This week I had some time away from my busy schedule to reflect on the hope that I had for the future of Muskogee. Before the start of this project, I honestly never thought much about the concept of hope. It was always subliminal; I never really thought deeply about its concept. The Muskogee Community Hope Survey that we circulated around the city through various outlets was an important one. It was important not only for my own personal growth, but also for the project team’s understanding of how hope affects communities and how the concept of hope drives communities forward.
The survey asked specific questions about five key areas: collective hope, individual hope, flourishing, the planning process, and collective goals. From these questions, a specific measurement could be made for each area and in turn used for further analysis. The results of the survey were clear and incredibly insightful. Muskogee did in fact have a high level of collective hope. I struggled in the beginning understanding what that exactly meant and how it translated into our project. We wanted to understand the variable of collective hope more deeply and gain a better understanding of collective hope’s impact on our ongoing plan efforts. From the very beginning one thing was evident from the survey: a high level of individual hope was not solely responsible for collective hope. It was a combination of one’s individual hope with the actual planning process that helps facilitate the growth of collective hope. The public engagement process has always been important to me personally and it honestly provides a vital structure for any plan. Not only do I love a logical process, but I love to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to voice their opinions and ideas. The concept of process within a project such as the Downtown Muskogee Plan is important because it places the community’s needs above the self-serving needs of the few. Public engagement or process is not a new concept. It has literally been used in planning projects for decades, but it is not always used effectively. Alienating certain demographic groups or providing no avenues for the public to be a part of the solution could drive your collective hope into despair.
The survey found that higher scores on the process portion resulted in higher scores in collective hope. But what does collective hope do for Muskogee? Well the short answer is that it enhances the effectiveness of the plan, but it actually does some more specific things. If collective hope values in Muskogee are high, there is a perceived acceptance and support for the work that is ongoing in Downtown Muskogee. There is also the belief that when collective hope is high that the city will flourish and this generates economic activity which not only benefits the citizens, but also other aspects of the city. The survey was enlightening and a breath of fresh air for our team. It is nice to confirm our hypothesis that the inclusion of people in the planning process will help foster hope, growth, and flourishing within the community. But does this directly translate to success of the plan? Only time will tell us that. But one thing is for sure, Muskogee is a hopeful community and one that is poised to push their city into a great rebirth in the coming years.