Main Street Tri-State Exchange
March 14, 1997
The Main Street Managers Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain
Climbing Our Mountains: Lessons for Community Development
The film, the Englishman Who Went up a Hill but Came down a
Mountain is about community development. It shows that community
development is never simple. It highlights the importance of a shared
vision of the community. It shows how leadership is necessary at
every level of planning an activity. And finally, it illustrates
how important it is for the community to be engaged as a whole.
In the film, it was a crisis that inspired the community into action?
This mountain was very important to them. The citizens should have
know the height of their mountain. They should have surveyed that
mountain long before the English would had arrived.
In the Laboratory for Community and Economic Development we help
rural communities design and implement community surveys. It is
our way of measuring the mountain.
Typically, most rural communities find that residents want to pursue
the following three community development objectives.
- Attracting business and industry, creating more jobs,
- Developing retail trade, and
- Tourism development.
Furthermore the majority of rural residents believe their community
is a good place to live. Overwhelmingly, about 95% agree with the
statement "my community is a good place to live". What
does this mean to community development. It means that we must strive
to make our communities competitive in the economic sense.
To help us pursue economic development initiatives, it is important
that we follow sound principles of community development. I have
identified 5 principles of community development, that I believe
you would find useful in your work in the Main Street program. To
help us remember them, we can return to our mountain metaphor as
we C L I M B the mountain.
is for creating capital without
which communities cannot compete.
is for creating a learning community
which is flexible and adaptive
to change in today's global marketplace.
is for Involving community groups and
following the principles of Inclusiveness.
is for the Mission of our communitiy
is for Building Broad based support
for our mission.
C Is For Creating Capital
Capital refers to many different aspects of community development.
Often, we think of financial capital, but we cannot ignore the organizational
capital and more importantly the human capital that exists in all
of our communities.
What do rural communities and inner cities have in common? They
are both geographic places that are often denied effective access
to capital for economic development. If this was not a problem in
our community, we would not be struggling in maintaining a main
street program. It is the lack of institutional lenders that puts
a premium on investment dollars in rural communities. If we had
access to money, our businesses would not be postponing expansion
plans, we would have a greater level of entrepreneurial activity,
our infrastructure would support the change coming from the telecommunications
industry. The shortage of financial capital is one of the many constraints
with which we must operate. To alleviate the pressure from not having
sufficient funds, we must invest in our other two capitals.
Organizational capital is best represented in the wealth of our
community structure. How well can we organize for development? What
is our institutional capacity to confront problems? Can our local
government adequately face the challenges of a declining economic
base? The communities organized to confront community development
objectives, will be those that can achieve an organized response
to local problems. Your community has a abundance organizational
capital, if you have(1):
- Leaders with technical knowledge and skills to promote and manage
- A local government with efficient administrative and fiscal
- Access to reliable information with which to make decisions;
- an effective framework for involving citizens in important decisions.
Perhaps the most important of the capitals is human capital. We
must invest in our most valuable resource -- the human resource.
This investment needs to be made not only in our labor force, but
also in our community leadership.
When we pursue economic development goals, we must make a choice.
We must make a choice between developing growth based on either
high skills or low wages. One will lead us to a more profitable
future, the other choice leads us to maintaining a more comfortable
level at our status quo.
Our education infrastructure must teach skills that our employees
value. Often educators believe that they teach the necessary skills
required by local employers. However, local employers do not always
agree. It is important that the school board design a skill building
curricula that matches the needs of local employers. Local employers
must be involved in developing these types of educational programs.
In rural communities, the service sector is a significant employer.
It is the fastest growing employment category. Yet, only in America
are service sector jobs low paying. Asia and European countries
make service sector jobs more professional. They provide "professionalized"
education to non-college bound students who will have jobs in the
service sector. By making traditionally low-skill service sector
jobs more professional, we are improving the vertical job mobility
of employees entering the service sector.
Investing in our leadership is what we are doing here this week.
We must actively work to increase local leadership capacity, by
improving skills, confidence and aspirations of our local leaders
to meet the challenges of community development. By preparing ourselves
to respond to new challenges we not only add value to our human
capital but also our organizational capital.
