What does it take for a city to create an effective grassroots movement? I am not talking about a short-lived trend, a clique, a blip on the radar… I’m referring to a groundswell; a tectonic shift that forever moves the town. I just finished reading Startup Communities by Brad Feld, an entrepreneur-turned-venture-capitalist. Feld has spent the past 20 years in Boulder, CO and uses their startup community as an example. Reno draws a lot of parallels with Boulder, and Boulder has been extremely successful. So, does Reno have what it takes to create a grassroots movement and change it’s reputation?
First and foremost a movement amongst a community must be started by entrepreneurial leaders. This is key and the #1 ingredient in the recipe. A sustainable change will not take place if it is created by government, universities, investors, mentors, or service providers. That’s not the basis of grassroots. Small-business people are the “roots” and “pillars of their community” as their businesses have a tight co-dependency with their community. Also, no one knows how to fight through adversity and failure quite like an entrepreneur. In a grassroots effort, there will be failures and there will be naysayers.
Next, in order to have effective leadership- there must be solid followership. Also known as “participants” or “feeders” of the community shift, the followers are the 2nd most important ingredient. All of those organized groups (stated above) that can’t quite lead a grassroots movement, play critical roles in terms of support. The Biggest Little City movement has seen support all over the town from feeders. Feeders would consist of the Peppermill, who so generously donated $100k to the movement, The City of Reno, Sparks, Washoe County, Reno-Tahoe AMA, EDAWN, RAD, and so many others that I am leaving out (sorry). Lastly, the PEOPLE of Reno have been crucial feeders of the movement.
Let’s not forget that we have a university here. Oh, yeah! That beautiful tree-filled campus up on N. Virginia… that place is a breeding ground for fresh ideas, innovation, ambition and, voila! Entrepreneurs. Not many cities can say that they are the home of a university. We can. The University of Nevada can be, and should be, a key to the success of Reno’s future.
Be inclusive. If a grassroots movement is going to, well, move… then it must include everyone and everything. When the Biggest Little City campaign was being developed, they considered all businesses, all citizens of the town- regardless what walk of life they come from. The Biggest Little City movement is for everyone; no one will be left out.
Size. Reno is the one and only “Biggest Little City.” Big enough to be nationally recognized, yet small enough to still see familiar places EVERYWHERE you go, small enough to be called a town, small enough to create a grassroots movement. I am from Orange County, that will always be home to me…but, could you ever see Orange County being able to maintain a grassroots effort? No.
There are many more elements, but these are the major pieces of a grassroots movements- starting with the group of entrepreneurial leaders. The Biggest Little City is so unique in so many ways and has the potential to do some serious moving and shaking. Reno does have what it takes to change the national conversation about their town.
Brad Feld, if this hits your radar- I am trying to reach you! Respond to my message. 🙂