Blake Snow

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“Exit, Voice, and Loyalty” explains why neighborhoods decline

In his famous book, Exit, Voice and Loyalty, Albert Hirschman boiled the choices a citizen had for influencing a larger organization into three broad categories. Exit (one could leave if one wasn’t satisfied), Voice (one could try to change the organization by speaking out, and Loyalty (one could go along with the organization as it was, and expect some reciprocity for their commitment).

A key challenge for fighting neighborhood decline, and overcoming concentrated poverty is building a credible expectation on the part of neighborhood residents that things are going to change, and change for the better. Building hope is needed to reinforce loyalty and minimize exit, reports City Observatory.

Strong Towns adds the following: “If you let the naysayers overwhelm your community, then they’ll be right; nothing will change. But just as the negative attitudes can pile on top of one another and grow exponentially into a massive weight that begins to drown your city, so, too, can positive actions pile on top of one another and buoy your town toward a better future.

“If you look closely, you’ll see that there are already people around you who are starting to take those actions. It might be your neighbor down the block who carefully tends her front garden each spring. It might be the hardware store owner who says hello to people as they pass by. It might be the mom who picks up trash with her kids as she walks them to school in the mornings.

“Let these people inspire you and start taking your own steps to shine a positive light on your neighborhood. Then join with your neighbors, tell them their efforts matter, and be part of building the future of your community together. Don’t let the psychology of decline be the death of your neighborhood.”

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