On Intention

We’re a little shocked we haven’t written this blog post already.

Intention.

This is the heart of our work, the “Why?” and the “So what?” of our profession.

We’re taught growing up that work is about productivity. What are you producing? What are the deliverables? We’re learning every day, in our work, and yours too: intention matters. How you go about doing your work can be more meaningful than the work that you actually produce.

What does this look like in actuality? If you are commissioning the coolest mural project in town, but you’re doing it just to make your city look cool, it probably won’t stick. And when you get stuck with city or community resistance, you don’t have a story to tell, you just have an aesthetic that you’re trying to achieve. In community development, aesthetics are only meaningful when they tell the larger narrative of a community. Cities and towns are who they are because of the people they house, employ, and welcome. Their identity is relational, not their murals, their breweries, or their bike lanes.

Something that can be so easily forgotten is that community members are complex and intuitive. They can see straight through an ill-intentioned or un-intentioned project because they, better than anyone, know the past, present, and future of the place they call home.

Getting back to the basics of why you are doing the work helps to inform and implement successful projects. Why do we want the new business or the fun happenings downtown? Is it for economic gain for your town’s bank account? If so, your residents will likely be unresponsive. Or, is it because you want residents and visitors to have a safe, fun place to go and build community?

It is absolutely imperative to be intentional with our processes to ensure communities are being served and helped, not unconsidered and misplaced.

“People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”  ― Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action