We must invest in and become "knowledge workers". Peter
Drucker put things in perspective for me when he added knowledge
to the three basic economic principles of land, labor and capital.
If we are to accept his assertion that we are entering the "post-capitalist
society" where communities no longer compete along the traditional
lines of labor, land and capital, we must rethink the community
development paradigm. Investing in physical infrastructure is no
longer sufficient. Communities will be competitive only if they
are able to create and use knowledge productively. We must be smarter
in our community development initiatives. Community development
programs must invest in building local community leadership capacity
C is for creating new capital. Not just investing in financial
capital, but in our organizational and human capital to compensate
for a lack of the former.
L is for building a Learning Community
Peter Senge(2) popularized the concept
of the learning organization. Similar to the competitive organization,
our communities must rethink their community development paradigm
and begin to adopt the principles of a learning community. The learning
community is one that is continually expanding its capacity to create
its future. It is not enough simply accept the status quo. We must
be able reflect on past experience, learn from mistakes, and make
changes as we respond to new challenges. This requires investment
in our organization and leadership. By participating in a program
like Main Street helps bring your community closer to becoming a
For example, if you won the lottery, a lot of your problems would
be solved, temporarily. Yet you have not expanded your capability
of winning future lotteries. When you depend on outside experts
for community development assistance, you do not enhance your ability
to pursue community development. If you want to be a learning community,
you must continuously reflect on your past experience and make new
decisions based on the knowledge gained from the past. This does
not always happen. For example:
- Do you do things in your community because that is how they
have always been done?
- Is it always the same people involved in community and economic
development in your community?
- Do you share information and knowledge among all of the community
I is for Involving Community groups
and being Inclusive.
To build a learning community, different constituencies must begin
to collaborate. This is difficult for many of our long sustaining
organization. We are not always pro-active in engaging different
groups with which to work. Main Street cannot be your only undertaking.
You must be involved in other community development organizations
in your community and other development organizations must be involved
in your program. To be successful, it is important to work with
the economic development group, the tourism group, health care providers,
the environmental stewardship group, and any other groups who share
your vision of making your community "a good place to live".
Only when you partner with other community development groups will
you be able to reach the critical mass we need to move forward.
M is for Mission
Perhaps more than striving for a common mission, our program should
have a shared vision with the other community development organizations.
A shared vision is the first step in allowing people who don't usually
work together begin to collaborate. It creates a common identity.
Increasingly, community leaders are realizing that their communities
need to build a shared vision. Citizens are recognizing that if
they do not participate in defining the future character of their
community, it may slip to the lowest common denominator. The process
of building community vision often starts with the political, business
or public education leadership, but it picks up steam when people
from all sectors begin to ask together, "what does a community
need to do to thrive in the future? How will we be able to flourish,
not just survive? How do we get every member excited and learning
about our collective future?"
B Is for Building Broad Based Networks
B is for building broad based networks to further your community
goals. Your new networks can reach beyond the geographic boundaries
of your community. But don't exclude your local organizations. Build
working relationships like the one you have with State Main Street,
the Tri State Main Street and Main Street at the national level
with other institutions and organizations in your state. I know
in Illinois, the Cooperative Extension Service is one agency that
can provide technical support at very little cost, if any. Apply
the systems approach that engineers use to build your networks.
Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework
for seeing interrelationships rather than independent activities.
You are a piece of a large puzzle in community development. Your
activity alone will not find solutions to the challenges that face
your community. It is when the pieces come together that the puzzle
Like the mountain in the film, don't let Main Street be an inactive
symbol of your community.
Community Development Activity
A. Remember when Anson and Garrad first arrive in Ffynnon Garrw.
What were their impressions of the community. Now fast forward to
the future. Close your eyes and imagine you are driving down a highway
in the year 2007, only 10 years from now. You see a sign indicating
the exit for your town. You take it. What do you see as you drive
down Main Street.
- What does your main street look like?
- How much traffic is on the street?
- Who are the tenants in the store fronts?
- In which direction are the cars parked?
- Is there evidence of new technology in the community?
B. Now you see the store front of your office. You enter, how does
- How many people work there?
- Who is in the office?
- What services does the organization provide?
- What reputation does it have?
- What contribution to the community has it made?
