Indiahoma Human Development Project, Institute of Cultural Affairs
Bypassed by the state highway and stung by the closure of major businesses in the town center, the city of Indiahoma, Oklahoma, invited the Institute of Cultural Affairs to partner in an effort to reclaim a sense of local identity and pride, focus local initiative, and strengthen connections to the broader region.
Ken’s role was to open new channels for identifying and mobilizing local resourcefulness, including the preparation of a map and grid of community residences and facilities, the publication and distribution of a community newsletter, logistical support for community-wide activities such as clean-ups and building renovation/restoration, teaming with local residents on in-kind circuits to regional businesses, and the cultivation of relationships with city and school officials and staff.
It all came down to story; a change in the story local residents developed and rehearsed themselves about the community.
The turning point was a school-sponsored contest for designing a new community billboard at the state highway, resulting in “Indiahoma Our Hometown: Our Homes, Our Churches, Our School, Our Businesses, Our Cultures.”
In the course of the project, street signs were erected with names reflecting the town’s agricultural base, an abandoned bank building at the center of town was turned into a community center, another nearby building was refurbished into a health center for periodic visits by the county nurse, an abandoned house that had fallen into ruin was cleared, and the town was awarded a HUD grant to construct a new multiple business commercial facility.
Every activity, from distributing the newsletter (in fact, the door-to-door distribution of the newsletter created stronger connections than the actual printed content), to inkind calls on regional businesses, to neighborhood meetings in living rooms, to street dances and pow-wows (the community was 40% Comanchi/Kiowa) became opportunities for rehearsing and expanding on the story of community pride, mutual encouragement, and surmounting challenges.
- Periodic, door-to-door circuiting of town residences and businesses for informal conversation as well as updates
- Engaging youth in activities such as distributing project newsletter to each housedhold
- Partnering with residents in planning, design, and implementation of activities.
A Festival of Hometowns celebration, that invited partner projects from across the nation to share their learnings and experience in locally driven civic improvement efforts
The street names have been maintained to the present day