“I Want To Make a Change in My Community…but Where Do I Start?”

45769770402 1075e55a35 k

When someone decides—or, even better, a small group of people decide—they want to start making their city stronger and more resilient, they quickly run up against two questions:

  • Where do we start?

  • How do we proceed?

Those questions point to the two most intimidating aspects of advocating for change in your community—so intimidating, actually, that many would-be advocates never even begin.

“Where do we start?” is an indication that your town, like basically every town, is facing challenges that are daunting both in depth and breadth. Maybe the city budget is groaning under the weight of its maintenance obligations. Maybe your town is considering annexing a bunch of land for a new subdivision. Maybe the streets aren’t safe to walk and bike. Maybe the cost of housing is through the roof. Maybe all of these things are true at the same time. 

“How do we proceed?” is a reminder that, even after you’ve identified one or more of the challenges your community is facing, you still have to determine how to address them. Maybe you have no ideas. Maybe you have too many. Both can stop you dead in your tracks.

Strong Towns advocates cut through the noise, the distractions, the indecision, and the overwhelm using a simple process we call the 4-Step Process for Public Investment. It goes like this:

  • Step 1: Humbly observe where people in the community struggle.

  • Step 2: Ask the question: What’s the next smallest thing we can do right now to address that struggle?

  • Step 3: Do that thing. Do it right now.

  • Step 4: Go back to Step 1 and begin the process again. 

This process will help you and your community make the best investments with your precious public resources. Not just public dollars (although that’s obviously a big part of this) but also your finite time, energy, land, and political will. 

The 4-step Process uses a series of comparatively small actions to iteratively improve your city and identify the successful strategies worthy of greater investment. It also gives you momentum right out of the gate. You don’t have to answer the question—“Where do we start?”—before you begin, and by the time you ask “How do we proceed?” you’re already on Step 2. In Step 3, you’re addressing the struggle without necessarily trying to solve it all at once and for all time. The cycle repeats in Step 4, and this is where it’s fun to remember that, in other contexts, the word “cycle” is a synonym for “revolution.”

You already have what it takes to become an effective Strong Towns advocate. We’ve put the 4-Step Process for Public Investment into a handy, printable action guide. Print it out, share with it a few friends, and you can get started today.

You May Also Like