Guest post by Deb Brown
What attendees learned from attending the Idea Friendly Session by SaveYour.Town at the International Economic Development Council Conference — Big Ideas you can copy in your town
Becky McCray and I were excited to lead an interactive Idea Friendly workshop at the International Economic Development Council Conference in Dallas in September of 2023.
The Idea Friendly Method is:
- You gather your crowd with a big idea.
- You turn that crowd into a capable network through building connections.
- You and the crowd accomplish the big idea through small steps.
What Happened in the Idea Friendly Workshop
Attendees developed their own Idea Friendly Projects after learning what Idea Friendly is and how to use it effectively in rural communities.
Engaging the audience, we asked what their rural challenges were. Not surprisingly, they aligned with the top 5 rural challenges on our Survey of Rural Challenges results:
- Shortage of good housing
- Downtown is dead
- Not enough volunteers
- Losing Young People
- Lack of Childcare
The attendees broke off into groups and chose a challenge to work on together. Each table had a flipchart sheet and the group worked the challenge through the Idea Friendly Method. The different groups presented their results to the entire room.
What the Big Ideas were:
Big Idea: Offsetting public infrastructure to incentivize private development
This idea brought to light the number of people who wanted help with a 12 unit housing development. The first small step they would take is to work with the economic development organization to find ways to bring the interested parties together for a conversation.
Challenge: Not enough volunteers
Big Idea: Volunteer engagement and involving the whole community
Their ideas included helping to promote all the possibilities for volunteering and creating a guide to managing volunteers ensuring any required government protocols are well explained. They created a brilliant tagline: making volunteering painless.
One attendee said to me, “Friend, I’m just a redneck from Alabama and I never get to meet people from other places. This was awesome!” Attendees came from the continental United States, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Saipan, and Canada.
Challenge: Losing our young people
Big Idea: Helping youth boomerang back
This group was excited about working with different organizations and people to create a strong publicity campaign. This big idea uses storytelling and sharing the small wins with some catchy promotional pieces. “Wish you were here”, “While you were gone”, and “We’ve grown up” are some of the hooks to use in promoting the community to their audience of young people.
Big Idea: Downtown is dead
These folks took their big idea to fill the downtown and built out a list of who else wanted to work with them, and then built possible connections that could help get it done. They realized they were not alone and had others in their towns that wanted to help.
Challenge: Lack of childcare
Big Idea: Create a downtown childcare facility
After identifying a long list of people and organizations that would want to join this project, the group came up with the idea of playground “playdate” to bring them all together for productive discussion. They were excited to see how a new downtown childcare facility could not only improve the availability of childcare, but also spur downtown revitalization and contribute to positive placemaking.
Creating Idea Friendly Projects is an easy to use and effective way to address our rural challenges.
This interactive IEDC session was a great success, and it was inspiring to see the plans the participants came up with to address the challenges they were facing. By working together and using innovative approaches, we can create more vibrant and resilient rural communities that are better equipped to face the challenges of the future.
“Thank you both so much for your preparation and execution of your session today! Sincerely, it was a true pleasure meeting and supporting you today. Your preparation and professionalism was reflected in your session. I appreciate your adaptability as well.”
Alexa Schultz, IEDC
- Reach out to SaveYour.Town about an Idea Friendly Workshop for your community or event
- Read more about the Idea Friendly Method.
- You can also watch a 24 minute Idea Friendly video for a $5 investment into your community.
- Don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly newsletter that addresses rural challenges!
- About the Author
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Deb Brown comes from a farm outside of Geneva, Iowa, population 141. Her heart lies in sharing the possibilities for small towns. Deb travels a lot, taking back roads when possible, and talking to the locals, sharing stories of other small towns and encouraging anyone who will listen. She’s the co-founder of www.saveyour.town and owner of Building Possibility.