Lots of people are trying to help communities become better, and we think that’s excellent. But as you survey how communities are trying to change, you may feel like a lot of them aren’t making as much of a difference as they want to. We think there are two interrelated but separate issues that are not being addressed, and we focus on helping communities see them and grow into them.
Communities need vibrant local economies. And the healthiest local economies depend on a rich mix of small businesses and entrepreneurs — tech, traditional, and everything in between. But entrepreneurs, small businesses and startup communities need help to stay healthy, to bounce back from setbacks, and to grow.
We’ve assumed for a long time that small business and entrepreneurship will just take care of itself–and the amount of effort we’ve invested in them sometimes shows that. But even when we do pay attention, too often we treat them as mini-versions of big businesses.
And that means that we have fundamentally misunderstood the different roles that they play, the very different needs they have, and the deep ways that they are connected to each other…and to us. And because a lot of them have consumed the same message, they might misunderstand their own roles and needs and connections, as well.
We can fix that. We can foster healthy businesses and vibrant business communities — and we’ll all benefit from it. We just have to learn how.
We know that we need empowered, engaged, informed people in our community to partner with us in solving tough problems, not just sit back passively — or throw bricks at us. And we know that we need to make decisions that will enjoy broad support We know that we cannot solve everything ourselves anymore.
We know that in our guts, but we’re afraid to even say want it. Why? Maybe because we’ve gotten hit with too many bricks before.
The ways that we reach out to our community often hurt our ability to find constructive solutions far more than they help. We unintentionally set up confrontational situations, we fail to enable real participation, and then we’re surprised and hurt when everyone reverts to Fight or Flight behavior.
We ought to know by now that this isn’t helpful, but we keep doing it because we don’t know any other way. But there are plenty of other ways out there–ways that are working for teachers and businesses and others, and ways that can work for you. Again, we just have to learn how.