Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: URSI Logo    Smart Communities, Suzanne Morse (Wiley, 2004)


The first step for any community member to take is to find out the extent of the problem and then probe its impact on other issues, such as jobs, social services, and crime.  p. xiv


Ch. 1:  Setting the Stage for Community Change

Framing the Issues:

The important variable is how communities managed their inevitable change.  p. 2

Communities Come in All Sizes

3 types of community

  • Community of relationships
  • Community of interests
  • Community of place

Places that can establish strong identities for themselves while developing relationships with their neighbors hold the greatest promise for economic, social, and civic success.  p. 3

What We Know About Communities

Consciously or not, we have put a premium on the diversity of communities and what they offer.  p. 4

Notice the distribution of population in places of different sizes on p. 5—smaller places hold more people than the large metro areas!

Types of “core places” that are people’s “home base”—

  • Urban areas (over 250,000)
  • Metropolitowns (50-250,000)
  • Small cities and towns (10-50,000)
  • Rural areas (less than 10,000)

Place still matters—“a sustainable and competitive economic advantage is rooted in tapping the unique benefits of location.”  It is more than economics; to do this, “a place must have a conducive culture to attract people.” p.7

How Communities Came to Be

Three types of planned community:

  • Company town (Lowell, MA; Pullman, IL)
  • Suburban Escapes (Shaker Heights, OH; Riverside, IL)
  • Self-Contained Communities of Interest
    • Religious utopias (Salt Lake City, UT; Oneida, NY)
    • Ethnic enclaves (Chinatowns, Harlem, Little Havana)

“…urban isolationism is difficult if not impossible to sustain.  Short of a walled city, every American community is open to the influences of a larger area.” p. 11

“…relative wealth of suburbs is related to the financial strength of the neighboring central city….  A diversified commerce brings sustained vitality.”  p. 11

Growth and Decline of Communities

…smart communities must think about the rest of hehir country or the rest of their region as they craft decisions.  p. 13

Finding Community Solutions from Within

networks of civic engagement” and “civic capacity”


Ch. 2  Investing Right the First Time

All of us are dependent on the well-being of others….  Invest now or pay later.  P. 21

…frame our priorities in terms of good investment strategies.  P. 22

Framing the Issues

Concept of community investing

Understanding the Diversity of Investments

The critical consideration is not one over the other (basics vs. amenities) necessarily but rather an understanding of how the pieces fit together to make a strong community.  p. 24

“Investment capital” comes in a number of different forms:

  • Human capital
  • Physical capital
  • Social capital
  • Civic capital

Choosing the Right Investment

Depends on information and timing

Getting People to Focus on Issues

The issue attention cycle goes from latent concern (a condition), to public agenda (problem) , and then to policy agenda (a priority).

It is hard to get attention focused on anything unless the public connects personally in some way.  p.29

  • Information that clearly describes a problem—stories
  • Trend data (things getting worse)
  • Comparison data

The situation has to have real and personal qualities


Ch. 3  Working Together

The key to community success is a habit of working together. p. 46

Problems Cannot Be Solved Alone

…most social problems are related, feed on one another, and cannot be addressed in isolation.  p. 47

Three groups must be involved:

  • Those affected
  • Knowledgeholders—they can
    • Help group members present their concerns
    • Increase access to information and level the playing field
    • Raise controversial aspects of the issues
    • Understand the systemic nature of the problem/opportunity
  • Ripple-effect stakeholders

What Is Working Together?

For me,  working together is the ability of a group of people to develop a relationship of trust that will allow different perspectives to be heard and discussed but with ultimate agreement to take action.  p. 50  This usually includes a spectrum of approaches, including:

  • Partnerships
    • Common community structures that combine forces for results that match their own organization’s best interests.
    • Activities include information sharing and financial in-kind support, but critical function is tackling tough issues together
  • Coalition building
    • Informal or formal arrangements that bring diverse groups together for joint action on a single issue or set of issues
  • Collaboration
    • Allows multiple stakeholders to work together toward a common purpose, building on the community’s resources.
    • Might take the form of networking (information sharing), coordination (alter activities for mutual benefit), or cooperation (sharing of resources, trust, and access to each other’s turf)
    • Creates new operating structures and always shares risks/rewards

How Community Efforts Can Work Better

Three phases:

  1. Problem definition (“cards on the table,” clear view of the big picture and required commitment)
  2. Deciding on strategy
  3. Taking action

Reasons for failure:

  • Turf
  • Fault lines
  • “Been  there, done that” (groups must address not only the similarities but also the new approach and the new people)

Working Together Is a Necessity, Not a Luxury

“Jazz is the music of conversation”

  • Willingness  to play with a theme
  • Invites participation and interaction
  • Respect for individuality

Lessons Learned

  • Importance of “irritant” or outside organizer
  • Sense of own efficacy and own values
  • Be sure process is inclusive and definitive from beginning
    • Look at patterns of interaction
    • Do same people always turn up at meetings?
    • Do you always talk to same people
    • Are there places where people gather from across the community?


