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February 07, 2011

Knight Soul of the Community 2010: State College Implications

The purpose of Knight Soul of the Community is to provide communities a roadmap for understanding what attaches residents to their community and why it matters – not to be prescriptive on what communities should do with the information. However, the findings do point to some general implications and suggestions, some of which the community may be already undertaking, or provide new opportunities for consideration. 

Like the other 25 communities studied in Soul of the Community, State College’s key attachment drivers are social offerings, aesthetics and openness. However, it is not as simple as identifying best practices in each of these areas and replicating them everywhere.  Instead, as the name implies, Soul of the Community encourages a conversation about a community’s soul or essential essence as a place around these key drivers. Some possible questions to ask are: What is it about our aesthetics/social offerings/welcomeness that is unique to our community? Where do we excel or struggle in those areas? Using that information to optimize those drivers to encourage resident attachment—and potentially local economic growth – is what Soul of the Community seeks to accomplish.

Attachment to State College increased each year of the study, and it became the most attached community in 2010. This finding alone helps to demonstrate that attachment to place is about more than jobs and the economy.  The things that most attach residents to the area – social offerings, openness and aesthetics – have remained the same during all three years of the study, and the rating of these areas has increased as well.

State College has many strengths and positive momentum contributing to its increased attachment. All three of the key drivers for attachment increased and are rated significantly higher by residents in 2010 – a unique finding among the 26 communities studied. Overall satisfaction, a component of attachment, is also rated significantly higher by residents in 2010. Together, these strengths provide powerful leverage to continue to build attachment to the State College area.

Despite these strengths, State College has areas it could work on to further increase attachment.  Leading them is perceived welcomeness to young talent, which is the only key driver of attachment that decreased during the study.  There is a big difference between perceived openness to young talent and all other groups studied.  Although the 18-34-year-old age group is not the least attached age group, it agrees with the rest of the community in saying that young talent is the least welcome group in the community. As a college town interested in avoiding brain drawn and rebuilding the local economy, this is an area that deserves attention. 

More has to be done to attract and retain the young people coming to State College for an education.  Make sure that they get to know State College as a place of beauty, social offerings and openness. These key drivers matter the most to them in creating attachment to place.  Provide off-campus social opportunities in the heart of the community that present the best the community has to offer. Also, engage young professionals and include them as a critical part of community leadership. 

The community foundation, chamber of commerce and other leadership groups should use the findings from Soul of the Community and integrated them into the State College brand.  These findings certainly separate this community from others as a destination community.  Leadership should examine and identify why residents are feeling so much more positive about the key drivers for attachment to assure that this momentum is understood and maintained.  Harnessing and maintaining the power of residents’ attachment keeps them invested in the community, both emotionally and financially, and serves to attract others to the area.  This will make a big difference in the economic rebuilding that the St. Paul area, like all U.S. communities, are working toward. 

February 07, 2011

Knight Soul of the Community 2010: Tallahassee Implications

The purpose of Knight Soul of the Community is to provide communities a roadmap for understanding what attaches residents to their community and why it matters – not to be prescriptive on what communities should do with the information. However, the findings do point to some general implications and suggestions, some of which the community may be already undertaking, or provide new opportunities for consideration. 

Like the other 25 communities studied in Soul of the Community, Tallahassee’s key attachment drivers are social offerings, aesthetics and openness. However, it is not as simple as identifying best practices in each of these areas and replicating them everywhere.  Instead, as the name implies, Soul of the Community encourages a conversation about a community’s soul or essential essence as a place around these key drivers. Some possible questions to ask are: What is it about our aesthetics/social offerings/welcomeness that is unique to our community? Where do we excel or struggle in those areas? Using that information to optimize those drivers to encourage resident attachment—and potentially local economic growth – is what Soul of the Community seeks to accomplish.

Attachment to Tallahassee is the highest it has been during all three years of the study. This finding alone helps to demonstrate that attachment to place is about more than jobs and the economy.  The things that most attach residents to the area – social offerings, openness and aesthetics – have remained the same during all three years of the study, but some of these key drivers are rated significantly higher by residents in 2010, partially explaining the associated jump in attachment.

Tallahassee has many strengths to leverage.  A consistent and growing strength of the Tallahassee area in the eyes of its residents is aesthetics, which was rated significantly higher in 2010. Also encouraging is that social offerings are rated higher by residents in 2010, making it a borderline strength for the area.

