Business schools focus on teaching “business value creation.” Nowhere do they teach community value creation.
What might that look like?
In the past, we’ve seen many approaches to community development come and go – many of them as real estate projects to bring back economic life to dying neighborhoods. Results have often led to gentrification and displacement of the very population that was the intended beneficiary.
It’s time to change this exploitative pattern of top-down development. Community development must begin and end with the community – real people – in the center. The primary beneficiary of community development must be the community, not the developer.
Sounds obvious. but it’s not.
So how do we map out community needs? Turns out we can use job-to-be-done which will be a laborious affair, or simply use the community value pyramid. Patterned after the “elements of value,” the community value pyramid is a simple tool we developed to help community members identify what the most important jobs-to-be-done in their community might look like.
Of course, each community can build their own pyramid by modifying the elements.
We recognize that our pyramid of value is a reflection of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and that this hierarchy may be misplaced. But it is a good model to begin with.
Community leaders can use the pyramid to ask themselves five questions:
- What do the people say we need most urgently?
- How do our community value propositions compare with other communities we admire?
- How do we bridge the gaps to create local value for our community?
- What essential services do we need for the common good?
- How will we plan, execute, maintain, and measure impact?
The community value pyramid becomes a tool to help decide which areas need regeneration the most. Note that the foundational community values of human rights, tolerance, and justice are represented on the sides of the pyramid. These are first principles. And of course, the hierarchy is based on requirements for survival – but most of our daily lives cut across this hierarchy.
ASK: What are the most urgent and important jobs to be done? These are the “unmet needs of the community.”
Once you ask this question, you’ll want to think of the following:
- what – the type of need: describe it as clearly as possible
- who – is being impacted? Individual, community, work, national, planet? who decides what is to be done? for whom?
- where – is the need observed?
- when – does the need occur – is it continuous or sporadic?
- who/what – should be held accountable? is blocking the solution?
Discussions work best in an environment of caring and trust. Fear must be eliminated. The first step must be to create a safe space for open and frank exchange and deliberation – without fear of reprisal. In most communities there is a hegemony – a power structure that upholds and protects the cultural norms of the community.
How do you create a system for collecting input: suggestions, requests, and concerns which does not penalize the least powerful?
A WARNING FROM HISTORY: Without deep democratic engagement of the local population, community development becomes a negative, exploitative, even destructive practice, not unlike the forced eviction of Native Americans from their ancestral lands. In the past, “urban renewal” was a term often used for the various strategies to restore profitability and/or repopulate areas of the city deemed to be in decline. Also termed ‘reconstruction’, urban renewal describes a broad range of interventions in the built environment and in communities facilitated by the state, the private sector, public-private partnerships, or less commonly, by community-level agencies. In essence, urban renewal promised physical, material, or spatial solutions to social and economic problems. This is a reductive and destructive way of thinking of the whole ecosystem – especially in the US, where the criticism of urban renewal programs is not new. Urban renewal in the US, has not helped the poor. It was primarily a mid-20th century phenomenon that decimated the cores of America’s cities. More than two thousand urban renewal construction projects were undertaken between 1949 and 1973, when the urban renewal program officially ended. Over two million inhabitants were displaced and moved. Urban renewal provided local “agencies” with federal funds and the power of eminent domain to condemn slum neighborhoods, tear down the buildings, and resell the cleared land to private developers at a reduced price. In the end, more than 40 state legislatures in the US ended up passing laws restricting or banning the use of eminent domain for economic rejuvenation.
Christian Sarkar is the editor of this site, and is a co-founder of the Regenerative Marketing Institute with Enrico Foglia and Philip Kotler. Their book – Regeneration: The Future of Community in a Permacrisis World is available for purchase now. See also: The Regeneration Journal.