James Fallows on Places That Work - "People Know The Civic Story"

James Fallows on Places That Work - "People Know The Civic Story"

Getting to Your Smart (Community) Narrative and Beyond

There’s a wonderful essay by James Fallows in a recent issue of The Atlantic. Entitled “Eleven Signs a City Will Succeed”, it is a summation of James and Deb Fallows’s 54,000-mile journey around America in a single-engine plane.

The article appears in the March print edition alongside the cover story, “Can America Put Itself Back Together?”

In it he described an informal checklist “that distinguished a place where things seemed to work”.

Our favorite and we think the most important is this:

4. People know the civic story. America has a “story,” which everyone understands even if only to say it’s a myth or a lie. A few states have their guiding stories—California as either the ever-promising or the sadly spoiled frontier, Vermont as its own separate Eden.Successful cities have their stories too. For Sioux Falls, South Dakota, that it’s just the right size: big enough so that people who have come from the smaller-town prairie can find challenge, stimulation, opportunity; small enough to be livable and comfortable. For Columbus, Ohio, which is several times larger than Sioux Falls, that it’s big enough to make anything possible; small enough to actually get things done. For Bend, Oregon; or Duluth, Minnesota; or Winters, California, that they are in uniquely attractive locations. For Pittsburgh, that it has set an example of successful turnaround. For Eastport, Maine, or Allentown or Fresno or Detroit, that they are in the process of turning around. As with guiding national myths, the question is not whether these assessments seem precisely accurate to outsiders. Their value is in giving citizens a sense of how today’s efforts are connected to what happened yesterday and what they hope for tomorrow.

Sound familiar ?

If not, call us and ask about Smart Community Narrative Strategies.

And if it does sound familiar, perhaps it’s time that you call us so we can make them work in your community ?


For other Journeys Into or more on Smart (Community) Narrative Making & Strategies, go to our sites, journeysinto.com and ericlmodel.com.