I think we all know who the Old Guard are. Those people who are holding onto old ideas from 30 or more years ago, and also holding onto power, sometimes fiercely.

They care about the community, or they used to, but they are hampered by their outdated view of the world, their community, the problems and actions. They think they are helping the community when they oppose your “unreasonable” ideas.

The New Old Guard tend to use jargon, talk about “building entrepreneurial ecosystems.” They think in terms of organizations, formality and committees, even to the point of ignoring individual action.

But who are the New Old Guard?

They care about the community, too. They are hampered by being part of an organizational structure that is, itself, outdated.

They are working inside a university, economic development nonprofit, business, extension or some other organization, and so they see solutions as being made up of organizations. They see organizational effort as the default action.

They tend to use jargon, talk about “building entrepreneurial ecosystems.” They think in terms of organizations, formality and committees, even to the point of ignoring individual action.

You might very well be part of that world. The majority of all the people reading this along with you are part of it. I used to be.



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It’s not an automatic negative, but it’s not where the center of power rests today.

Building the new deck, Grafton. Photo by All Aboard Grafton

I used to do a talk on building entrepreneurial ecosystems. I had a slide that listed off potential community partners: Extension, library, chamber of commerce, economic development, Main Street, tribal government, local or county government, college, news media and other local organizations…

It was all about organizations and formal groups.

The future of your town is determined by the everyday actions of individuals.

Now I talk about becoming Idea Friendly, about people shaping the future of their community. I have slides that talk people as potential partners: Artists, hobbyists, part time business owners, educators, and so on…

Today, I’m focusing on people because that is where you’ll find the center of power now and in the future.

The time is past when a few people could gather in a room and decide the future of your town. The future of your town is determined by the everyday actions of individuals based on what they believe about the future of your town and their role in it. (That’s adapted from a similar quote from Carol Colletta of the Kresge Foundation.)

Remember this: The Old Guard cares about the community. The New Guard cares about the community. The People care about the community.

Us vs. Them is a myth. There is no them; there is only us.

Us vs. Them is a myth. There is no them; there is only us.

We all have different approaches that can make it tough to work together, but we all share common goals. We don’t agree on what to do, we may not agree on short term actions, but we all start from caring about where we are going.

It’s not about converting anyone to your worldview. It’s about helping people see how they and their approach have an important role in the new world and the future. They can still be helpful and valuable, without falling into patterns that obstruct.

Deb and I are going to talk about this in our upcoming video broadcast (webinar) called “The Committee of Negativity.” We’d love to have you join us.

Keep shaping the future of your town.

This story was originally featured in the West Virginia Community Development Hub’s Blog.



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