Does New Albany “have what it takes to spring back” from the coronavirus?

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If you’ve lived in New Albany for any length of time and possess the ability to draw your conclusions from genuine reality, as opposed to partisan political bias, then this three-part series from Strong Towns is essential.

Does your place have what it takes to spring back from the coronavirus? Does it have what it takes to thrive? Last week, our friend Quint Studer completed a three-part series of stories exploring this very question.

Do we have a leadership cadre capable of grasping it?

“Don’t expect the reboot to put your community right back to where it was before COVID-19. For starters, it’s not possible. I’ve read and heard this many times and I agree: When this is over, the world will have changed in many ways. But also, even if we could, we shouldn’t settle for a return to the ‘old’ normal. We owe it to the community to aim higher.” — Quint Studer

I’ve narrowed the posts to bullet points.

Part 1. Thriving on the Other Side: How Your Community Can Recreate Vibrancy After COVID-19

Here are a few guidelines for re-engaging your community as we move forward post-pandemic:

  • Get intentional … Put some real objectives in place around what you want the future to look like. 
  • Be smart with money … You may be getting some stimulus funding. It will be crucial to spend it in a way that invests in the future. 
  • Make small bets … Embrace incrementalism. As you know, this is the message Chuck is famous for. Fix what’s broken first.
  • Put in place a framework for making decisions … If not, the possibilities will overwhelm you. Don’t chase every shiny ball. 

Thoughtful, bold and … collaborative. That last one’s going to be tough for our local fix-is-in “Democratic” politburo, isn’t it?

Part 2. A Framework for Thriving: Keep These Four Areas Front and Center as You Move Forward

None of us would have chosen to be tested this way. But since it has happened, it’s time to get to work and start tackling these challenges head on. Community leaders are being called to be more thoughtful, bold, and collaborative than we’ve ever been before.

  1. Placemaking (Vibrant Downtown) … Creating a vibrant downtown is pivotal to creating the “sense of place” that attracts talent and investment. 
  2. Economic Development …Small business is the backbone of a strong community. Ask yourself: How can we help our small businesses thrive?
  3. Civic Education … The only change that will succeed long-term is citizen-powered change.
  4. Education (Early Learning) … A strong talent base is essential to creating a strong community. That begins with a well-trained population — and that begins when citizens are very young.

Our culture has been top-down. Will we learn anything from the pandemic?

Part 3. The Culture of Your Community May Determine Your Success on the Other Side

Here are some tips for creating an engaging and positive culture in your community.

  1. Get a solid leadership infrastructure in place … Hopefully you’ve already laid some of this groundwork. There needs to be more collaboration than ever as communities will rely heavily on local leadership as we start to come back from the pandemic.
  2. Put together a come-back plan with well-articulated, measurable goals. Communicate it regularly … As world famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Try to go to where the puck is going.
  3. Create a deliberate messaging campaign … Keeping people informed is key to keeping them engaged. Constantly reiterate your plans and make sure community stakeholders are doing the same.
  4. Celebrate small wins … Be where the people are. As small wins occur, make a big deal out of them in the moment.
  5. Balance optimism with realism … Be positive where you can, but be careful to balance optimism with realism. While you have long term goals, be sure to communicate with a focus on the short-term.
  6. Stay focused on creating a healthy business community … As we discussed last week, small business is the backbone of a strong community.
  7. Economic development is paramount … Focus on opportunity, affordability and vibrancy.
  8. Accelerate some projects you’ve been thinking about anyway — just make sure they still make sense … Here’s where you can really use the current crisis as a springboard. Approach your projects with an eye toward future realities.
  9. Now is not the time to be hesitant. Hit the gas, not the brakes … All communities face turbulent times. Those who power through the discomfort and fear are the ones who meet their goals.
  10. Never declare victory … The work of building a vibrant community is never done.

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