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What Attaches People to Their Communities?

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).

Soul of the Community Overview Video

November 15, 2010

'Survey: Metro Detroiters take pride in local education'

 The Detroit News, Nov. 15th: 

Detroit— Residents say the strength of education in the city is one of the reasons they feel a connection to Metro Detroit, according to a new survey.

One thousand residents of a six counties in the Metro Detroit area, who were part of the three-year Knight Soul of the Community survey, identified education as a positive in the city and perceived schools and colleges as doing well. Residents in 25 other communities polled by the survey didn't feel the same way about schools in their areas. The survey — conducted by Gallup and funded through the Knight Foundation — was released today.

November 15, 2010

'Study of Detroit, other cities, links passion for community with economic growth'

 Crain's Detroit Business / Nov. 15

Surprisingly, social offerings, openness or how welcoming the community is and its beauty are far more important to Detroit residents than their perceptions of the economy, jobs, basic services, leadership and safety, Gallup said.

Detroit residents pointed to education as a strength of the local community, but their perceptions of both K-12 schools and local colleges and universities are lower this year than in 2009.

November 15, 2010

Study: Loving Where You Live May Help Your Local Economy

Paula Ellis

In the digital age, where one can easily connect with likeminded people half a world away, technology is redefining the concept of “community.”

So at Knight Foundation, with its focus on community building, we wanted to ask: Does a sense of place really matter anymore?

As it turns out, place does matter greatly – and could have an impact on the local economy.

November 14, 2010

How can communities use a new Gallup-Knight survey to avoid brain drain?


In this interview, Knight Foundation consultant Katherine Loflin talks about real steps communities can take – from widening sidewalks to improving a city’s social venues – to help residents become more attached to where they live. As a result, communities can become more attractive to young, college-educated workers that cities need to continue to thrive, said Loflin, whose remarks stem from the findings of the Soul of the Community survey.

December 18, 2009

From MSN: Selling a city's soul

At MSN's Real Estate site, MarketWatch's Amy Houk writes:

People like where they live for any number of reasons, but there are several standout qualities that ignite residents' passion for their communities — and how the area is dealing with the recession isn't one of them, according to a report released recently by Gallup and the Knight Foundation.

November 19, 2009

The work of changing perceptions

Meredith Hector, Knight's program director in Bradenton, wrote an op-ed that was published in the Bradenton Herald this morning. Here's a taste:

Soul of the Community is a study of perceptions. Unlike the latest unemployment figures, we can change what people think and how they feel. That is why we can be experiencing one of the worst economic declines in recent memory, and still have a large percentage of residents who love where they live.

October 20, 2009

Attachment in Arizona

Shortly after the 2009 results from our Soul of the Community study were released, the Center for the Future of Arizona released a Gallup study of community attachment in Arizona that built on our report's findings. The report, titled "The Arizona We Want," echoed our finding that the three things that do the most to bind residents to their communities are social offerings, aesthetics and openness. It also reinforced the connection between community attachment and GDP growth.

October 16, 2009

Q&A with local official Johnette Isham on the findings in Bradenton (2009)d

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?

October 16, 2009

Project finds good in 'Soul of the Community' -

From the Bradenton Herald:

Soul is a feeling, feeling deep within

Soul is not the colour of your skin

Soul is the essence, essence from within

It is where everything begins 

So declares Van Morrison in “Soul” on his “Keep it Simple” album, released in 2008. That’s the same time the Knight Foundation launched its project to find the “Soul of the Community” in 26 cities, including Bradenton.

October 16, 2009

Q&A with local official Debra Hensley on the findings in Lexington

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 Debra Hensley, a community activist and insurance agent in Lexington.

What jumped out at you from the results of the study?

Discover the soul of your community

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?

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