Picture for a minute a man going out for a two-hour drive on a Sunday afternoon. When he gets back home, his wife asks him where in the world he went. His response “nowhere in particular, but I made good time!” You really couldn’t blame his spouse for being a bit dubious and suspicious of that response. In our opinion, communities that move into the future without a plan and priorities based on that plan should likewise be held accountable.
Chapter 2, How Prosperous Is Your Community, is where the journey to community accountability and prosperity really begins. The chapter shows that communities must first define their own version of prosperity before trying to achieve it, and then set priorities for actions and budgets based on that definition. A “roadmap to prosperity” should then be created for communities to follow in establishing priority actions and resource allocations. But without comprehensive public input, a community’s definition of prosperity and its roadmap to get there are not legitimate – they are the product of a small group of elected officials or others who happen to be in the driver’s seat. Like rebellious teenagers, community residents who believe their community’s future and priorities are being set by the “powers that be” who never asked their opinion, are much less likely to get on board and help. Chapter 2 discussed ways to gather and assess this important public input.
Throughout the book, we make the point that community development and economic development are both processes and outcomes. Chapter 3 focuses on the process of community development that, when combined with the tools from Chapter 2, can lay the foundation for success by creating a “prosperous-ready” community. It continues the discussion of community visioning started in Chapter 2, and offers tools to help communities create a vision and establish priorities. Chapter 3 also provides tools for deeper self-assessments to more fully understand a community’s assets to build on and liabilities to address in order to create a vision and roadmap to prosperity.