What’s your community’s Return on Involvement?

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What’s your community’s Return on Involvement?

This is a new lens on an old frame.  Communities today are revitalizing themselves not only seeking a Return on Investment, but also a Return on Involvement.  Attending a recent RED Group session – Regional Economic Development Group of Minnesota, I heard stories that put new meaning to *ROI.

Leaders from three regions in Greater MN put forth narratives that captured community driven grass roots initiatives aimed at improving the economic future of their regions.  With the creation of Bemidgi Leads in the Northwest, GreenSeam in Greater Mankato and a refreshed portrait of growth in Duluth in Northeast, MN, we learned about the power of effective and prolonged “intentional collective action” as cultural game changers in each of these regions.

BemidgiLeads (Building a Future of Promise for Our Community) participants gathered every week for three years to listen, evaluate and measure the pulse and prospects of their regions economic future – and they did it gratis!  They knew they had to take charge of their economic future to shape and revitalize the future they aspired to.  The effort has been transformative – creating a new narrative that is changing the cultural economic identity of their region.  They also determined that workforce and talent development could not be separated from economic development.

A decade later they are seeing the value of “the 16 destiny drivers” they developed as guiding the ongoing outcomes of their early listening sessions.  BemidgiLeads provided the community with a vehicle for people to make a difference and that in fact, created alignment at a strategic level!

One phenomenal active commitment they made is to Student’s First – assigning a town mentor to each and every 1,600 high school students! This kind of ROI sends a powerful signal to youth that they matter to the future of Bemidgi!  This one on one commitment has the potential to benefit the longevity of their community for generations. Measuring that Return on Involvement could be groundbreaking!

Each of these regions was once dependent on a natural resource based economy and find that today’s technology driven 21st Century Agriculture contributes more broadly, intersecting the local economy through tourism and business services.  All three regional initiatives defined success based on a new narrative, releasing themselves from the mantle of complaint, grievances and old myths to form instead a fresh identity to carry them forward, together.

Their Return on Involvement made me think about the preeminence given to “big data,” to the concepts of quantification trending nationally.  And these stories underscore the quote –

*“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” William Bruce Cameron

Alignment of assets and aspirations for a community can be measured as a Return on Involvement, especially if the interdependence that develops works not only across sectors but also inclusively across race, class and gender.

TA3 is a member driven network that brings a high level of Return on Involvement.  So consider joining us as we push the frontier of ideas at the next TA3 2017 Symposium in the Netherlands on new learning spaces.

  1. *the phrase Return on Involvement, is attributed to John Foley, Level Brand, Minneapolis, MN
  2. *Often attributed to Einstein but actually coined by William Bruce Cameron in “Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking”

By L. Burke Murphy, Director of TA3