Even ratings of openness, which is still a challenge area for the community, are increasing. Both social offerings and openness are rated highest by 18-34-year-olds and blacks, indicating that something is going right with some groups in this area.  However, there is a fairly big difference in perceived openness to the groups perceived as most welcome – families with young children and seniors – and other groups in the community, with young talent still perceived as the least welcome group. Leadership should try to better understand why perceptions of openness and social offerings for young residents and blacks are different from other resident groups and work to extend that momentum.

Although 18-34-year-olds are still the least attached group, their attachment is increasing in part because they are now rating key drivers for attachment higher.  This is a very positive sign and rewards the community’s efforts to prevent brain drain.   As the community starts to see results, these efforts should continue. Concentrate efforts on making the community feel welcoming to young talent in particular. Continue to provide events as well as businesses and services that are specifically designed for different resident groups. For example, have the young professionals lead a series of community events in popular parks or volunteer their professional expertise to other groups in the community (tax help for young families, English as second language service for new residents, showcasing local bands, etc.). This may not only improve perceptions of openness to all, but it will engage young residents in the community in a meaningful way. Continue to provide off-campus social opportunities in the heart of the community that present the best the community has to offer so no graduate ever says again, “I’m not staying after graduation because I never got to know the community.” 

February 07, 2011

Knight Soul of the Community 2010: Milledgeville Implications

The purpose of Knight Soul of the Community is to provide communities a roadmap for understanding what attaches residents to their community and why it matters – not to be prescriptive on what communities should do with the information. However, the findings do point to some general implications and suggestions, some of which the community may be already undertaking, or provide new opportunities for consideration. 

Like the other 25 communities studied in Soul of the Community, Milledgeville’s key attachment drivers are social offerings, aesthetics and openness. However, it is not as simple as identifying best practices in each of these areas and replicating them everywhere.  Instead, as the name implies, Soul of the Community encourages a conversation about a community’s soul or essential essence as a place around these key drivers. Some possible questions to ask are: What is it about our aesthetics/social offerings/welcomeness that is unique to our community? Where do we excel or struggle in those areas? Using that information to optimize those drivers to encourage resident attachment—and potentially local economic growth – is what Soul of the Community seeks to accomplish.

Attachment to the Milledgeville area decreased significantly in 2010. The things that most attach residents to the area – social offerings, openness and aesthetics – have stayed consistent, but residents’ ratings of these areas have slipped, especially the perception of social offerings and aesthetics, which are rated significantly lower in 2010.

Aesthetics continues to be a strength for the Milledgeville area to leverage. Young residents 18-34 years old rate aesthetics a little better than all other age groups.  This is something to build on in an effort to attract and retain young people to the community. Identify what young residents like best about the aesthetics (recreational or social opportunities, place where the community feels open and welcoming) and highlight those aspects of the area’s aesthetics. 

Use every opportunity to intertwine the key drivers in one event. Find ways to use aesthetics to serve as a backdrop for social offerings and events that are welcoming to all people and encourage resident caring and attachment to the area. Have long-time residents tell oral histories about the Milledgeville area that provide a sense of the place.  Understand the community through their eyes as a way to build attachment by leveraging aesthetics to provide opportunities for positive social interaction showcasing the good people that live there (social offerings), where all feel welcome (openness) which may help to facilitate resident caring and (re)grow the seeds of attachment to the community.

There are positives in the Milledgeville area to build on and grow attachment in order to attract new residents to the area, but the community must create a plan of action, based on the findings from Soul of the Community.  The community now knows what will build attachment to Milledgeville and bring new people to the area, and although jobs may be part of the equation, it is clearly not the entire equation. Soul of the Community findings and the implications/suggestions offered here and by others must be integrated as part of the community’s economic rebuilding/community development strategy.  Milledgeville may first have to become more of an optimized community, making it more attractive to the businesses the community wants to attract.  Champions whose love of Milledgeville and ability to make things happen are best suited to lead this charge.

February 07, 2011

Knight Soul of the Community 2010: Wichita Implications

The purpose of Knight Soul of the Community is to provide communities a roadmap for understanding what attaches residents to their community and why it matters – not to be prescriptive on what communities should do with the information. However, the findings do point to some general implications and suggestions, some of which the community may be already undertaking, or provide new opportunities for consideration.

