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    « Local politics | Main | Walking the Talk »

    September 08, 2009

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    I'm curious what you think the minimum population needed to support a local community project like this would be. Obviously you need to have a minimum number of businesses, for a wide enough diversity, and they need a certain number of customers to make it work. Is there a theory/experience/guidance out there that answers that question?

    I find your comments about the experience to ring with some truth. I work in a different field and we have recently be considering who our customer is. In market terms, they are very what most would be considering to be typical Queenslanders. To illustrate the point we ask in the workshops who is attracted to live in Queensland? Why are people moving here in record numbers? We want to target those characteristics, because that will help us retain and satisfy more customers.

    So what is it that attracts people to small towns? If it were purely convenience, then they would be living in larger regional centres, with all the conveniences you describe. Can you identify those factors that make them choose small towns and create a customer/market experience that appeals to what made them move there in the first place?

    Some great questions Rosemary. We're conducting pilot projects in towns of various sizes so we know how the program will work - in a town of 500 and a town of 10,000.

    Your last question is the most exciting one. I guess the answer lies not only in identifying what the small town experience is but how unique you can make your town's experiential offering from the town 20km down the road.

    I could give a few reasons why I'm attracted to small towns but then it will be different for different people. So the next question should be, what type of people do you want living in your small town?

    So, can you identify those factors that make them choose small towns and create a customer/market experience that appeals to what made them move there in the first place? - I'd say yes you could, but if they also want something unique (which I suspect they will) then only the community can do that - it can't be manufactured. This only happens by having a entrepreneurial culture to generate it and giving the community the freedom to explore their ideas.

    Thanks for your reply, Greg. I'm just starting to study community development so I am followng your projects with interest. What I find interesting about your projects is that sustainability is a key component of the project's mission. It is well and truly time we started having conversations out loud and in public about our futures - both short and long term.

    I appreciate your point that the communities need to discover who they are and let that determine what they create for themselves. Rolling out a standard model across communities will only lead to disappointment and failure. A common purpose or culture, once set alight, can get a group of people pulling together like nothing else. Have you found that small town communities are lacking a clear identity? Or is it that they need support to get their ideas off the ground?

    I like the idea of pocket communities spread across Australia targeting and specialising in attracting people to a particular lifestyle. Being a Queenslander I can certainly see this developing in SE Queensland - towns and communities are becoming aware of their identity and as that coalesces new people are moving in specifically to enjoy that way of living.

    Some small towns lack an identity but many don't and the ones that don't have less problem with attracting new people to stay and generally thrive.

    But any vision or identity needs to be communicated and needs to mean something to visitors, outsiders and potential new residents to attract essential diversity and new ideas to the town.


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