Social capital and civic measures

John Lawrence’s message from July 3, 2017

July seems like a good time to take the temperature of Iowa’s communities – figuratively, that is, in the form of activity and engagement. Fourth of July, county fairs and other celebrations are indicators of community involvement and leadership. These events and their success don’t spontaneously occur – they take planning, creativity, cooperation and hard work by local people.

Associate professor and extension rural sociologist David Peters has found that the strongest drivers of quality of life are social capital and civic measures – whether residents participate in the community and whether the community provides social supports. Like a lot of good research, the results confirm what we have suspected for a long time. R.K. Bliss reported that during the Great Depression communities came together and created their own entertainment with singing and plays that ISU Extension and Outreach helped communities to organize. Even earlier, Iowa State short courses took faculty by train to communities for a week of extension education in our four program areas of agriculture, home economics (as it was called back then), youth and community development. Paraphrasing Bliss, the short course was effective in education and in leadership development because it required a large amount of work and effort on the part of the local people to carry it through.

Today our Community and Economic Development faculty and staff are organized as knowledge teams, all striving to build Iowans’ capacity to sustain their communities. Did you know?

  • The local governments and nonprofits team helps Iowans develop leadership skills and knowledge to generate policies, procedures and planning to improve their communities and regions.
  • The team is gearing up for the 42nd Iowa Municipal Professionals Institute and Academy, beginning July 17 and cosponsored with the Iowa League of Cities. The annual institute is one of the nation’s largest, each year bringing together more than 200 city clerks, finance officers and others for specialized training. (Learn about one participant’s story in this video.)
  • Our State and Local Government Programs reach public officials in all 99 Iowa counties and in a majority of the state’s 950 incorporated cities every year.

One more thing: Extension Information Technology says two-thirds of our faculty and staff whose net-ID passwords hadn’t been changed in 10 years or more, have stepped up and changed their passwords. Of course, that means we still have a few laggards out there, proving the adoption diffusion curve. The deadline is nearing. On July 11, anyone with a 10-year-or-older password will not be able to login and will have to upgrade. So you might as well change that password now.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Interim Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Cy, Abe Lincoln actor and John LawrenceP.S. Happy anniversary, Morrill Act! Abraham Lincoln signed our land grant act on July 2, 1862. I ran into Abe recently in Warren County and we shared a photo op with Cy.

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