Diversity of Thought Can Help Smaller Communities Thrive

Years ago, a buddy told me that one of the problems with second- and third-tier cities was that people left after graduation for better opportunities in bigger cities. I think he called it a brain drain. He believed the solution was to convince graduates to never leave. As someone who left Louisiana for Atlanta, I did the exact opposite of what he was advocating for. I agreed that a solution is needed to help less-progressive communities keep up with the pace of change and stay economically competitive—but not his solution.

Exposure to new ways of thinking and doing is an important part of helping these communities evolve. Instead of convincing graduates to never leave, let’s encourage them to go to larger markets to gain exposure with the goal of returning home. To bring back those new approaches and ways of thinking. And to combine them with their understanding of the cultural norms in their home community to help create bespoke solutions that their community can rally behind.

All graduates who transition to larger markets won’t move back home, and that’s OK. They can still play an important role. Because they understand two different communities, they have a unique perspective that qualifies them to be a bridge between them. They can help make others aware of opportunities in larger markets and ease the transition for those who aspire to move.

Exposure can lead to diversity of thought, a powerful change agent for a smaller community. It seems to me that making diversity of thought more accessible is a better path than limiting it. These are just two rough ideas about how to encourage diversity of thought, make it more accessible, and hopefully empower people to change the communities they care about.