It is a natural tendency to resist change. Human beings like what they know and feel comforted by it. Change involves a plunge into the unknown, which brings discomfort, anxiety and even real fear.
The American author Mark Twain got it right when he wrote: "I'm all for progress - it's change I can't stand."
It is all too common for a community's leaders or groups of citizens to set themselves against changes that would ultimately benefit the community. The willingness to embrace change and the determination to help shape it, however, are core competencies of the Intelligent Community.
Few places naturally possess those competencies. They must be cultivated, often over years, through advocacy.
Advocacy is the ability to engage those leaders and citizens, as well as businesses and institutions, in understanding the challenge, identifying opportunities for positive change and ultimately becoming champions of that change. As stakeholders in the community, they learn to work together to build a unifying vision of the future, which expresses their best hopes and ideals.
Advocacy is the energy that powers every other element of the Intelligent Community. It is in some ways the most complex and challenging aspects of community development, but it is essential. In a representative government, if people do not understand the challenges they face and the need to adapt to those challenges, they will stand in the way of action. But if they embrace a vision of positive change, nothing can stop them.
Successful advocacy provides the foundation for the community's public identity in its outreach to the world. It energizes economic development, investment attraction and business generation, because the community has built a unique vision of its character and its future. In their own eyes, its people are no longer just living in one community among hundreds of thousands like it. They are in the best place to live, work, start a business, raise a family and pass their heritage to the next generation.