Community Involvement Spurs New Ideas

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By Kathie Starkweather, Center for Rural Affairs

“How do we get people involved in our town?” So many of our communities and organizations are suffering from “STP” (same ten people) syndrome. It not only wears them out, we also miss the new people and ideas that can make a real difference.

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So how do you get people involved? The best way is to ask them. People get involved because they want to meet people, have fun, work on an interest they have, and connect to some higher purpose. But the main reason they get involved is they are asked. (For a great example: http://www.cfra.org/newsletter/2010/10/bold-ideas-action-pave-opportunity-highway)

Help someone recognize their importance. People are more likely to become involved if they realize how important their involvement is and they have something to offer.

Seriously consider expanding your sphere of volunteers. Can you partner with your neighboring community on something? Building a cross-community action team can help address the real challenge of finding enough people to become involved.

Finally, let go. People often don’t get involved because the “STP” won’t let go of the way things have always been done. Getting people involved does not just mean you’ve found another person to restack the chairs after the meeting, it also means you are developing a new leader.

Listen to their ideas and support their efforts. Give them room to fail, assistance when they do, and demonstrate enough confidence in them that they can try again. Soon, you’ll have so many volunteers you’ll be hard-pressed to use the “STP” gang at all!


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