In addition to publishing thoughts from our program directors in the 26 Knight communities, we’re also reaching out to other local civic leaders. These remarks come from an email interview with Johnette Isham, Executive Director of Realize Bradenton.
What jumped out at you from the results of the study?
WOW, the Soul of the Community survey results are a major point of pride for the Bradenton area. Not only does the Bradenton Metropolitan Statistical Area have the distinction of the highest overall community attachment score in 2009, the two-year results showed a "significant increase in residents' passion and loyalty for their community." From 3.79 in 2008 to 4.03 in 2009 is impressive since Gallup saw little overall change in community attachment in the 26 cities between 2008 and 2009.
Perhaps the major community engagement in the Realize Bradenton cultural planning process this past year helped to fuel the sense of connection people are feeling (although a direct causality is not indicated). Now that I have been on the job 10 days as the new Executive Director of Realize Bradenton (which grew out of the cultural planning process funded by the Knight Foundation), I have experienced a great sense of pride and enthusiasm in Bradenton mingled with “wait and see” anticipation.
I am a strong believer in the sentiment expressed by Peter Drucker that “the ageless essence of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make a system’s weaknesses irrelevant.”
Positive image, positive action. So the opportunity now for us is how to build on the Bradenton’s Soul of the Community results and strategically communicate to the various segments of the community its strengths, accomplishments, and the near-term plans for Realize Bradenton. This requires a coordinated strategic communications plan of key messages, information sharing, and multiple venues for dialogue (electronic, print, events, word of mouth). I will be discussing this initiative with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Realize Bradenton Board in the near future.
What do you consider to be the key takeaways from the findings?
This two-year study underscores the power of place and social connections to build economic development outcomes. Citizens who are attached to their community spread the word to prospective residents and tourists. Citizens who are proud become more engaged and informed. It produces results like the Jim Collins “Good to Great” flywheel—“success breeds support and commitment, which breed even greater success, which breeds more support and commitment—round and around the flywheel goes. People like to support winners!”
Do the findings reinforce the value of any local initiatives?
The Soul of the Community (SOTC) results will help Realize Bradenton build its relationship with:
Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB): For the first time the CVB has set aside a pool of funds from the tourist tax to promote arts and culture. SOTC positions Bradenton in a very positive light and the SOTC information has already be sent to the CVB. CVB has secured newspaper coverage on downtown Bradenton from a reporter from the Boston Globe in October 2009. I have passed on the SOTC results to the reporter and hopefully SOTC will be cited in the article.
The Manatee Chamber of Commerce: Mike Kennedy, the Executive Director of DDA and Board member of Realize Bradenton, is attending the chamber’s Leadership Retreat this month and the survey SOTC survey results may provide information on the relationship of economic outcomes to Community Attachment, as well as a road map of findings to help guide business-culture undertakings.
Development of the our next grant to the Knight Foundation: As indicated in SOTC, opportunities for greater engagement are residents who are younger, single and non-employed (including students). As indicated in SOTC, older, long-term, retired and higher educated residents have a strong connection to the Bradenton area and we will find additional ways to engage these segments in Realize Bradenton’s planning and implementation. What I am excited about is that this multi-year study will allow us to measure the progress of our efforts over time using behavioral economic measures.
What questions does the study raise for you?
How can the Net Promoter methodology and an e-survey tool interface with the Soul of the Community and be pilot-tested in Bradenton? I am interested in the Net Promoter concept introduced in 2003 in a Harvard Business Review article, “The One Number You Need to Grow.” The idea is that companies (and cities) should strive to create more “Promoters” and fewer “Detractors.” Promoters answer affirmatively to the question: “How likely is it that you would recommend our company (our city) to a friend or colleague?” The Net Promoter score can be used to motivate an organization (a city) to become more focused on improving products and services for customers. With the power of the broadband to inform and engage customers and citizens, I wonder how the Net Promoter e-surveys can be adapted for use in civic engagement. Based on my experience using this method in a major franchise, I think it holds promise for community building.