Has the technology changed?
Values are deeply held views of what we find worthwhile. Many
are developed in our early childhood. Others when we are adults.
The organization cannot let its values slip when times are tough.
If your organization values honesty, then you must be up-front about
your plans with community stakeholders. What values are embodied
by your organization?
Checklist of Organizational Values(3)
||_____ Promoting Personal
||_____ Helping Other
||_____ Public Service
|_____ Helping Society
||_____ Quality of
|_____ Change and
||_____ Quality of
|_____ Close Relationships
||_____ Inner Harmony
||_____ Job Tranquility
|_____ Economic Security
||_____ Time Freedom
||_____ Market Position
|_____ Ethical Practice
||_____ Work Under
||_____ Work With Others
||_____ Open and Honest
||_____ Working Alone
||_____ Order (tranquility,
Fast Paced Work
||_____ Power and Authority
|_____ Financial Gain
- From this list of values, select the 10 that are most important
to you, as guides for how your organization operates. If there
are values that are not listed, but you feel are appropriate,
add them to the list.
- Now imagine you can have only four. Cross off another.
- Now cross off another, to bring your list to three. Which three
values are most important to your organization?
- Take a look at the top three values on your list. Do they correspond
to the vision you have identified earlier. Are you willing to
change the way the organization operates so that these values
are incorporated into your vision.
How is our working environment structured? What are some of the
barriers that deter us from our vision and values? In the movie
The Englishman who went up a hill but came down a mountain,
there were many elements in the community environment that impaired
- The rain
- The local government official was not interested in their issue.
- Many men were away at war, they didn't have the "manpower"
to move the dirt.
- The gossip about Morgan the Goat.
- Their leader, Reverend Jones was not used to working with others.
What hindrances exist in your environment to Main Street? List
How can we design our working environment to fit our vision and
our values? How can a good manager create a work atmosphere in which
goals are more readily accomplished? What can we do to make our
climate compatible with our vision and values? How can we create
a climate with the structure to phase-out the negative aspects of
the environment? In the movie, they did not institutionalize changes
that would help them overcome their working environment. What can
Lets design a structure:
- Define the norms of your organization.
- Define structure of your organization and roles of key players.
- Define communication channels.
- Define structure for making decisions.
- Assign accountability.
- Identify rewards.
Norms are the cultural beliefs and conventions originating in the
environment. In many ways the values you have identified earlier
are the norms that should guide your organization. For example,
if competence is not a valued norm, then why would we be upset if
deadlines are not met, or products are not of superior quality.
Let's revisit the list and build on the three values we have picked
Define how communication can be changed or made better to meet
your vision. Identify the communication arrangements. How do you
communicate with State level Main Street? With others in the community?
With volunteers? Are meetings regularly scheduled or are they on
a as needed basis? How is decision making done? By consensus, by
leadership? Outline? Accountability: Who is responsible for delivering
products, for staying on budget, for quality? Can you change how
accountability is measured? What do you believe are the rewards
of realizing this vision?
- Supplies: Flip charts, markers and masking tape.
- Handouts: Value checklist, organizational climate wheel
A. We can get in groups beginning this exercise or after
exercise C. If we get in groups now, then we can create groups
of 4 or 5and ask them to describe their vision. Report on Flip
chart to the rest of the group.
B. Groups describe their vision. Report on a flip chart.
C. Groups each come to a consensus of the three most
important values. Everyone will get a hand-out the value sheet.
Report on Flip chart.
D. Should be done with a smaller group. Groups of 4
or 5 will define hindrances in their working environment. Suggestions
conflicting meetings, conferences not enough resources. No access
to technology. Demands from other projects. Family.
E. Going through all the elements in the circle, how
can we restructure our climate to achieve our goals.
1. Brown, David L. and Nina L. Glasgow. (1991).
"Capacity Building and Rural Government Adaptation to Population
Change." in Cornelia B. Flora and James A. Christenson, eds.
Rural Policies for the 1990s. Boulder Colorado: Westview
2. Senge, Peter M. 1990. The Fifth Discipline:
The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York:
3. Adapted from Senge, Peter et. al.
(1994). The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools
for Building a Learning Organization. New York: Courency Book,
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