What makes a community a desirable place to live? What draws people to stake their future in it? Are communities with more attached residents better off?
Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation launched the Knight Soul of the Community project in 2008 with these questions in mind. After interviewing close to 43,000 people in 26 communities over three years, the study has found that three main qualities attach people to place: social offerings, such as entertainment venues and places to meet, openness (how welcoming a place is) and the area’s aesthetics (its physical beauty and green spaces).
We’ve seen now why attachment is an important metric for communities, since it links to key outcomes like local economic growth (GDP). So, the next obvious question is: what drives attachment? After three years of research, the results have been very consistent, and possibly surprising.
First, what attaches residents to their communities doesn’t change much from place to place. While we might expect that the drivers of attachment would be different in Miami, Fla., from those in Macon, Ga., in fact, the main drivers of attachment show little difference across communities. In addition, the same drivers have risen to the top in every year of the study.
Second, these main drivers may be surprising. While the economy is obviously the subject of much attention, the study has found that perceptions of the local economy do not have a very strong relationship to resident attachment. Instead, attachment is most closely related to how accepting a community is of diversity, its wealth of social offerings, and its aesthetics. This is not to say that jobs and housing aren’t important. Residents must be able to meet their basic needs in a community in order to stay. However, when it comes to forming an emotional connection with the community, there are other community factors which often are not considered when thinking about economic development. These community factors seem to matter more when it comes to attaching residents to their community.
And finally, while we do see differences in attachment among different demographic groups, demographics generally are not the strongest drivers of attachment. In almost every community, we found that a resident’s perceptions of the community are more strongly linked to their level of community attachment than to that person’s age, ethnicity, work status, etc.
by Edward T. McMahon, April 4, 2012
Around the world, cities are seeking the recipe for economic success in a rapidly changing global marketplace. Indispensable assets in a post–industrial economy include: well–educated people, the ability to generate new ideas and to turn those ideas into commercial realities, connectivity to global markets, and multi-modal transportation infrastructure. Another critical—but often forgotten—asset is community distinctiveness.
The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County discussed community attachment one of the key principles of Knight's Soul of the Community research on "A Public Affair" this month. Morgan Rogers and Max Tappet of the foundation interviewed Paula Ellis, VP for Strategic Initiatives, at KGNU Community Radio.
Photo Credit: Flickr user Chris M
Recently, the Center for the Future of Arizona announced the winners of a contest that sought five big ideas for bringing Arizonans together and taking action on issues they feel strongly about.
Inspired by the Soul findings, the center designed a similar Gallup poll for Arizona that looked at residents’ views on community life and what they want for their state’s future.
“Place Matters,” a weekly radio program, is being featured in The Atlantic as among one of the “best venues to tell the story” of placemaking and community engagement.
Soul of the Community
“Through the show, I wanted to raise the placemaking conversation, reflect that conversation back to the field and provide a platform to show the wide range of sectors coming to the same conclusions about the importance of place. I think I am off to a good start, but there is more to do and many more stories, ideas, research findings, and thought leaders to showcase in order to move the field forward.”
By Erin Rowley | Cross-posted from COFinteract.org
There are a lot of things to love about Centre County, Pa. Beautiful natural features. Ample opportunities to socialize. An open and accepting attitude among residents.
And according to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, qualities like that create a sense of attachment that inspire Centre County residents.
Stockholm Subway Image via Wacky Owl
This post, written by Knight Foundation Arts Program Associate, Tatiana Hernandez, was originally published on the Americans for the Arts' Blog.
The Animating Democracy blog salon on ARTSblog.orgBridge Conversations, People Who Live and Work in Multiple Worlds
A panorama of Haas&Hahn's work in Colombia. Image by Haas&Hahn via Favela Painting
This post, written by Knight Foundation Arts Program Associate, Tatiana Hernandez, was originally published on the blog of Americans for the Arts..
Gia Arbogast, branch administrator for the Miami-Dade Public Library System describes how YOUMedia Miami will engage teens in building digital literacy skills
Libraries have a fundamental role in how attached people are to where they live, Knight’s Paula Ellis, vp/strategic initiatives, told a gathering of library and civic leaders last week.
Video: Dr. Katherine Loflin worked with leaders from community foundations to find place making opportunities in the results of Knight's Soul of the Community research. Now her radio program will explore similar themes.
The Knight Soul of the Community project is a groundbreaking study that explores what makes people love where they live, and why it matters. Using primary survey research gathered in 26 U.S. communities by Gallup for Knight from 2008 to 2010, Lead Consultant Dr. Katherine Loflin helped identify a strong correlation between how citizens feel about their local community and economic output of that community.
This afternoon Knight Foundation will help lead a discussion on measuring civic health at the 66th Annual National Conference on Citizenship, an annual event that explores the revised roles of citizens, nonprofits, and governments in a 21st century democracy. The theme for this year’s conference is “Redefining America’s Social Compact.”
Great schools, affordable health care and safe streets all help create strong communities. But is there something deeper that draws people to a city – that makes them want to put down roots and build a life?