The Upjohn Institute Blog
Is it Bowling, Picnics or Jobs?
Posted: March 21, 2011
By Bridget Timmeney
What are the qualities that bond communities together and facilitate community growth? A recent Gallup study
released by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
finds unexpected factors cause people to love where they live and suggests new approaches to improving communities. The study found that three main qualities attach people to place: social offerings, such as entertainment venues and places to meet; openness, or how welcoming a place is; and the areas aesthetics, such as its physical beauty and green spaces. Gallup randomly surveyed 43,000 adults by phone from 2008 to 2010 in 26 cities across the U.S. and concluded that respondents love and commitment for their community may be an indicator for local economic growth.
The survey, titled Knight Soul of the Community
, explores the connection between local economic growth and residents emotional bond to a place. The three years of survey data clearly show a significant positive link between resident attachment and local GDP growth. The 26 cities in the survey with the highest levels of community attachment also had the highest rates of local GDP growth over time.
Researchers found that a few surprising trends emerged despite economic declines since the study began in 2008. Jon Clifton, deputy director of the Gallup World Poll, commented: when a communitys residents are highly attached, they will spend more time there, spend more money, theyre more productive and tend to be more entrepreneurial and he believes the study supports this theory. He advocates that these results can help community leaders plan and implement strategies to facilitate sustainable community impact. For example, in Charlotte, North Carolina, one of the communities included in the survey, leaders at Johnson C. Smith University are using these findings to create a curriculum and a minor in the university's community leadership program.
In an alternative setting, such as a business, Gallup surveys have also shown that increasing employees connection to their company leads to improved financial performance of the organization. Here in West Michigan, Fred Kellar, CEO of Cascade Engineering
in Grand Rapids, has documented the same finding given his various workplace training initiatives
. Under Kellars leadership, Cascade Engineering invested in its own subsidiary to invest in their employees and in the culture of Cascades workplace. Kellar believes its a matter of sustainability and facilitates his company becoming an employer of choice.
Despite declines in the economy since the study began in 2008, the following surprising findings emerge from the Knight-funded Gallup study:
- The elements associated with the strongest emotional connection between people and a communitysocial offerings, openness and aestheticsremained stable for three years and are consistent among the 26 cities studied. These three elements had the strongest connection of the 10 community qualities that attach residents to place, which also included: civic involvement, social capital, education, perception of the local economy, leadership, safety, emotional well-being and basic services.
- The link between local GDP and residents attachment to a place has remained steady despite declines in the economy over the three years of the study. Communities with higher percentages of attached residents also show higher levels of economic growth.
- Job seeking college graduates are perceived to be one of the least welcome groups across the 26 communities.
- Perception of the local economy is not a leading reason residents create an emotional bond to a place.
Further analysis and a city-by-city visual presentation of survey results can be found at www.soulofthecommunity.org.
Bridget Timmeney can be reached at Timmeney@upjohn.org.