How are Communities for a Lifetime built?

The process of building a community for a lifetime is influenced by many local factors, such as a community’s history, geographic location, size and density, economic drivers, and the experience of its leaders.  However, common community planning and development steps are used by a wide variety of communities.  The steps may not occur in the same way or order from community to community, and additional steps may be necessary, but the following might serve as a useful guide. 

Learn about community demographic, economic and social trends

  • Gather and analyze data on the current local population and economy, as well as projections for the future
  • Conduct community surveys and assessments to learn about local assets, needs and opinions

Involve a wide array of community residents and stakeholders

  • Host a meeting between key stakeholders to discuss the community’s future
  • Hold a public forum to engage a larger number of residents
  • Ensure representation across sectors, interest groups and segments of the population 

Identify leaders and designate a leadership body

  • Consider the best organizational location, structure and member composition of a leadership group
  • Consider whether an existing group could assume leadership of the initiative 

Articulate a vision, goals and concrete action steps

  • Summarize the findings from earlier research, assessments and public meetings
  • Write a vision—what you want your community to become
  • Outline major goals for the initiative
  • Outline concrete projects—small and large—that align with the goals and vision
  • Identify and work toward the most attainable improvements first
  • Assign initiative partners to specific action steps

Take steps to sustain the initiative

  • Identify and gain investment from key leaders and contributors
  • Ensure broad-based community awareness and support for the initiative vision, goals and action steps
  • Continually recruit and orient new leaders and contributors, to prepare for attrition and infuse fresh energy
  • Pursue funding from individuals, area businesses, faith communities, foundations, and government agencies 

Achieve, publicize and celebrate concrete community improvements 

  • Prioritize community improvements that are more attainable
  • Prioritize improvements that benefit more segments of the community
  • Target more challenging improvements once leaders and collaborative partnerships are better developed
  • Publicize and celebrate successes, small and large