By Bruce Carter, OCC Pawhuska
As a community leader in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, I see the daily triumphs and struggles of a community that is experiencing the most growth it has seen since the oil boom of the 1920s. Pawhuska is not unique, even with the growth we now see in our downtown and business sectors.
Similar to other small, rural communities, we face the challenges of maintaining broad-based community involvement, fear of the unknown, occasional competing interests or ideas and the desire to retain the status quo.
In some communities, old patterns and ideas—even though they may not have been successful—still hang on. We are asking people to ‘think outside the box’, or convince them there is no box. The ‘box’ is sometimes a place of retreat to the ‘known’. It’s safe.
To effectively address these challenges, we must ensure open and equal participation, patience, transparency and effective communication. We must be creative in seeking solutions that benefit us all. For example, many in our community currently live below the poverty line. Empowering the citizens of Osage County and supporting their efforts to identify and implement creative solutions for economic advancement across the board is crucial.
Sustainable development and growth in a small, rural community demands creative thinking. This includes creative ways to involve those who feel they are not heard; creative development of relationships between entities that may not have had this in the past; and, creative ideas for the future.
We must also recognize the one thing that overcomes all of the perceived obstacles. Most citizens of a small town truly love the place they live. They love their community, culture and history. By drawing on this ‘love of place’, most of the obstacles to creative thinking and growth can be overcome.
When I write emails about Oklahoma Creative Communities from our email account, I always sign them the same way: ‘WE are Pawhuska and Osage County’. In the end, this is the goal we are all working toward in community activism: understanding the concept of ‘WE’.