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Download Main Street News PDF 2009/10_11

Soul of the Community

What makes a community a desirable place to live? What draws people to stake their future in it? Are communities with more attached residents better off?

Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation launched the Soul of the Community Study in 2008 with these questions in mind. After interviewing close to 28,000 people in 26 communities over two years, the study has found that three main qualities bind people to place: social offerings such as entertainment venues and places to meet – the top factor in 21 of 26 communities; openness (how welcoming a place is); and the area's aesthetics (its physical beauty and green spaces).

Access to quality education – whether at the elementary, secondary, or college level – was also an important factor.

The top three qualities remained strong over two years of polling, unaffected by the national economic crisis. The levels of residents' emotional attachment to their towns also remained steady.

The economy was a top concern for residents polled this year – eclipsing crime, the top concern in 2008. But those issues weren't a primary factor in determining their emotional attachment to their towns and cities.

The study also looked at the relationship between how passionate and loyal people are to their communities and local economic growth. Researchers did find a significant relationship between the two. For example, from 2002-06, the most attached communities had the highest local GDP (gross domestic product) growth.

Researchers, with the benefit of a final survey in 2010, will analyze the trends to determine whether emotional connection drives economic growth, or the other way around. Within a smaller microcosm, such as a company, Gallup has been able to show that increasing employees' emotional connection will indeed lead to improved financial performance of the company.

To learn more, visit http://www.soulofthecommunity.org/overall-findings/.

Web Watch

Twitter recently announced Act.ly (http://act.ly/) for online activism. The tool makes it quick and easy to start a Twitter petition to support a cause or movement important to you; organizes topics for others to repeat on Twitter so more people can learn about it (called "Retweeting); and allows you to post events.

Business.com Answers offers a place for entrepreneurs and business owners to form an online community to help each other. A great place for instantaneously sharing information and advice on business-related topics, this format helps recreate online the scenario of popping around a cubicle wall to ask someone a question. Visit the home page and easily ask a question, search for topics, and offer your own feedback: http://answers.business.com/.

Omeka is a new free online exhibition product designed for non-IT specialists. Your Main Street program or area cultural institutions can use templates to launch an online exhibit and interpretation in just minutes.  Want to create a virtual tour of your town? You can upload oral histories, historical documents, podcasts, and more and encourage visitors to tag items and leave comments or contribute content: http://omeka.org