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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
What does it mean that fewer immigrants came to the US in 2008 than in 2007, and that for the first time since the beginning of the decade, the total number of foreign-born people decreased? What does it mean that, while home values dropped, homeownership plummeted and foreclosures increased—especially among minorities—and more people (of all races) lived in overcrowded housing? What does it mean that fewer people got married and the number of uninsured children soared? Why did more people carpool and use public transportation, and less people move?More
I’ve been reviewing the case study of Moss Point, Mississippi—a partnership between this Gulf Coast town of 16,000 (mostly African American) and the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) in Montpelier and have been really impressed by ISC’s work. Similar to the Foundation’s Heart & Soul program, ISC offers resources, coaching and training, and a certain methodology for community action and public engagement. They, like the Foundation, also serve as a catalyst for change.More