On Episode 22 of the podcast, Rod sits down with Leading Good's own, Hugh Weber, to discuss his insights on what it takes to build a community that not only grows, but thrives with possibility. He is the creator of the Potluck Society, founder of OTA, and serves as a National Boardmember for AIGA.
To say that Hugh Weber has a deep-rooted affection for community would be a vast understatement. He is, to put it quite simply, passionately driven in his quest to help community builders spark possibility and spotlight the people, places, and ideas that make each and every community unique, regardless of size or geography.
Hugh is a native of Milbank, South Dakota, a community in the northeastern part of the state with a population of 3,300. Although many growing up in small rural communities often look forward to the time they can take off for big city living, Hugh has never lost his pride for the small town roots that helped mold and shape his upbringing. When asked to introduce himself, he is always quick to reply, "I'm just a simple, small-town kid from Milbank." As Hugh shares in our podcast, this devotion and love for smaller communities continues to drive his work today.
Early in his career, Hugh spent nearly ten years assisting leaders from the Mayor’s Office to the Oval Office, including a presidential appointment to USDA's Office of the Under Secretary for Rural Development and service as a Regional Representative for the Governor's Office of Economic Development in his home state. Through these invaluable experiences, he not only acquired a great deal of knowledge about research and messaging, but he has learned even more about the power of story and the dedication and commitment it requires to inspire communities to grow and transform in ways that will improve the lives of its citizens.
As Curator of the Institute of Possibility, Hugh has provided thought leadership and general management for award-winning online and social media campaigns, as well as research, story discovery, and strategic management for marketing in niches including partnerships with Microsoft, Nintendo, Carnival Cruise Line, Nokia, and Ford.
His work building community, as he shares with us in our podcast, is where his true passion and drive lies. The knowledge he has gained from work with presidential campaigns and massive brands, he is now bringing to Main Streets across the country. And, quite honestly, if there’s anyone who understands community builders, it’s Hugh.
In 2009, he founded OTA, an organization that connects and celebrates the creatives who build community in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota. In an effort to dive even deeper and learn more about what it takes to impact a community and see it thrive, Hugh did his homework. “I have travelled through over 30 states studying, working beside, and falling in love with communities of all sizes. I have spent countless hours poring over thousands of pages of questionnaires for communities of small town citizens, college freshmen, compassionate donors, elite bartenders, Montessori instructors, banking customers, first-time political candidates, committed believers, obsessive fishermen, and people from every other imaginable community built on a shared passion, purpose, and possibility.” Listen to this week’s podcast to hear more about the valuable insights he gained while doing his research.
Hugh is quick to emphasize that being a community builder—whether it's a community of geography, affinity or identity—can be a challenging endeavor. “You pour your time and passion into a place or group of people that you believe in deeply, but often end up feeling frustrated or alone with few results and no noticeable appreciation. Late night coffees blur into early morning coffees, and those around you continue to question the benefits of all your 'volunteering.' Then, just when you feel like your work is getting traction or making a difference, cue the naysayers!”
Through all of his extensive experience that he shares about in the podcast, Hugh has learned a few things about community and community building. He has created a process to discover the stories within a community and then design a space for those stories to be shared in powerful ways. He has found out firsthand how much a network of support means in community building and that an outsider can provide the spotlight and spark for a community's transformation.
Hugh offers encouragement to all those wanting to make a difference within their communities, “You are an ordinary person, but you have a dream of an extraordinary community. But, I've got news for you: you're definitely not alone. I know this doesn't feel easy, but you choose to dream big dreams because you love your community. And so do I.”
With each new episode of the Leading Good podcast, Rod and Hugh will offer their thoughts on some of the key takeaways from the conversation. Episode 22 features Leading Good's own, Hugh Weber.