Seven Secrets to Keep Indianapolis Beautiful’s Success


I’m on a Southwest Flight to Washington D.C. today. Ever notice their logo? A heart is at the center.
As I prepared to speak to a conference of 1,000 millennials about social entrepreneurship and the urban environment, I built a list of ten or twelve top of mind reasons that have been “secrets” to KIB’s growth and long-term success. When I took a closer look, I realized I could put them under one theme: love and relationships.

  1. Love and relationships are at our center. We are in a relationship, hundreds of them, with Indianapolis. We actively love our city, make it better, and make life better—for the neighborhood resident, the corporate volunteer, the bee and butterfly. We love those too.
  2.  It’s not about us. The work is about the neighborhood leader and resident, or the teacher, or the minister, who have ideas for a better community. It is about a community opportunity or need we are best positioned to meet, like planting trees for cleaner water. Our success is community success; our success is the living environment’s success.
  3. We innovate, practically. We ask ourselves, what expertise do we have, or can we develop, that helps people and the living environment thrive? As Jim Collins might say, what are we passionate about, can be the best at, and still do well financially?
  4. We aim to meet needs no one else is meeting. We’ve planted more than 50,000 trees for today and the next generation. We hire 100 young people every year. Just a little more than ten years ago, we did little or none of this work.
  5. We tackle problems, but we also aspire! We’re with you when it’s time to get that litter picked up. But in the meantime, have you thought of a neighborhood park? Tree-lined streets? Public art to brighten a forgotten spot? What dreams can we create together that makes your neighborhood or school better?
  6. We understand our outcomes. We invest in understanding the impact we have so we can have confidence we’re fully meeting our mission, and can improve our outcomes. Habitat along creeks is getting healthier. People are more likely to work collectively for community good once they’ve worked with KIB. If they live within half a mile of a little park, they’re more likely to stay in their neighborhoods and get more involved.
  7. We build trust, and shape civic conversation and action. And really, this is kind of cheating, isn’t it, to get to 7? I associate trust with love, don’t you? And, when we’re at the civic table, KIB can do more good, and create deeper relationships for our community’s people and living environment.

Obviously, love alone doesn’t spell success for an organization. But, I think it is a very important start

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