Like the other 25 communities studied in Soul of the Community, Wichita’s key attachment drivers are social offerings, aesthetics and openness. However, it is not as simple as identifying best practices in each of these areas and replicating them everywhere. Instead, as the name implies, Soul of the Community encourages a conversation about a community’s soul or essential essence as a place around these key drivers. Some possible questions to ask are: What is it about our aesthetics/social offerings/welcomeness that is unique to our community? Where do we excel or struggle in those areas? Using that information to optimize those drivers to encourage resident attachment—and potentially local economic growth – is what Soul of the Community seeks to accomplish.

Attachment to the Wichita area decreased in 2009, but it increased significantly in 2010 which returned the attachment level to where it was in 2008. The things that most attach residents to the area – social offerings, openness and aesthetics – have remained consistent during the three years of the study.  In 2010, all of the main drivers of attachment were rated higher by residents, with aesthetics being rated significantly higher. This helps explain the significant increase in attachment to Wichita in 2010.

A strength of Wichita in the eyes of its residents is its aesthetics, specifically the parks, playgrounds and trails.  The community rates aesthetics significantly better in 2010.  Leadership should identify the reasons why residents are rating aesthetics better and support that momentum. The Wichita area also enjoys having the highest income earners as the most attached of all residential income groups. Organizations with particular reach to this group, such as the community foundation and chamber of commerce, should continue to foster their attachment to the area.

Despite its positive momentum, Wichita still has challenges that must be addressed for increases in attachment to be sustained.  Social offerings continue to be a challenge for the community. Residents seem most happy with the arts/cultural activities, and all aspects of social offerings are rated higher in 2010.  Interestingly, Wichita is the only community studied where residents rate the area’s nightlife on par with the perception of residents caring for each other. Although social offerings remain a challenge, ratings are increasing. Again, identifying the reasons for this momentum and sustaining it will be key for increases in attachment to continue.

Additionally, the community’s perceived openness is another challenge area.  Although residents rate Wichita as relatively welcoming to families with young children and the elderly, it has much lower ratings in welcomeness to all other groups. For attachment to really grow and for people to want to come to and stay in Wichita, all residents must feel welcomed there. Currently, the young talent group is on par with gays and lesbians as being perceived as the least welcome group.  With the exception of welcomeness to families with young children, residents’ ratings of welcomness to various groups either remained stable or slightly increased in 2010.  Therefore, perception of overall openness is increasing, but continued attention to this area is warranted.

Wichita also seems like a prime community to try current third space innovations that continue to boost resident caring, perceptions of nightlife and welcomeness to young talent. One example is DIY dining, which is an intriguing trend in dining, especially for the 30-and-under group, where the customers either bring their own food or buy on-site and cook it themselves together. The Turf Supper Club is one such restaurant in San Diego. Such successful innovations should be considered for Wichita.

The fact that Wichita scores relatively high on resident caring compared to other communities but lower in aspects of welcomeness to specific groups may indicate that the community is “tight knit.” It may appear closed to outsiders, but once you are part of the community and a shared identity develops, so does the generalized caring.  This process is something to deliberately foster by presenting the area as a welcoming place to all by showcasing its caring culture as a key aspect of the community brand through the chamber of commerce, local elected leadership, etc.

January 14, 2011

WLRN Radio (Miami) Hosts Knight Foundation to Discuss Soul of the Community for South Florida

WLRN Radio, Miami’s public radio station, hosted Paula Ellis, Knight Foundation’s vice president for strategic initiatives, recently to discuss the Soul of the Community study and findings for Miami. Joseph Cooper interviewed Paula on his one-hour afternoon show, Topical Currents, and you can listen to the 24-minute recording here.

Paula and Joe discussed Miami’s parks and open spaces and the demographic uniqueness of the area and took calls from local listeners. WLRN broadcasts on 91.3 FM.

The player below will take a minute or two to load before it starts playing:

December 21, 2010

Recap of Survey Results Now Available Through (Recorded) Webinar

Knight Foundation recently explored the results of the Soul of the Community survey with 18 community foundation leaders from across the United States.

The webinar gives a great overview of the findings and talks about how some leaders are already using them to strengthen their community. 

 Recorded Dec, 17, 2010.

Discover the soul of your community

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