Governments struggle to improve communities because they try to appeal to the collective good rather than individual self-interests. Collective good is noble, but impossible to predict. Whereas everyone acts in their own self-interests. That’s much more bankable.
If you want to revitalize a local community, you should act more like an online community. Drop the civic-good angle and try the following:
- Begin hyper-local newsletters for people in that area. Include a person of the week, interview people and add an anonymous complaints page (lets people vent about issues in the community without fear of reprisals). Distribute it for free (or try to sell a few ads). The deep desire to compare yourself to neighbours has a strong appeal.
- Arrange for cool events that appeal to self-interests. e.g. A plumber to teach locals how to do their own plumbing in group session. Same with electricians, restaurants (how to cook great meals), car mechanics etc. Anything that forces people to be in the same place for a reason of self-interest.
- Create a borrowing/sharing platform. Have a place where members can buy/sell/share/borrow any extra stuff they have. Easy to borrow a ladder from someone down the street than buy one. Maybe share a barbecue too? (again, clear self-interest).
- Get an exclusive. Get exclusive discounts, prices, first-look, early-bird tickets, anything that forces a member to acknowledges being a member of the community to receive the award. This is a simple approach to create a bond. It also offers a cool reward to being in the community.
- Interview a member. Interview a member in your community, but ask interesting questions. What has been their best or worst experiences? What’ their average day like? What’s the one problem they would love solved? What do they think of their neighbours? Ask them to nominate the next person to be interviewed.
- Find an issue to campaign for. Now you mean business. Find a cause that matters specifically to your community and fight to get it fixed. Ensure members sign up their support. Challenges bring communities together. It’s also still in their self-interest to fix the problem.
- Chart progress. Chart your progress on the issue. Keep regular updates, use emotive language and be clear how people can help.
- Call for nominations for community member of the month. Linked to 6 & 7, begin a community member of the month. Make it a small trophy. Something meaningful and a clear profile.
- Ask for votes/opinions. Ask people to submit a vote or an opinion to be collected amongst others to show what people think of a topical issue in the community. Ensure people are making an investment in the community beyond being passive.
- Arrange a meet-up. Arranging a meet-up for a local community might sound dumb, but try it. How about a barbecue exclusively for people in the community. Mention people by name that you want to go. Ask people to say what food they’ll bring. Ensure they’re invested in the idea before agreeing to attend.
This wont work for every community, but it would be much more effective than the stakeholder/’persuading everyone to get into the same room and talk about relevant issues approach’.
To revitalize a local community begin by engaging self-interests than gradually shift to the collective will. Just as true for local communities as online communities.