It is 2015. “Back to the Future II” predicts we’ll have flying cars, self-lacing shoes and hoverboards by the end of the year. Flying cars and hoverboards do have working prototypes, but they won’t be impacting healthy communities work any time soon, and it doesn’t take a futurist to predict what local leaders should anticipate in 2015. I’m talking about the “inevitables:” processes that communities go through every year. If aware of these early, nonprofits, businesses, faith-based organizations, civic groups and government sectors are better equipped to ensure that community residents have ample opportunities to improve their quality of life.
These recurring events still often take us by surprise as we work through the day-to-day process of healthy community change. The following three inevitables, and the questions that accompany them, are meant to help you plan for and respond to these events as they happen.
Whether through formal channels (e.g., governmental advisory boards, neighborhood associations or committees) or informally, communities are optimistic about using their voice for change. This year, many groups will not wait for funding, ask for permission or check with the appropriate gatekeepers before promoting healthy community changes that impact them directly.
At Active Living By Design, we talk about “little p” policies (like those within organizations) and “big P” policies (like governmental and systems-level decisions). Influencing outcomes and impacting communities happen through both types of policy work. Decision makers at all levels will be introduced to, talk about and vote on policies that will impact community members’ health.
Nationwide population trends show that the face of America is changing; the former president of the American Planning Association, Mitchell Silver, describes it as the “graying and browning of America.” I am hopeful that the continued interaction between people of different races, ages and life experiences is the path toward healing and further connecting with our neighbors. Systems large and small (e.g., health, education, justice, housing) within the US—which is to say, within local communities—are in need of reconfiguration and updating to accommodate our changing culture—instead of the other way around.
Whether you’re a healthy communities veteran or are just getting started, these questions are worth (re)visiting and wrestling with as you make intentional decisions about trade-offs. What will you do differently in 2015 to advance healthy change in your own community?