Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Manifestation of a Community Value

Many felt it was prescient that Durham, North Carolina, where I live, happened to honor social entrepreneurs at its Annual Tribute Luncheon in the spring of 2009.

Conceived in 2008, the honorees for that event seemed to foretell an explosion of entrepreneurial interest here including campus-like hubs such as Bull City Forward and two American Undergrounds.

However, that may be more coincidence.  The roots of Bull City Forward can also be traced to meetings in 2008, one of which was attended by an ATL organizer.  So it appears the revelation itself was entrepreneurial.

But Durham’s almost temporal entrepreneurial nature had been unearthed two years earlier during a two year process from 2004-2006 involving hundreds and hundreds of residents as well as external audiences culminating in the distillation of Durham’s “overarching” personality including community values.

It may also be coincidence that the notion of “social entrepreneurs,” was simultaneously gleaned during that two year drill-down to reveal Durham’s brand, when one of the executives involved with managing that process happened to read a 2004 Fast Company Magazine article.

The magazine recognized 20 companies as “best of the best” social capitalists including one based in Durham, The Center for Community Self-Help which was founded in 1980.  This clue led to uncovering a deep vein of community interest and activism that had been long taken for granted.

The idea that Durham is inherently entrepreneurial didn’t surface from a wish to be so or from envy or because it is now in vogue, but because it was unearthed by hundreds and hundreds of citizens digging down to discover Durham’s enduring distinctiveness.

A community’s personality, or brand in marketing parlance, is not an aspiration or a slogan or a tactic or even a strategy.  It can’t be imported, exported, transplanted or developed.

Its elements cannot be not born of or made sustainable from envy or trends.  While not always unique to a community, their distinct manifestation is.

Today’s press is all about the incredible American Underground with two 20,000+ sq. ft. downtown Durham campuses within a few blocks of each other.  It was recently recognized as part of the exclusive Google for Entrepreneurs Tech Hub Network.

But this and any subsequent efforts will always stand on the shoulders of generations of entrepreneurs here dating to the late antebellum 1850s of Durham’s founding.

That is what I mean by near-temporal.

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