Vibrant communities lead to strong economies. As more and more people—especially young people—leave the state, a vital part of building those communities is gone, too.

We face a big challenge in the Mountain State. How do we shape the future in a way that creates communities where young people can tharive and in turn strengthen local economies and communities?

Generation West Virginia and The West Virginia Community Development Hub have teamed up through a new program called the Next Generation Communities Project to support communities as they work to tackle this challenge.

By bringing local citizens, public servants, and young people to the table and giving them access to research, resources, and support, the Next Generation Communities Project empowers communities to design initiatives and implement changes that work to redefine their community as places where more of the next generation can work, live, and thrive.

In it’s pilot year, the Next Generation Communities Project is working with pre-selected communities. Over time, we will expand the project to include additional communities across the state that want join us in prioritizing local initiatives that allow more of the next generation to stay, return home, or choose the Mountain State for the first time.

How does it work?

Generation WV and The Hub are taking a look at research from across the country. Working with research partners including West Virginia Forward, we’re identifying themes from existing studies—from both in-state and across the country—to help us identify key community characteristics that drive the decisions that young people make about where to live, work, and build a community. Community characteristics could be things like jobs, community health, social activities, or arts and culture.

We’ll bring these key community characteristics to participating community teams, where we’ll work out a strategy to get feedback from community members about which areas make the most sense to focus on.

Then, we’ll work with the team to identify specific changes that can be made which will strengthen the area that the community identified. (For example, the community identifies that they wanted to focus on community health. A specific change that might be made could be for the municipal government to allocate space for a community garden.)

Once the team has selected a specific change, we’ll work together to create a strategy and build the relationships to make that change happen. And when it does, we’ll celebrate our collective victory.

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