Shift superficial notions of community development and branding  to shape communities of enduring value

By: Bill Van Eron Tuesday April 17, 2018 0 comments Tags: Bill Van Eron


By Bill Van Eron

Value-Inspired Community Strategist

Headwaters Marketing & Innovation

I am no expert in managing the day-to-day responsibilities of a City Manager, City Staff and Council. Many do respect the long hours and intent that most apply to their work. But the progressive rate of change and technology leaves no industry, institution or community in a safe harbor unless they have invested to challenge their mindset and skills to adapt and thrive through change, using external & internal values as their compass.

When everything is changing with the force of a river, you have to stay in flow. Change is now the new normal (institutional). Count on it, and yet prepare for it by understanding the impact to real values and outcomes. Participating in a new breed of thought-leader communities is part of my own path to collaborative, open and continuous enlightenment. Doing so embraces diversity with regard to shaping inclusive priorities, trends and challenges that impact real people, all industries, institutions and governments. Many consultants verify the biggest challenge is how leaders stay in outdated comfort zones versus proactively seeking to understand the impact of change. Doing so defines by actions, a new generation of early adopters who act on the principles to create stronger connections and close gaps. Government is less immune than industry, so time to raise a white flag between empowered leaders and those capable to make the right things happen.

Learn to spot change before it becomes mainstream to align to it as an earlier advantage. I keep an eye open for Colorado so as it attempts to reflect citizen interests into policies, it can lead to integrity-grounded innovative approaches. I was impressed by a group out of Denver, Boulder area that has taken proactive issue with the impact mass food producers have had on our health and our communities. Allegedly, larger food production firms are crowding out locally grown food sources. Their deceptive food labeling methods fail to translate what is really in our food, as accurate to the benefits or risks involved. Big Pharma has had to do that, so it’s fair for this group to ask “why not food producers?” The benefits are obvious and a community that supports this adds to its brand value. This group cites examples of where livestock or crops are listed as organic, yet may have been fed antibiotics or used pesticides – both without labels warning of the impact to our health. I personally have made a bigger commitment to read the ingredient labels and have noted that subterfuge where foods are stated as “sugar free”, only to notice other ingredients (I.E., fructose, corn syrup) that have as high a negative factor as sugar. They do state it, yet fail to factor it as related to the benefit claim made that a food choice is “sugar free” or healthy by most accountable interpretation. This group sees that as some of the reasons communities should go back to local or regional farming where trust and being local create greater trust and accountabilities. I see both values, and this topic as one vital component to a communities brand value promise. I envision a community being able to commit to full green energy compliance as a brand promise that is value based, versus defined by interests that defeat our values.

The real change champions are often outside your industry or hidden within your own business.

Leaders that do not support open dialog, inclusion, new ideas and outside-in objectivity are failing faster. Accountability, will soon become an open benefit versus something treated like a four letter word. Imagine government that is easily accessible and open-minded to insights from a wider variety of sources. Today, this is a problem that plagues large companies that say the right things, yet in evidence, transparency reveals the opposite. Imagine governments that invited innovation as led by people that know how to open the dialog to get the best ideas going. Imagine how much faster citizen-inspired solutions can happen. Why accept the huge gaps we see today between emerging needs and innovative, responsiveness to support solutions sooner.

What is wrong with community branding today?  

  1. The people hiring sources to do it lack the depth of understanding to what branding really is. The companies offering community branding solutions rarely reveal anything citizens do not already know, so they end up updating the logo and missing the real opportunity to reflect a brand value that evokes pride.
  2. The very phrase “Community Development” infers growth at all cost. More often than not, the values that created the community, are the first to erode. Greed often aces out reason.
  3. While silos are a major company limiter, and most inadvertently fall into patterns that create closed, internal thinking. Gallup cites that only 15% of global employees across all industries are emotionally engaged. In those environments the status quo is protected and open dialog is not encouraged. Manipulators rule the day. I hear horror stories about how that also happens in local governments, though I also applaud efforts ours had made to be open and accountable to citizens. I’d love to also see it open and accountable to itself.
  4. I empathize with all the communities that end up saying “We paid a fortune for branding and all we got was this stinking logo” as so much more now defines a communities brand as a compelling value.

What are 5 key factors that affect a positive shift to value-based communities?

  1. Understand the values within your success ecosystem. Identify the components and make sure you are creating open value bridges. Open your culture up to respect other cultures within your ecosystem.
  2. Create collaborative partnerships across your ecosystem For example industry is critical of education for not preparing future leaders while education has no lifeline to assure relevance in education to those changes. I already envision what this lifeline will do, once I can find a more open and progressive university.
  3. Stay committed to continuous enlightenment as we all have to change to stay relevant to the values driving change. Create a compelling way to test and score progress so enlightenment reflects a measurable impact. If not, entire categories of work risk elimination. The days of established careers and manipulating control are ending fast.
  4. Transformation is not the feared mountain you climb. It is more like streams that feed into a river that shapes value up and downstream. So jump in and enjoy the ride.
  5. Respect the difference between those that tell you what you want to hear and those that synthesize what you need to hear. Diversity in action implies a healthy cross-section of support and challenge, as well as welcoming diverse views on what really matters.

Imagine the possibilities:

  1. Colorado communities raising the bar in ways that our state can be a catalyst for other states success.
  2. As we see growth in small and large communities interest in tech centers, innovation and attracting advanced industries to have a healthy job market and attract attention, having a value-based brand can make all the difference, as without it, why should they choose you?
  3. I appreciate what incubators and universities were originally designated to do, but most have not kept step with the impacts and opportunities change offers. I envision smart networks that will soon obsolete incubators and possibly universities where they stay complacent with their status quo.
  4. Several years ago, the state contacted 40 marketing firms to revitalize the area in Aurora called the Havana District. Headwaters was selected as one of the top 3 finalists that met the requirements the BOD created. The Program Director called to say “The good news is you were the only agency that delivered a strategy that met all requirements. The bad news was that the steering BOD was shocked anyone could do it so they regressed to simply make it a retail zone. What a shame for the locals and for our state. Being your best requires a mix of courage, empathy and logic that I hope more in Colorado adopt soon as a mindset.
Bill Van Eron

About the Author: Bill Van Eron

Bill Van Eron sees this as a time for a new level of systems & design-think mindfulness to step up and shape value beyond norms that hogtie most organizations. As founder of Headwaters Marketing & Innovation, an alliance partner with, and others, Bill’s rare extended experience leading the actions that most only theorize about today, gives orgs & employees a distinct, agile, unifying advantage. Chat with me at [email protected] or to enjoy that experience on tap so you can grow effective teams, purpose and revenues faster & more sustainably.