|YouTube video of "friendly" presentation of Norwalk 2.0 project and survey results, to the beat of the song "Hey Hey Hey" by Sounds of Sunshine Michael Franti & Spearhead Capitol.|
This is an inspiring story about a community looking for answers on how to transform their place into a "cool downtown". The story can apply to other communities -- urban and rural.
Norwalk 2.0 is an independent, non-profit start-up operating on a shoestring budget. They asked questions of those who work, play and live in their community -- lots of questions. How do we fill up vacant storefronts? How do we let people know about the creatives who live there? What do we know about ourselves? What do we care about? How do we get the community engaged, including artists and businesses? A 12-question survey was broadcast to members of the community, free, over the internet and on foot, for five months, gathering information.
|Cloud image of concerns from "Native Norwalkers"|
758 people took the survey. They learned, for example, that 82% of respondents like to dine out. 64% like attending community events such as the Oyster Festival. Interestingly 48% of Norwalk news is spread by word-of-mouth. Wordle was used to visually display issues that most concerned the community. They also used similar "cloud pictures" on population sub-sets such as "native Norwalkers".
Norwalk 2.0's events and projects were often small, innovative, grass-roots, sustainable and community-based. But there were obstacles. First, the group did not neatly fit into any box. They had to build credibility and trust. Norwalk 2.0 learned three lessons for success: leverage technology, engage politicians, and be transparent.
Vacant storefronts are becoming leased. Stakeholders now seek the group out for input to community planning, zoning and creative community development ideas. Developers continue to support the group's events and community building.
I came across this item through the creative place-making initiatives listed with NEFA, the New England Foundation of the Arts website. It is worth a listen and read, and even be part of a presentation on what enthusiasm and community spirit means to the well-being of a community, no matter how big or small.