Conversely, those who do not respond to my letters, texts, or HOA entreaties do not respond to the call to improve corridors. This is an important phenomenon to grasp for leaders at any level. We are looking for the few and wonderful.
In trying to increase the love of a community, the author says, “Little things matter.” Love at first sight is a great idea but is rare. The better question to ask, says the author, is how we move citizens forward on the continuum of engagement. (Hostile, Angry, Detached, Bored, Neutral, Curious, Engaged, Committed, Love) He believes it is the totality of our experiences in the city that makes the level of engagement. It is from attending large events to the smallest, from developing our connections with neighbors, and from many other unconscious processed factors. This is one of the reasons we are offering events in Lockhart and Wekiwa Springs. Next year my plan is to assist a new group begin a farmers market along Clarcona-Ocoee Road. I have had to develop a strong enough team to facilitate events.
So, what is the fundamental point of experience and connection of a resident with their city or community? I can tell you walking or riding my bike makes me more intimately acquainted with an area. Truly we need safe roadways and quality infrastructure, but the author emphasizes that occasionally focusing on little things, tiny acts can increase engagement and overall vitality. Picking berries off the beauty trees, spotting a gopher tortoise, viewing the beloved bear at Clay Springs, or running into a friend along the route makes my ride special.
However, when someone breaks a window or throws a cigarette butt onto the sidewalk a deficit act is perpetrated. When the tide of deficit acts grow, we see larger manifestations of those acts and the decline of streets and entire neighborhoods. Unchecked negative acts accumulate and add up to blighted areas which have a tough time bouncing back.
Yet when positive acts accumulate, the opposite occurs, and areas thrive and blossom like well-tended gardens and nurtured children. Personal relationships exhibit these similar dynamics. Relationships are made up of lots of little acts over time. The author claims it takes a 5-to1 ratio of positive acts to negative acts for any relationship to work.
The author asks the question, “What if a city formula for improvement were the reverse of the marriage formula?” What if one positive act, in the context of city life, made up for multiple negative acts? The author believes this to be true. We should expect more from ourselves and our cities. We need more positive acts transmitted to our citizens. We should strive for something beyond the status quo. The more positive acts, the better the town or community will become.
While municipalities are not directly responsible for their town being fun, they can play a huge role in facilitating fun. People who live in the community and experience good times will have a more engaged approach to the community.
I hope this four-part series will inspire you to start numerous types of unique activities or projects that increase the love of citizens for their community. I’m learning while the government should maintain infrastructure, public safety, parks, etc., what is additionally needed for success are co-creators, residents, and people who generate dozens of acts of kindness, new opportunities, and activities that build appreciation and engagement in the rest of the citizens. I hope you are inspired to make your community a better place.