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

A second is a second is a second. The same goes for minutes and hours, days and weeks, months and years, and decades and centuries. How time moves, and how we measure it, doesn’t change.

How we perceive and experience time, however, does. We’ve all lived a minute that has felt like what we might likened to an eternity. Or wondered aloud “where did this week go?” or “when did that month fall off the calendar?” or “how’d the year fly by already!?”

Our experience of time coupled with how we compute it invites the reflex of reflection this time of the year, in December, as we tick off the remaining days in the last remaining month. 

In the spirit of the moment, the Our Towns team is looking back at some of the stories of local-level ideas that are driving and inspiring renewal nationwide that we have featured on our website over the year to bring you: #YearInRenew2022.

The campaign launched across our social media platforms, which you can find and follow and connect with here, and here, and here, and here, on Saturday, Dec. 10 when we announced we’d be sharing 22 stories over 22 days featuring 22 ideas of American renewal.

Our team will continue featuring these stories across these channels, and we invite you to read and share, to listen and discuss, as you enter or continue your own moments of reflection.

Here, we are featuring the initial seven stories we have shared so far. In the coming weeks, we will post others. 

This list 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 gather 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.  


0: The number of gas-powered leaf blowers that can be sold or used in Washington, D.C.

What started as a small neighborhood group turned into a civic-engagement movement that led to the D.C. City Council unanimously banning the gas-powered leaf blowers. 

Read the full story here: “Bringing a City Together: How Leaf Blowers Did It.”


“The time for ally-shoring is right now.”

International relationships can benefit the U.S. locally, nationally, and globally. Elaine Dezenski and John Austin make the case for how “ally-shoring” can strengthen democracy while creating jobs at the local level.

Read the full story here: ‘Ally-shore’ to Restore U.S. Economic Leadership and Protect Democracy.


300: The number of stories yielded by the OurStoryBridge model (as of February 2022).

How do communities share their stories with future generations? Allie Kuroff explores how OurStoryBridge, an innovative storytelling platform, is being used to capture and share community stories around the country.

Read the full story here: Building Bridges within and among Communities through Stories.


Galesburg, Illinois residents are rebuilding their town with a focus on “quality of life.”

Allie Kuroff reports on how a one-time industrial center is making efforts to improve quality of life and reverse the town’s economic fortunes.

Read the full story here: Galesburg Residents Revitalize ‘Appliance City’ by Focusing on ‘Quality of Life’


How to transition from the youth exodus worry to action?

Deborah Fallows shares ideas on how to engage youth in communities, with examples from Community Heart & Soul, Jason Neises, and others.

Read the full story here: Fountains of Youth for Towns


Raising HIV Awareness through barbershops.

For decades, Lawrence Tolliver’s barbershop has been a destination for biweekly fades and shaves. It’s also a place where patrons can get access to healthcare information.

As Patrick Waechter reports, Tyrik Jackson is recruiting even more barbers with Fade Out HIV to use their shops to create safe spaces for conversations and information.

Read the full story here: A Safe Place to Talk: Raising HIV Awareness through Barbershops 


30 million: The number of paper clips received for The Paper Clip Project, a memorial to represent those killed during the Holocaust.  

Alex Bieler reports on the history of the Whitwell, Tennessee middle school project, its evolution, and how it has indelibly shaped the town’s identity.

Read the full story here: The Paper Clip Project: Students Bring Holocaust History to Southeastern Tennessee

Continue checking the Our Towns website for updates on the other 15 posts.