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A continued look back at the stories of local-level ideas that are driving and inspiring renewal nationwide. 

If you have been following along Our Towns social media, you’ve likely seen our #YearInRenew2022 campaign. In the spirit of “more is more,” we are also sharing posts from that campaign on our website. 

You can find and follow and connect with our social media platforms here, and here, and here, and here. The #YearInRenew2022 began Saturday, Dec. 10, when we announced we’d be sharing 22 stories over 22 days featuring 22 ideas of American renewal, and is being drawn to a conclusion Dec. 31 on those platforms.

I first wrote about Our Towns’ #YearInRenew2022 here. You will see each of the latest batch of posts, the eighth through the 15th here, but visiting your social media platform of choice to see these stories presented there is well worth your time. The thought-provoking graphics are inviting and offer a fuller experience for the campaign. 

This list of 22 is not exhaustive, nor is it intended to be. Our team published nearly 60 new dispatches, reports, podcasts, StoryMaps, and more this year. 

Nor is this list a countdown, or a count-up, in the vein of a ‘best of…’ grouping or classification. To us, our first post is just as important as the last, as well as those in between, and those still available on our website but not featured here, including the more than some 500 additional posts from past years’ reporting. 

This list is a chance for us to share and to highlight the innovation and collaboration playing out at the local level, where we’ve seen residents and leaders alike experimenting in various ways but all in the shared spirit of working to improve their towns and build up their communities.

Our team is excited for what lies ahead in 2023, and how Our Towns will continue to serve as a platform to tell the stories of American renewal and be a gathering place to connect those driving progress in the places they call home. For now, we look back at what we’ve seen, as we will soon look ahead to what’s to come.  


“This type of storytelling really helped me recognize how different everyone’s stories are, and how they connect to form Mississippi’s culture.”

At the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, Thomas Easterling assigned his students podcasts for research projects, for which Christina Zhang explored how a church in Biloxi, Mississippi serves as a space to share and celebrate Asian-American culture.

Read the full story here: Real Mississippi Podcasts: Having the Grace to Find a Sense of Place


“Living in small towns is not plan B.”

People aren’t trapped in rural America, but they do feel left behind sometimes. Jason Neises, Community Development Coordinator at the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, joined “Inside Our Towns” podcast host and producer Evan Sanford to talk about the challenges and benefits of living in small towns and how Community Heart & Soul gives people the tools to improve their communities.

Listen to the full episode here: Inside Our Towns: Episode 1


How powerful stories are rebuilding a church — and a community.

Deborah Fallows reports on the story of Elias Van Buren Parker and how today’s telling of his story has had the power to pull the town of Mt. Holly Springs, Pennsylvania from its early glory days, then decline, back to new days of glory.

Read the full story here: How Powerful Stories are Rebuilding a Church


Just 20 years old.

That’s the age of Eastport, Maine’s Elijah Brice – lobsterman, aqua farmer, boat builder, entrepreneur – who I wrote about for Craftsmanship Quarterly in partnership with Our Towns.

Read the full story here: A Look at Lobstering and Craftsmanship


2,288: The number of residents interviewed for @Play, a 24-neighborhood, 18-month series of interactive art initiatives in Akron, Ohio.

Who knows a community better than the residents themselves? Alex Bieler writes about how Mac Love, with his creative agency, Art x Love, has taken a novel approach to making micro investments that stimulate positive change in the Akron and Cleveland area – identifying opportunities for improvement through direct community engagement.

Read the full story here: An Outsider Works with Insiders: Examples from Akron and Cleveland


“We can assemble ourselves as community members and brainstorm ways to make the town better.” 

That’s what Isaac Tucker, of Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, told Jordan Sandman. When Isaac and his wife, Heidi, were renovating their home, they knew they wanted a big dining room. More than for parties, they wanted to have a space for the community to gather. Sandman reports on how that decision began a new chapter in Dillsburg and about the impact the Tuckers are making in their town.

Read the full story here: A Dining-room Meeting Begins a New Chapter in One Town’s Story


5,000-plus: The number of turtle nests found along Manasota Key, Florida’s 14 miles of sand beaches.

An outcome you might now expect: Deborah Fallows uses Esri’s ArcGIS StoryMaps to tell the story of sea turtle survival, and of how volunteer patrols are playing their part in supporting coastal life.

Read the full story here: Turning the Tides


“In a bigger sense, we can all help one another, and the state.”

What happens when a college makes meaningful contributions to the community it calls home? James Fallows looks at the impact Ball State University under the leadership of President Geoffrey Mearns, who spearheaded the university’s unprecedented involvement in Muncie, Indiana’s public K–12 system.

Read the full story, reported and written in partnership with The Washington Monthly, here: ‘We Fly,’ in Indiana

Spoiler alert — See the full list here: A Year in Renew, A Year-in-Review: The Stories from 2022 of American Renewal