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Small Town Successes Towards Sustainability

Full resource: Defying the Odds: Sustainability In Small Rural Places
Date: 2011
Source: The International City/County Management Association
Authors: George Homsy and Mildred Warner

While many large, American cities have made successful inroads into making their living environments more sustainable, smaller cities and towns have a much harder time due to political, fiscal, technical and jurisdictional challenges.  Unfortunately, this makes smaller and poorer towns less likely to enact sustainability policies. They often lack the resources and expertise, and must rely more heavily on community-driven processes, if to achieve their aims.

This briefing paper identifies some of the key barriers which smaller towns face when trying to transition into sustainability, while also providing an overview of strategies which some municipalities have tried to implement. It then presents 7 succinct case studies, before concluding with lessons local leaders have learned on the road towards successful implementation. Some of the key themes emerging from this discussion include how sustainability can help strengthen local economies and revitalize communities, the importance of regulation and municipal utilities in compelling change, the need for local officials to show entrepreneurial leadership, and how regional networks are valuable sites of information exchange.

The briefing paper was researched and written by the International City/County Management Association through a subcontract agreement with the National Association of Development Organizations Research Foundation, which provided overall guidance and project direction. The work was funded under an award with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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