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I recently attended the inaugural convening of the “Intermountain West Funders Network,” which brought together a group of granting, operating and community foundations to discuss their interests and efforts in the fields of citizen engagement and land use planning. While there are funding networks in various regions of the country, there is none that spans the north/south Intermountain West region.
Joining the Orton Family Foundation in conceiving and pursuing the formation of this new network were Philanthropies for Civic Engagement (PACE) and The Funders Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities. During the two and-a-half day gathering, over 20 foundations shared successes and struggles, and perhaps most importantly at this nascent moment, began forming relationships and affinities.More
A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to tour more than a dozen progressive small towns and cities in western Washington state; I met many local officials and personally experienced some of their greatest achievements, primarily in the realm of the built environment. Many projects included mixed-use centers, walkable neighborhood designs that connected people to their downtowns and mixed-income housing developments. Some projects were brand new and others were designed to enhance historic charm and character. During the tour, however, I was struck with the realization that something was lacking: only a few of these places or project sites truly fostered intergenerational needs, and in particular the needs of children.More
The Foundation recently held a convening in Seattle seeking input on the physical characteristics or manifestations of communities intent on articulating, acting on and stewarding their heart and soul. At the Foundation, we call this process “Heart & Soul Community Planning.” A couple interesting aspects of the conversation really jumped out at me.
The first was a statement by leading architect Mark Hinshaw, observing that how a community comes together and how it engages or interacts is as, if not more, important than the physical buildings or the environment. Second, there was strong agreement over the importance of authentic, diverse and continuing engagement of citizens in fostering and/or perpetuating a vibrant community. A few people even offered specific essential ingredients for successful communities.More
On CSRwire Talkback, Frances Moore Lappé disputes the contemporary notion that growth is bad. Lappé asserts, conversely, that growth is good, but that the real culprit is waste and scarcity. She describes the opposite of growth as “shrink, shrivel, decline, decrease, die” and suggests that no growth leaves an assumption unchallenged: “...that today’s economy is in fact defined by growth—ever expanding abundance.” Lappé urges us to shed ‘no-growth’ and ‘limits’ and to begin reframing “the challenge as that of aligning with the laws of nature to enhance life; and from there ask, What are the frames about human nature that drive the current waste and destruction within an economy driven by one rule, highest return to existing wealth?”More
One of my favorite things about the holidays is having time for things that I never have time to do otherwise—fold the laundry, call old friends, catch up on the back issues of magazines stacking up in the hall. So as the snow tumbled down and piled up here in Vermont, I settled in with the March, 2007 National Geographic: elephants, cosmic explosions, sharks in the Bahamas, and sunny, lush, alluring, enchanting Orlando.More
The late urbanist, writer and activist Jane Jacobs lives on through the work she accomplished in life. Most know her “as the ultimate champion of cities” and for opposing neighborhood demolition. In her landmark work The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), Jacobs saw urban “improvement” projects for what they really were: urban emasculation projects that left entire districts barren. And now, three years since her death and a year plus into the economic downturn, people are taking another look at her economic ideas.More
What if you didn’t have to drive anywhere? What if you could bike to work, and the grocery store, and the doctor’s office? What if your kids could skateboard to school? How does a stroll downtown for dinner and a movie sound? Need to travel a distance? Walk to the train station, which can get you to the nearest city or to the airport.
This is the way of life supported by the planning concept called “20-minute living,” a term coined by the Portland, Oregon-based real estate development firm Gerding Edlen to describe neighborhoods in which everything residents need is within 20 minutes of their homes. Not only are these neighborhoods convenient; they are planned with people in mind. As Allison Arieff put it in a post on BNet, “Less time in transit means more time for family and friends, and less wear and tear on you and the planet. Or, as we like to call it, the good life.”More
I was reading some old back issues of National Geographic recently and came across articles about some bizarre yet interesting places—Ski Dubai, an enormous indoor ski area, a beach in Paris that the City constructs along the Seine each year, and Disney’s beloved and reviled playground, Orlando. The stories of these places reminded me of Lyman Orton’s disgust upon hearing of a proposal to build a wildlife park on the side of a mountain in Weston, Vermont, which the local Planning Commission discovered was, in fact, permitted under the zoning bylaws at that time and which the Commission was powerless to prevent.More