Colorado Springs is a small town no longer. According to Mayor John Suthers, it’s the 40th largest city in the nation, bigger than Virginia Beach, Va., and just behind Atlanta. It’s grown nearly 10 percent since the 2010 census to around 460,000 residents.
And the Springs is popping up on all kinds of lists: Forbes ranks it No. 12 for business and careers, and Money magazine named it the top city in the mountains. According to U.S. News & World Report, it’s in the top five best places to live.
So why is it that the same people are always showing up, volunteering on boards and committees, running for office and pushing the city forward? Where are all the other people who live, work and play here — those people who have a stake in what the city’s future looks like, at the very least from an economic standpoint?
It’s the Pareto Principle in action — better known as the 80-20 rule. In other words, in organizations, from business to committees to nonprofits, 80 percent of the output comes from 20 percent of the effort. American engineer Joseph Juran called it “the vital few and the useful many.” But those “useful many” can easily become the “vital few.”
Since Colorado Springs has grown so large, it would seem that new faces would make up that 20 percent of active participants in community life. City leaders, business owners, nonprofit executives should make it their business to work to improve that 20 percent, adding new faces as the city becomes larger, instead of relying on the steady few who show up and make a difference.
Some of the city’s new residents might bring fresh ideas and a new perspective to the way the city operates.
Those people are vital to the city’s success — people like UCCS’s Stephannie Finley Fortune, who seems to be everywhere at once; Linda Weise, a mainstay in the nonprofit world; the RBA’s Dirk Draper or Nor’wood’s Chris Jenkins.
Some of the city’s new residents might bring fresh ideas and a new perspective to the way the city operates. There could be a CEO of a defense company seeking ways to improve the community, wanting to find out how the city is working with the Department of Defense to keep military bases here. Or maybe the director of a newly formed nonprofit wants to know how to get involved locally. Millennials, in particular, want to feel connected and engaged in their community.
So how do the 20 percent swell their ranks to include newcomers? In some ways, it’s up to those who want to help. They need to stand up, speak out and volunteer. Current City Councilor Bill Murray wanted to get involved — and started with volunteering on the Memorial Citizens Commission. He then ran for office twice before getting elected to his current position on the Colorado Springs City Council.
Young professional Jariah Walker ran for office as well, but also volunteers on boards, works for the city and is a voice for Millennials throughout the city.
When people seek opportunities to engage — they find them.
Colorado Springs is too big to be insular. Those already active in the community should reach out to others to get them involved — on city committees, volunteer boards or Business Alliance groups. More voices involved mean more creative ideas, more progress, more inclusion.
And that benefits everyone.