Three Cities Use Surprising Survey Findings to Stir Passion for Their Communities - and Possibly Economic Growth

MIAMI (Nov. 15, 2010) – Leaders in Miami, Charlotte and Detroit will use unexpected findings from a Gallup-Knight Foundation survey to help transform their communities.

The Soul of the Community poll discovered that peoples’ love and passion for their community may be a leading indicator for local economic growth. The study also discovered which factors influence that passion most. Surprisingly, social offerings, openness (i.e., how welcoming a community is) and beauty are driving love for where we live far more powerfully than peoples’ perceptions of the economy, jobs or basic services.

Leaders can use these insights to improve areas related to social offerings, openness and beauty to help attract businesses, keep residents and improve a community’s economic vitality, Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced today.

Three projects will implement the findings, with support from Knight Foundation:

  • In Miami, The Miami Foundation, formerly Dade Community Foundation, will use the research to identify needs specific to the South Florida region – and address them. The foundation will do further polling, to determine what residents think is needed to ultimately improve their emotional bond with their community. The foundation will then try to influence public policy and develop actions plans for improvement. (video: http://vimeo.com/17417756)
  • In Charlotte, Johnson C. Smith University – one of the nation’s oldest historically black colleges – will create a curriculum based on the survey, and a minor in the school’s community leadership program. The university will then recruit Knight Fellows to use the research as a guide to revitalizing the struggling area surrounding the school. (video: http://vimeo.com/17419175)
  • In Detroit, CEOs for Cities recently gathered urban leaders to discuss what attracts residents to Detroit, and to develop a list of big ideas to foster a robust public life. The top ideas will then be funded and carried out. (video: http://vimeo.com/17418385)

“The beauty of this survey is that it puts the people front and center,” said Javier Alberto Soto, president of The Miami Foundation. “At times, governments make decisions without including the citizen’s voice in the deliberations. The survey inserts that voice, so that elected officials - whether making policy or budgeting decisions - will know what the soul of the community is saying.”

 “The study is important because its findings on emotional attachment to place offer a new perspective we encourage leaders to consider. We’re not surprised that Miami, Charlotte and Detroit are using the findings in different but equally innovative and beneficial ways,” said Paula Ellis, Knight Foundation's vice president for strategic initiatives.

The Knight Soul of the Community survey explores the connection between local economic growth and peoples’ emotional bond to a place. Three years of survey data clearly show a significant, positive link between resident attachment and local GDP growth.

Within a smaller environment, such as a company, Gallup has been able to show that increasing employees' emotional connection to their company leads to improved financial performance of the organization. Experts continue to explore if the emotional connection to the place where one lives drives economic growth for these communities in a similar way. Gallup’s previous work in U.S. communities and abroad shows that in fact emotional connection does drive economic growth.

The 26 cities surveyed were chosen because the Knight brothers owned newspapers in those cities. They vary in population size, economic levels and how urban or rural they are. Gallup randomly surveyed 43,000 adults from 2008 to 2010, by phone.

Complete findings are available at soulofthecommunity.org.

Follow Knight Soul of the Community on Twitter: #SOTC.

Join us on Facebook: facebook.com/soulofthecommunity.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote informed and engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

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Contact: Marc Fest, Vice President for Communications, (305) 908-2677, fest@knightfoundation.org.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.