Place & Some Soul Searching

As you may (or may not) know, I was the lead consultant and national expert of the Knight Soul of the Community Project. This research was conducted 2008-2010.  Admittedly, that was a while ago. But when research forever changes the way people think about and understand place and gets international acclaim for being groundbreaking, it sticks around.

Almost 10 years later since the initiation of the project, there is at least one slide dedicated in every talk I give on it as a placemaking consultant and speaker.  And even when I dare to consider leaving it out of a talk, the client inevitable says, “Please include Soul in your talk.  We really want you to walk us through that.”  So I’m basically married to Soul—forever.

And that’s ok.  Because it was groundbreaking and a game-changer.  It has allowed me to make the place conversation more systemic – where everybody plays a role in optimizing place.  By connecting place attachment to hard economic outcomes, it allowed folks to understand how place quality really does matter in the overall success of places.  And it provides a very workable roadmap on how to get there, for every place.

Class is In Session

So over the next few blogs, I’m going to do a little Soul 101, by taking each of the place features that we found to be most related to the loved place and breaking it down a bit.  It wasn’t until after Soul concluded that I made the connection between the relationship between person and place being similar to the relationship between partners that I talk about in Place Match.  But it really should have dawned on me when the findings showed the things that most mattered to creating the loved place and the feelings those places inspired in their residents.


We found that “place attachment” when you break it down looks a lot like the love we have for a partner: we are optimistic about the future with the place; we think the place is the perfect one for us; we brag about and are proud of our place; we feel satisfied in the relationship.  And on top of that, the things that most drive those feelings within us is when we have fun there (social offerings), find it attractive (aesthetics), and we sense acceptance (openness).  And when we get those things from our partner place, we love that place and feel our futures are tied to it.  This enables us to give back to said place in ways that help sustain the place, and as a result, our relationship with it.

Do you see the parallels to partner match? We look for someone we have a good time with, that we find attractive, and who is accepting.  When we find that in someone, it creates feelings of love, loyalty, pride, and optimism that inspire us to support the partner and sustain the relationship.

“Place” Your Bets

Therefore, stay tuned for my next post when we take a deeper dive into social offerings.  You’ll see why this aspect was the no. 1 thing that mattered in being in love with a place in all 26 cities we studied, all three years of the study.

Any guesses upfront as to why that might be?

Until then, here’s a hint: we are only human.

And what makes a good social offering?

Here’s another hint: A little mind-reading, a little “choose your own adventure,” context, and kindness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *