Inspiration from Other Towns

DSC00821I’m hesitant to recommend this strategy for making change in Little Falls, MN, because too often people think it means exactly copying what another community is doing. But, here goes …

In looking at ways to make Little Falls more progressive in terms of economy and improving life for its citizens, why not look to other communities for inspiration?

I am not suggesting, as I have witnessed in the past, sending an expedition to another community (Lanesboro is a popular choice), and rushing back full of ideas to transplant what’s working there here, as though Little Falls does not have its own factors or qualities that will affect how those ideas are implemented. Usually the ideas gained at these inspirational expeditions fizzle in short order.

That doesn’t mean getting inspiration from other communities is a bad idea; it means that we have to figure out how to modify outside ideas to fit Little Falls and create concrete action steps to put them in place. It also means adjusting ideas if they prove not to be workable. A spirit of experimentation and a willingness to try and fail are important here. (Analysis of data, as previously suggested, and strong community discussion are also important.)

We don’t even have to visit other communities in order to take inspiration from them. There are many articles online regarding economic and community development and trends in the urban and rural landscapes that we can read for ideas. Some ideas are complex and take longer to implement, but others are small and easy to adapt locally.

Here are some I’ve found in the past week or two:

[MPR News] In Winona, a surprising cluster of high-tech firms

[CBS Minnesota] Sheriff’s ‘Swap Spots’ Make Craigslist Exchanges Safer

[StarTribune] Brainerd, St. Cloud lead cities back to their Mississippi riverbanks — Little Falls has been at the forefront of this effort for years, having creating numerous parks and places for river access. LF can serve as inspiration for other communities, as well.

[MinnPost] Toward a new narrative: How the Center for Small Towns crafts a different rural story

[Center for Rural Policy and Development] Addressing the coming workforce squeeze  — This article covers several demographic factors related to the number of workers available to fill jobs. It offers the following advice to rural communities:

So how do rural communities compete as more demand is put on this future pool of workers? The key is to understand what makes people choose to live where they do.

Few Olympic athletes are good at everything. In fact, they’re usually specialized. One is best at sprinting, while another excels at heaving a shotput. Communities are the same way, or rather, they’re all different. Rather than trying to be all things to all people, a community should figure out what they do best, then get the word out to those interested in that lifestyle.

In other words, don’t simply copy other communities in development efforts.

Another ways Little Falls can take inspiration from other cities is to learn from problems they experience in their development efforts. Little Falls has discussed installing a splash pad. This article from the StarTribune points out the issues that have arisen in communities that have already installed them.

Splish, splash — and squander? Popular splash pads scorned by some for wasting water

Be inspired, Little Falls, but let’s take that inspiration and make it our own. And, let’s not be afraid to lead the pack and serve as inspiration for other communities.

Have you run across any recent articles about development efforts in other communities that could be adapted to Little Falls? Have you found ideas you’d like to see implemented in Little Falls that were inspired by other communities? If so, please share in the comments.


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