It’s easy to feel defeated in our current politically divisive moment. Even a small effort like allowing a local corner store to open up or a modest apartment building to be constructed in your neighborhood can bring out angry residents who seem to oppose any sort of change—and attach their personal political views to every effort.
But it is possible to get things done, even when it seems like the right–left divide brings everything to a standstill. At Strong Towns, we hear stories every day from our members who are working together with neighbors who might vote differently from them, or display a different bumper sticker on their car, yet can still find common ground around more essential core values. And, most importantly, they use that energy to accomplish the tasks that collectively build a strong town.
In our recent Local-Motive Tour, we featured guest speakers and Strong Towns staff from around the country who are taking action to make their cities stronger by fixing dangerous streets, promoting incremental housing development, and reforming local zoning codes—to name a few things. One Local-Motive Session (available for you to access today or any time you wish) focused on how to make progress when political divisions dominate and included wisdom from Strong Towns Advisory Board member and California Transportation Commissioner, Michele Martinez, plus insights from Strong Towns Program Director Rachel Quednau. We’re sharing a printable “action guide” from that session with you today—totally free. Download it, hang it on your wall, hand it out to your neighbors, whatever you’d like.
To give you a taste, here’s our first tip for making progress in a politically divisive space:
Build Relationships First. Change takes time. It has to start with building a foundation of relationships with both leaders and residents. Once you get to know them and soften the ground for your position, people are often less dug in on their positions than you might think.