The small towns that survive will be the ones that are open to new ideas

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Can you make a small town more open to new ideas? Yes, and it may be the most important thing you can do. Photo by Deb Brown, used by permission.

In a world driven by frenetic change, which small towns are going to thrive?

We know rural people play a key role in our society, so some small towns will have a future. Some small towns are innovative and progressive. Other small towns are stuck in the past.

Is there anything that tells us which towns will survive and prosper? The key factor is openness to new ideas.

Openness to new ideas is an advantage for rural areas addressing change, a Christian Science Monitor article said, pointing to work by Dr. David Peters, Iowa State University, and Dr. Linda Lobao, Ohio State University.

Small towns that are open to new ideas will be the best positioned to thrive no matter what change comes their way.

Great. Now what? How do we make our towns more open to new ideas? There are three parts to making your rural community more Idea Friendly.

Gather Your Crowd
It doesn’t do any good if you are the only person in town open to new ideas. You’re going to need a crowd of people. The crowd here isn’t like a mob with pitchforks or a crowd of people watching a train wreck. It’s crowd sourcing the future of your town, a crowd of people with a positive intent.

You draw a crowd with a big vision. You start a public discussion about the kind of town you want to live in. You create the public focal point for the kind of discussion you want to have.

You can take actions like talking to people about the big vision, posting on social networks, showing public appreciation for others, giving awards for people who try new things, and welcoming newcomers.

Build Connections
You turn a crowd into a capable network through building connections. You need to connect your people to each other so they become more than just a crowd, they become a network. In order to make your people even more capable, you connect them with resources and training.

You can take actions like holding networking events or backroom tours. You can help create shared workspaces like co-working, maker spaces, shared arts studios or business incubators, so participants get a chance to connect with others like them.

You can also build connections outside your local network. Bring in outside resource people to provide training or information. Connect aspiring artists or entrepreneurs with the resources that exist outside your town.

Take Small Steps
You and the crowd accomplish the vision through small steps. When you start by taking small steps you make it possible for more people to be involved, you cut down the scale of the vision from huge and scary to small and doable. You also make it easier to fail (and learn) at a small scale rather than crash and burn with a huge effort all at once.

You can use the Innovative Rural Business Models to take small steps to going into business. You can use the lighter, quicker, cheaper model to take small steps in governance and infrastructure.

Learn more about Idea Friendly
Deb Brown and I are going to walk through all of this in detail in a web broadcast. We’ll give real world examples from small towns, and we’ll share practical steps you can put into action right away to make your town more Idea Friendly. Learn more about it at SaveYour.Town.

Becky McCray

About Becky McCray Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband own a retail liquor store in Alva, Oklahoma, and a small cattle ranch nearby. Becky is an international speaker on small business.

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