We like signs because we like to show dedication to hard work and perseverance with something more eternal than ourselves. We want to show that we overcame the mundane and did something for the greater good.
Emerging from the High Holiday season, we can relate to ambition, setting goals, self-analysis and overcoming obstacles. And even more, we recognize how hard it can be to change our behaviors and practices. After all, that same list of transgressions we read every year often seem applicable or appropriate in some way.
Every year, we take stock of where we are and what we could be doing better. Every year, we vow to try to be better people. To press a restart button, wipe the slate clean and start anew. As we know from our New Year rituals and Yom Kippur atonement, behavior change is something that does not happen without lots of practice, asking for forgiveness and do-overs. And even with some prescriptive instructions, we often still get it wrong.
Change begins with someone acting differently and actualizing the need for the change. Economic motivators are not enough of an impetus if it’s not also behaviorally driven. People need constant reminders and reinforcement that what they do matters. This keeps us on the right track, until we can look back and see the bigger picture of the impact of our efforts.
Over this summer, I began seeing numerous signs for “restoration” projects: along trails, in urban revitalization projects, in reclamation of old industrial buildings for community use.
Without the signage that goes with these projects, much of the impact and long-term effect on those who encounter the projects would be lost. Now that green space project down the street that is ripping up a local parking lot isn’t just a nuisance,
but a source of local pride of community improvement, increasing health benefits along with property values, habitat, air and water quality.
Likewise, organizational and municipal projects need to convey to the public how they service and positively impact the community, improving everyone is quality of living whether you walk through their doors or not. The result is more buy-in, more pride and more stakeholders. The longevity of the action will be sustained longer because people will take more pride in ensuring its continued impact.
Restoration is one of those words like sustainability that can take on many meanings depending on context. When looking up some of the local restoration efforts I came across some familiar phrases to such as: “dedicated to stewardship”, “maintain, preserve and protect the natural environment” and “provide a legacy for future generations.”
Quality of the community and neighborhoods goes up when there has been an investment in everyone’s well-being. Rewards are often compounded and reaped exponentially. But how many people are aware of this?
The benchmark defining when something is sufficiently restored, quantifying the benefits and tolerance of any inconvenience will likely not happen through formal education such as workshops and seminars, but informally through signage on-site of a project, in an impacted neighborhood or in the lobby of a partnering organization.