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The (possibly) weird and the definitely wonderful

Ian Plowman, helpful and friendly person that he is, sent me an email in response to me referring on my website, to the terrific research he has done about what helps country towns flourish. I have cut and pasted Ian’s email below. Interesting stuff. And I am always keen to think about what these specific ideas mean for young people, for youth work, for the community sector in general, for running a school, for living in an apartment block……???…!!!…???

Thanks Ian. Keep it coming.


Hi Peter,

I’m pleased to see that my research still has currency.  Here is a summary of the main findings plus a link to the full report.

Given your blog entries on communication, you might also be interested in my current work, aimed at improving the resilience, creativity and dialogue within communities.  If you’d like to email me, I’ll send you an overview of a suite of techniques collectively known as ‘Meetings without Discussion’ and subtitled ‘Productive meeting techniques for helping people to contribute willingly, to listen respectfully, to consider deeply and to decide wisely’.  It has found effective use with teenagers, with government executives, with communities and with desert-dwelling indigenous peoples.  They all love it.

The most innovative country town had:
• The highest proportion of new residents,
• The highest level of home ownership,
• The highest average level of education,
• A high level of overseas travel,
• The fewest leaders,
• The highest proportion of people who had knowledge and expertise they were willing to contribute when required,
• A number of strong civic bodies in addition to Council.
• A Council that preferred to support civic projects in partnership with community groups rather than initiate or lead projects.
• A high level of passion and a low interest in the pursuit of funding.
• A higher proportion of professional people,
• Strong support for and pride in the artistic and creative dimension of its town.

In general innovative towns:
• Are not innovative because of a particular size, geographic location or particular industry,
• Are highly tolerant of diversity,
• Are very welcoming to visitors,
• Take pride in and contribute to their community, (participative democracy)
• Have a low dependency upon leaders and a high dependency upon idea and responsibility sharing,
• Have a low dependency upon governments.

A fundamental truth.  Most people have mobility choices: to move towards something that is attractive, away from something that is unattractive and to stay somewhere that is sufficiently attractive.  People who are the most mobile are commonly the most creative.  The innovative talent that most towns crave, they already have.  Intolerance will chase it away.

• Invest heavily in diversity in every dimension,
• Invest heavily in leadership rotation, responsibility sharing and the growth of civic responsibility,
• Make all visitors feel welcome.  In particular, welcome the weirdo’s.  Form a visitors welcoming group.
• Promote your town shamelessly; talk it up; invest in it socially and financially; make it easy for others to want to do the same.

More information:

Perhaps our paths might cross someday.

Warm regards,


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