Finding Main Street Toolkit Available

The full book club toolkit for Dar Williams’ What I Found in a Thousand Towns is now available! Use the toolkit to build “positive proximity,” and start local conversations around the key identity-building assets in your community–who knows what next steps you will take.

What I Found in a Thousand Towns emphasizes the role of projects and individuals in fostering strong community identity. Each chapter features a different group of assets ranging from local food to community spaces. The structure provides an opportunity for Main Street districts to convene and highlight a diverse group of partners, celebrating their work, strengthening alliances and inviting new participants.

Identify potential projects as a result and apply to pitch them for project funding in the 2019 Idea Pitch at Downtown Intersections.

fms tools

HOW TO GET INVOLVED: Invite a local book club, library or civic group to partner with your Main Street. Create some buzz reinforcing the value of the work you are doing. Using the Virginia videos and examples from the book, shine a celebratory light on your own local efforts and community partners. With the toolkit, you can pretty easily set up your own informal mini-conference.  Contact Doug Jackson at (804) 418-9878 or Douglas.Jackson@dhcd.virginia.gov for assistance and brainstorming support.

Afraid you do not have enough readers? Do not worry, you can use the videos to supplement and start the conversation. Launched throughout the fall of 2018 via Facebook Live conversations, the chapter videos have received more than 20,000 views on Facebook. In 2019, DHCD will promote the videos through a Finding Main Street social media campaign featuring quotes and images from the interviews conducted as part of the project with more than 80 Main Street leaders. This campaign will lead up to the 2019 Downtown Intersections and the Idea Pitch competition.

 

 

Host a Finding Main Street book club

Finding Main Street Facebook Event
Singer-songwriter Dar Williams launched Virginia Main Street’s Finding Main Street book club at the 2018 Downtown Intersections with a performance and talk on “Thinking in Bridges.”

“We think we have so much divisiveness,” she said. “But the opposite of divisiveness is not unity. It is collaboration.”

Williams found plenty of collaboration in the successful communities profiled in her placemaking and community development book, What I Found in a Thousand Towns. These are towns she has seen rise and thrive over her nearly three decades of touring. Williams asserts that they created “positive proximity” by:

  • Creating spaces that foster loose forms of communication and connection across residents.
  • Undertaking collective identity building projects that override the differences of the individuals contributing to them.
  • Welcoming the contributions of all willing citizens.

Across Virginia, the Finding Main Street Book Club will explore the strategies at work in Main Street communities. A toolkit is available in a tab at the top of this page. It currently includes:

Beginning on September 4, videos will be added weekly to highlight chapter concepts at work in Virginia’s Main Street network. In spring 2019, follow-up videos will showcase community conversations resulting from the book clubs. For the 2019 Downtown Intersections Idea Pitch, communities will be invited to propose projects inspired by the book and compete for funding to support the projects.

If you’d like to talk about book club ideas or the benefits of hosting one, contact your Main Street representative or Doug Jackson at 804-418-9878 or douglas.jackson@dhcd.virginia.gov. Remember you’re never in this alone–reach out to your likely partners locally, including book stores and libraries, and see what you can get started.

The book club model was piloted in Roanoke in the fall of 2017, where chapter discussions highlighted local leaders and organizations undertaking strategies featured in the book. Find more information from the pilot, including press and session descriptions, at bookcityroanoke.com.

Finding Main Street is a project of the Virginia Main Street Program at the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development with support from Virginia Community Capital, Virginia Tourism Corporation, Virginia Humanities , and Book City ★ Roanoke.