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How Can We Build an Even Stronger Local Community?

Building a Strong Local Community

It only makes sense for all of us in Boulder to put effort into building an even stronger local community. What does that mean though? How can we really make our community stronger? Let’s look to the experts for their thoughts on this topic.


  • 3-part connection between sustainability & community
  • 3 goals to strengthen community
  • 3 keys to community strength
  • 3 things businesses can do for community impact
  • Supporting local & independent business


3-part connection between sustainability & community


One aspect of building community is the notion of sustainability. According to urban planning and design firm PlaceMakers, there is a “triple bottom line of profits, planet, and people” involved with it. People are the aspect of the trio that tends to get ignored, argues the firm. In term of the planet, environmental concerns support an entire industry. In terms of the economy, it should remain fairly stable in a market because businesses fundamentally want it to be stable (at least relatively stable, since we also know that disruption creates opportunities).


However, the core concern is the people, notes PlaceMakers, because the social connection is ultimately the driver for the economic growth and protection of the environment. In other words, the group advocates that we first move toward one another and deepen our connection, then shift to focusing more on building our financial resources and developing lasting and dedicated environmental sustainability programs.


Whether you agree with all that or not, it does illustrate how working to build stronger interpersonal connections can help in impacting other areas as well.


3 goals to strengthen community


We can learn more about the notion of strengthening community by looking at people who are trying to help those on the lower end of the economic spectrum. Now let’s look at a few goals, presented by the Guardian Public Leaders Network, that help in planning to build community effectively, from executives at nonprofit British housing associations:


#1 – Solving joblessness – Do you know anyone who doesn’t have a job, or are you unemployed or partially employed? It is wrong-headed as a community to assume that people who are jobless are ultimately responsible for their predicament, noted Erika Rushton, neighborhood director for Plus Dane Group. Lack of jobs “is under-employment and we should take collective responsibility for creating employment,” she said.


#2 – Making connections – Paul Taylor, innovation coach at Bromford Lab (a spinoff of the housing association Bromford) said that a strong community is all about interweaving and building connections. It is critical, in order to strengthen a community, that you find people with certain skills and goals, then link them with others who have the same interests or can help them become even better at what they do and more powerfully poised for success.


#3 – Talking face-to-face – It is easy to get obsessed with social media, even locally. To build community relationships, talk to people at their homes, in stores, in the park, or at the school, suggested Fintan Tynan, resident empowerment management for Poplar Harca.


3 keys to community strength


Let’s go back to the advice from PlaceMakers. These are three of the primary keys that the organization associates with a strong local community:


#1 – Great leadership – You need trust within your community if you want it to be infused with the confidence that fosters growth. That starts with competent leadership. What you need to see is city hall and other people within the community talking with one another; looking at the different angles and input; and taking action based on that deeper understanding of the situation. Leadership breeds cultural collaboration, advises PlaceMakers.


#2 – Fostering walkability – There is a reason the traditional city had a center. PlaceMakers points out that, incredibly, many best practices that build community are currently illegal in municipalities throughout the country (leading into their argument for form-based code). As possible, the walkability of a neighborhood such as Whittier should be emulated. Whittier, established in 1859, is a historic district and has some of the oldest homes in Boulder. The walkability in Whittier helps build community because everyone is walking to the Pearl Street Mall, the Boulder farmer’s market, the CU campus, parks, schools, restaurants, and retail stores.


#3 – Programs – Street fairs, carnivals, farmer’s markets, and public concerts are all chances for people in the community to meet one another. The local government does not necessarily have to initiate these types of programs. After all, it is not just about gatherings in the downtown area. You also want to have these types of engaging activities at the levels of the neighborhood and even the block. Grass-roots events can sometimes be particularly meaningful and interesting. Nationally, an example is Porchfest – which takes place in Ithaca, New York, every year. Bands perform on residents’ porches and in their front yards. Here are some happenings in downtown Boulder, from Downtown Boulder Partnership (DBP), as an example of some community-building events going on in the area.


3 things businesses can do for community impact


First, when we think about how businesses can be helpful to the community, one place to get advice is the website of self-help book The ONE Thing. Here are three ideas for businesses to make an impact, from authors Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan:


#1 – Knowledge-sharing – You may not have enough money to be able to pay for significant community development projects at this point. However, you could have skills that would be of incredible help to your local community. One really compelling story nationally along those lines is PENCIL, which is a nonprofit that helps businesspeople to meet with students, teachers, and principals. The end result of PENCIL, based in New York City, has been incredibly positive, according to the authors. In fact, 9 in 10 principals at participating schools said that their involvement with the organization had advanced the school or the test results of its students within the past twelve months. Simply be involving itself with a school, a business can make a massive impact on its community because students go on to college and eventually employment. You can think about how your or your staff’s core skills could potentially work toward the betterment of charities and other groups in the Boulder area.


#2 – Put together or sponsor a charity event – If we want to do something meaningful in the community and also make a positive impression on our neighbors, it is wise to think about how we can help charities. It is time-consuming and complex to set up an event that integrates numerous parties, but the process will help you get better networked. There can be a domino-effect that results in these efforts, say the authors. In a very simple sense, you only have to set it up once and can then repeat many of the same processes at the recurrence of the annual event.


#3 – Donate what you can – You may have some things lying around the office that are more clutter than they are useful. While you may not have use for it, it’s entirely possible that a local nonprofit (or the people it serves) might. A particularly good time for companies to think about donating is when they’re moving.


Supporting local & independent business


Are you wanting to help build a stronger local community? One way to do that is to support businesses that are also highly invested in the community – independent, locally owned and operated ones.


At Independent Motors, we care about the local community here in Boulder. And our employees are experts at what they do, which gives us the confidence to go out and earn your trust. See our beliefs.