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What is Community Vitality?
Community Vitality is a way of looking at and thinking about communities, and here, rural communities in particular. It is a relatively new idea so its definition is still being developed. Community Vitality is very similar to concepts like "Community Sustainability" or "Quality of Life," and in fact it borrows elements from each, but it differs from each of these slightly.
Before we get to define Community Vitality its important to have a bit of background on the idea. Essentially the idea of a vital community is based in the concept of a good community. But obviously, any one persons definition of a good community will differ from the next persons. Ultimately, there is no universal definition of what a good community is; only different perspectives on what a good community is that vary by peoples morals and their values (Grasso and Canova, 2008). This subjectivity (and subsequent lack of a universal definition) is not unique to the notion of vitality, it is also apparent in the concepts of Sustainability and Quality of Life.
As there is no universal notion of what a good community is and subsequently no universal notion of what a vital community is, it is important to note that the definition we outline here reflects our own values and moral beliefs, and therefore is open to debate.
Broadly speaking, we define Community Vitality as:
The ability of a community to sustain itself into the future as well as provide opportunities for its residents to pursue their own life goals and the ability of residents to experience positive life outcomes.
More specifically, we suggest that a vital community has community capacity (the ability to plan, make decisions, and act together), and realizes positive social, economic, and environmental outcomes.
In 2008-2009 OSU Rural Studies Program and Extension Service faculty worked with two rural Oregon communities to arrive at community-specific definitions of vitality and indicators thereof. The documents below are the products of these efforts, and outline how each community defined vitality and how vital they judged themselves to be in 2009.
|Tillamook Vital Indicator Project||Wallowa Vital Indicator Project||Vernonia Vital Indicator Project|
|Full 2009 Report||Full 2009 Report||Full 2013 Report|
|Vitality Summary||Vitality Summary||Vitality Summary|
|Project presentation||Project presentation|
Reviews of relevant scientific literature indicate the following as additional indicators of community vitality:
Positive Social Outcomes
|A diverse and integrated population||
|A healthy and educated population||
|A safe & stable human environment||
|Community support for residents' needs||
|A sense of place||
Positive Economic Outcomes
|A diverse economy||
|A match between residents and jobs||
|Economic opportunities that provide for the needs of individuals and families||
Positive Environmental Outcomes
|A healthy natural environment||
|Diverse use of natural resources||
|Well maintained, adequate built environment (roads, utilities, buildings, parks, communication system, and public transportation)||
|A diverse population of residents and organizations are engaged, work together, and trust each other||
|Leaders are able to effectively engage in the democratic process and produce and implement quality plans for the community||
|Adequate and diverse internal and external resources exist, are actively developed, and wisely used to meet the needs of the community||
Grasso, Marco and Luciano Canova. 2008. An Assessment of the Quality of Life in the European Union based on the Social Indicators Approach. Social Indicators Research 87: 1-25.