Over three years, Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation set out to explore several key questions: What makes a community a desirable place to live? What draws people to stake their future in it?
The answers are important, especially in today’s world, where the most successful cities are able to attract and retain the talented workers that strengthen communities and local economies.
The Soul of the Community study – which interviewed 43,000 people in 26 communities asked a range of questions about personal satisfaction with community life, about pride in the community, and about optimism about its future, and looked at the connections between answers to these questions and people’s perceptions of many key community attributes.
When we analyzed what people said about how they felt about their community we found that positive attitudes about community didn’t vary much based on respondents’ perceptions of the presence of jobs or the quality of basic services in their city. People with the most favorable opinions of their cities also were more likely to have positive assessments of local social offerings, such as entertainment venues and places to meet, openness, or how welcoming a place is, and the area’s aesthetics, or its physical beauty and green space.
The study revealed a number of interesting patterns.
Looking across communities, it found that residents of smaller cities were more likely on average to express positive feelings about their community, and optimism about its future. And those communities that have experienced particularly hard economic times had lower levels of expressed satisfaction. Community satisfaction varied with demographic characteristics, too. Some demographic groups were consistently more likely to express satisfaction with their community: older, better-educated and higher-income people and retirees all gave their communities higher marks, on average.
The Soul of the Community survey also presented one apparent paradox: People who express high levels of satisfaction with their community are no more—or less) likely than other residents to be engaged in community activities such as voting, volunteering or attending community meetings.
The Soul of the Community survey raises important questions about how our communities are performing and how those perceptions vary among different groups of the population, and what perceived community attributes correlate with community satisfaction.
The Soul of the Community study was a starting point. The survey establishes that people who are satisfied with their community are likely to perceive that the community has great social offerings, is open and has great aesthetics. It also shows that satisfaction correlates with education and income. The Soul of the Community survey confirms the internal consistency of respondents’ rationale for community satisfaction. Our next steps are to further explore the physical environment of community to better understand the tangible aspects of place that attract and anchor talent and provide for opportunity.
By Eric Anthony Johnson
During all the political conversation of recent months, Americans heard precious little on the national stage about the vitality of our cities. Yet our cities are key to future prosperity and job creation due in large part to the proximity of local economic anchors within their boundaries. These are the places where people live, work and learn and where the art of placemaking will be at the center of building competitive advantages.
By Chelsea Clarkson and Allison Pinto in The Sarasota Herald-Tribune
With the recent death of Andrea Rody, our community has lost an everyday community changemaker. We are touched by the way in which her neighbors have been coming forth to celebrate her memory, and as fellow residents of the broader Sarasota County community, we want to acknowledge the significance of her contributions as a neighbor, too.
Dr. Katherine LoflinKnight Foundation's Soul of the Community
The top-4 attachment factors (full study):
Social offeringsOpenessAesthetics Education
If you weren't able to attend, here's a little background: The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Gallup recognized that there had long been a connection between employee satisfaction and business productivity, and they wondered if the same could be applied to communities. So they set out to see if there was any connection between people’s general feelings of satisfaction about where they lived and the overall productivity and economic health of a community.
The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County discussed community attachment one of the key principles of Knight's Soul of the Community research on "A Public Affair" this month. Morgan Rogers and Max Tappet of the foundation interviewed Paula Ellis, VP for Strategic Initiatives, at KGNU Community Radio.
A panorama of Haas&Hahn's work in Colombia. Image by Haas&Hahn via Favela Painting
This post, written by Knight Foundation Arts Program Associate, Tatiana Hernandez, was originally published on the blog of Americans for the Arts..
Gia Arbogast, branch administrator for the Miami-Dade Public Library System describes how YOUMedia Miami will engage teens in building digital literacy skills
Libraries have a fundamental role in how attached people are to where they live, Knight’s Paula Ellis, vp/strategic initiatives, told a gathering of library and civic leaders last week.
Video: Dr. Katherine Loflin worked with leaders from community foundations to find place making opportunities in the results of Knight's Soul of the Community research. Now her radio program will explore similar themes.
The Knight Soul of the Community project is a groundbreaking study that explores what makes people love where they live, and why it matters. Using primary survey research gathered in 26 U.S. communities by Gallup for Knight from 2008 to 2010, Lead Consultant Dr. Katherine Loflin helped identify a strong correlation between how citizens feel about their local community and economic output of that community.
This afternoon Knight Foundation will help lead a discussion on measuring civic health at the 66th Annual National Conference on Citizenship, an annual event that explores the revised roles of citizens, nonprofits, and governments in a 21st century democracy. The theme for this year’s conference is “Redefining America’s Social Compact.”
This post is authored by Dr. Katherine Loflin, lead consultant for Soul of the Community. Here, Katherine writes about a presentation she delivered to the community of Corpus Christi, Texas, on Feb. 16.
To be honest, this was the first time I had been a little nervous about a Soul of the Community presentation in a long time. The day of my arrival to Corpus Christi, Texas, an article appeared in the local paper announcing my visit and telling residents that local Mayor Joe Adame was inviting everyone to come out and hear the presentation. Great.
Great schools, affordable health care and safe streets all help create strong communities. But is there something deeper that draws people to a city – that makes them want to put down roots and build a life?