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A Systems-based Perspective

As the old saying goes, “If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” I guess that explains why as an INTJ (in Myers-Briggs-speak), everything looks like a system to me. At least that’s where the idea of Clarity of Place started for me.


Why systems?

Each system has a series of relationships and leverage points. If you understand what the parts of a system are and how they influence and affect one another, you can find ways to adjust the leverage points and make the system work better.


Whether looking at communities as destinations or as potential homes for new or expanded businesses, they are systems. The "parts" are the same whether you are a destination organization or an economic development agency, but the relationships and the leverage points are nuanced.


Clarity of Place is built on the supposition that if we can identify those relationships and understand the leverage points, we can help places—we can help them recover and pivot from the devastating effects of COVID 19; we can identify ways to regroup and chart a path forward; and/or we can interpret the role they play in their community and devise a path to have a greater impact.


The concept of looking at destinations as intertwined parts of their community is not new.

For example, Destinations International set the groundwork for this schema in its Finding Our Cornerstone policy brief and the US Travel Association has made the case for how travel contributes to overall economic development. More recently, DMOProz published a whitepaper that posited how destination organizations should work with their communities to re-examine community development in light of COVID 19 and the structural damage it has inflicted.


These and countless other conversations within the industry set the context for looking at the work of destination organizations as part of their larger community's growth and place-making/nurturing efforts.


Using data to make those relationships clearer

If systems thinking is one leg of the Clarity of Place stool, compiling input and data is the second …and the more input and data, the better.


Thankfully, the abundance of data and the tools to access all types of inputs continue to grow. From Federal and State data sources to input, research, and KPIs destination organizations and their partners already compile to unstructured input from public meetings or ubiquitous social media streams, there is plenty of fodder to begin assessing and measuring relationships.


By considering a broad spectrum of community inputs and data, we believe we are creating a fuller picture of the system. We also know that the more we know about the different parts, the better we understand the relationships among them and which leverage points will be most effective. And, eventually, the more we know about different communities and destinations, the better comparisons and contrasts we can make…and the more trends and best practices we can identify.


A balance between science and art

The final leg of our Clarity of Place stool is feedback. As much as my INTJ self would want the community system to be static or mechanical, it is not. Rather, communities are a living system that grow and evolve--in ways that manifest their leaders' plans and goals and in reaction to external events or trends. As COVID-19 has so dramatically proven (and as David has addressed in his posts this week), communities are often forced to react to shocks and reinvent themselves.


By gathering feedback from stakeholders, continuing to update inputs, and monitoring how changes to parts of the system affect those relationships and leverage points, Clarity of Place is able to provide an early-warning system for destination organizations if parts of the system are failing (or in the case of our current COVID-19 world which parts of the system are most distressed). It also gives us multiple perspectives from multiple parts of the system to understand and investigate the problem, threat or opportunity. And finally, a continual feedback and input stream forces us to remain objective and not fall back on preconceived notions of what the issue is or how to get back to a "normal" that no longer exists.


An evolving conversation

This -- in a rather large nutshell -- is what Clarity of Place aspires to do. Please come back to our blog and give us your feedback and perspectives!

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