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Building a better state through community

West Virginia has gone through a lot in the last several weeks, months and even years.

Economic downturns, natural and man-made disasters, and health and drug challenges.

You would think that these challenges would be enough to reduce hope of a better and brighter future.

Well, think again.

There is a reproducible effect in nature that pressure induces change to release the pent up energy.

Interestingly, the formula for change is "D x V x F > R," where D = dissatisfaction with the present; V = vision of a better future; F = finite data that shows a better way.

The product of these variables must overcome the resistance to change. Thus, if any of these variables is low, then the product will lower the likelihood of change.

This is true because the resistance to change is high. How do we use crises or these multiple challenges to initiate change?

I think the clue rests in communities.

Having multiple key members of the same communities commit to change starts the process. This effect has been described in Malcolm Gladwell’s book "The Tipping Point" and in Nick Christakis’ book "Connected."

When a small part of the community or group (around 20 percent) becomes connected with the change effect, the whole community moves its position.

This is why creating opportunities for communities to decide where they want to go from a bottoms-up perspective is so important.

Empowering community activists allows them to create this momentum among other community members, which makes change more likely. Makes creating tipping points easier.

This is also how Nassim Taleb suggests we create “antifragile” organizations.

Bottoms up, not top down.

It is also the framework taken by Kate Long and Stephen Smith with Try This WV.

Micro-grants competitively awarded to community organizations and people with ideas that lead to hope and a better future.

I think it is the secret to rebuilding WV to a better future – investment and empowerment of communities and community people.

It is the way we evolved – as communities helping each member survive and eventually thrive.

In "Dreamland," author Sam Quinones discusses the heroin epidemic of West Virginia and the U.S. thinks the key element to this epidemic is breakdown of communities.

The opposite of community is isolation.

Robin Dunbar, the University of Oxford anthropologist, found that the limits to an individual’s social network are 150, about the number of folks in a community of the past. Interestingly, this number evolved from our evolution and is still true today.

Maybe health and resilience is dependent on an intact community.

If true, maybe the path to change the future of West Virginia is to build the future of health in our state community by community.