Ch. 4  Building on Community Strengths

Community work that turns on the assets of a community rather than on its deficits has a better chance of successfully addressing problems. p. 76  Leading with strengths is the mantra.

What Happened to Communities

Of the 200 persistently poor counties, 195 of them are rural (p. 78)

Turning the Tide

  • Why some communities fare better than others
    • Successful communities are those that foster positive relationships with their residents
      • Places where information is exchanged with residents
      • Information is exchanged
      • Encourage residents to identify and work toward common goals
      • Solicit resources and partners outside their boundaries (p. 79)
  • Solutions for rebuilding communities
    • Giving people a realistic sense that change can happen and results can be different creates a mental and tangible reality (p. 82)
    • The bar is set so it can be jumped

Community Building:  More than Buildings

  • Developing a community from within
    • Leverage collective gifts
    • Name the problem it is trying to solve
  • Place or people, process or outcome:  Not either or, but both and

Finding the Assets in a Community

3 types:  community development corporations, local development organizations, neighborhood organizations

  • Deficit-driven approach
  • Asset-driven approach (ABCD—Kretzmann & McKnight)
    • Asset map
      • interactive way to connect individuals to their own talents
      • opportunity to name the institutions that are permanently located in the community
    • Individual capacities map
      • Skill information
      • Community skills
      • Enterprising interests
      • Priority skills
    • Local Associations & organizations map
      • Printed resources (newspaper, directories, printed resources)
      • Word of mouth & citizen suggestions
      • Telephone survey

Lessons Learned

Community must maintain a level of independence and vision of itself


Ch. 5  Practicing Democracy

A Different Kind of Politics

Democracy becomes real for people when they decide what kind of community they want, not so much which political party or candidate they support.  The core of our democracy is the opportunity to discuss and decide what is in the public’s interest.  (p. 119)

A Willing Public

The challenge for community organizations lies in knowing how to connect community problems with a public willing to work to solve them.  Public dialogue and discussion make this possible.  (p. 120)

  • Recognizing that a problem is a problem
    • Citizens are unaware of the nature and seriousness of problems in the community
    • Citizens are unsure of whom to contact to get involved
  • Getting the right information

Can We Talk?

There must be vehicles for regular, ongoing dialogue that has currency with people.


Ch. 6  Preserving the Past

“…a city without old buildings is like a person without a memory.”  P. 147

Preservation Brings Both Aesthetic and Economic Advantage

  • Revitalization campaign—build on existing assets
  • Adaptive use
  • Increased property values & increased tourists—enhance property values and resale opportunities
  • Links to community and the past

No More Just Knocking Down or Paving Over

  • Enforced guidelines for the decision-making process for demolishing buildings of  historical  significance
  • Waiting period
  • Broad- based committee that considers the opportunity costs of lost buildings, green space, and even stands of trees

Lessons Learned

  • Must be an understandable physical vision
  • Must be grounded in authentic character of the place
  • Public/private partnership
  • Public sector sets stage for private investment
  • High level quality standards for design & construction
  • Broaden base of enthusiasm
  • Implementation structure that combines responsibility with necessary authority

Getting Started

    1. recognize importance of certain places
    2. think imaginatively about modern uses
    3. don’t think it can’t be done
    4. determine funding incentives
    5. build community through recognition and respect, which builds new relationships and trust


Ch. 7 Growing Leaders

Build bench strength—identify critical sources of leadership in the community.

New Ways to Think About Leadership

  • increasing demographic diversity
  • local decision-making more prevalent
  • more complex & inter-related issues

Leadership Matters Every Day

“Tipping Point” explains why concentration of broad & deep leadership team makes a difference.  Concentration of leaders in a community builds networks and relationships among citizens and organizations that are critical to make things happen.  p. 188

Lessons Learned

No longer “leadership pyramids,” but “leadership plazas”—requires inclusion, decision-making, and action that makes everyone “responsible  (p. 204)

Getting Started

  1. “neutral convenors” establish places and spaces where leaders at all levels can interact
  2. examine how community is preparing people for leadership
  3. examine community’s expectations for leadership
  4. identify rallying points for broad-based leadership


Ch.  8 Inventing a Broader Future






© 2004 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 5 September 04