Citizens

Relationships: The Key to the New Economy

money-origami-dress-and-suit_300x225.jpgEarlier this month I attended the New Economic Institute’s (NEI) Strategies for a New Economy Conference at Bard College in New York.

I listened to inspiring speakers and met thoughtful participants, all who are re-imagining a stronger economy and doing creative projects on the ground to prove it.

The common thread running through much of this work is the power of relationships—the relationships we have with each other and to the communities in which we live and work.

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Got Tech?

cartoon_idea_tony-dowler_300x210.jpgDigital hangers can now indicate the “like” rating of items.

Restroom breaks can be multi-tasked with twitter feeds dispensed on toilet paper.

And you can now be fully apprised of the carbon footprint of your food selections; a restaurant in Sweden displays the CO2 emissions associated with menu options.

All of this innovation begs the question: How is technology revamping the way we interact with and shape our local places? 

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Stewardship: Partnerships and Core Values

Note: This post is section five of a five-part series highlighting excerpts from the study Stewarding the Future of Our Communities by Steven C. Ames, the Foundation’s 2012 Craig Byrne Fellow. This paper addresses the challenges of stewarding local community engagement and planning in order to ensure its ongoing success and impact. Featuring case studies of five exemplary community engagement and planning experiences in small towns and cities around the country, Ames highlights specific stewardship approaches the communities have used to carry the success of their efforts far into the future. This blog post examines how communities can use relationship building and storytelling to understand shared values.
Portsmouth_Students_Dalogue_350x233.jpgThe overarching theme that arises from this study and its culling of stewardship approaches is collaboration: Successful stewardship ultimately depends on the cultivation and promotion of communitywide, cross-sector collaboration to achieve its goals.

In an era of major economic restructuring, reduced local budgets, increasing challenges to the integrity and viability of small towns everywhere, and the ascendancy of flexible new tools for sharing information and ideas, it is community collaboration that offers the greatest hope for stewarding community engagement and planning over time. Community collaboration in this context means residents working together to articulate and achieve their community’s core values and long-range visions.

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Stewardship: Responding to a Changing World

Hastings_Memorial Day_350x441.jpgNote: This post is section four of a five-part series highlighting excerpts from the study Stewarding the Future of Our Communities by Steven C. Ames, the Foundation’s 2012 Craig Byrne Fellow. This paper addresses the challenges of stewarding local community engagement and planning in order to ensure its ongoing success and impact. Featuring case studies of five exemplary community engagement and planning experiences in small towns and cities around the country, Ames highlights specific stewardshipapproaches the communities have used to carry the success of their efforts far into the future. This blog post examines how communities address global issues while maintaining a local focus at the same time.

Even as communities focus on planning and engagement initiatives to improve their quality of life, the world is not standing still. With a deluge of larger trends and issues, the impacts at the local level can be sudden and painful: an influx of new residents, a spate of foreclosures, a large loss of jobs, or a spike in the price of gasoline.

This raises the question of how community planning and engagement can encompass and address such larger or unanticipated issues without losing touch with local residents and their needs.

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Stewardship: Holding Leaders Accountable

Newton_Rolling Out 2050 Plan_350x261.jpgNote: This post is section three of a five-part series highlighting excerpts from the study Stewarding the Future of Our Communities by Steven C. Ames, the Foundation’s 2012 Craig Byrne Fellow. This paper addresses the challenges of stewarding local community engagement and planning in order to ensure its ongoing success and impact. Featuring case studies of five exemplary community engagement and planning experiences in small towns and cities around the country, Ames highlights specific stewardship approaches the communities have used to carry the success of their efforts far into the future. This blog post examines how communities keep local leaders involved in the process, ensuring continued support for future projects.

Ultimately, if a town is to secure the achievement of community-based visions and plans, it must have the continued support of local elected and appointed officials, government staff, and other key community and business leaders. In effect, it must insert the process of developing community-based visions and plans into more-formal governmental and related decision-making processes. Given that local governments, in particular, often have a poor record of responding proactively to citizen input, this can be a daunting task.

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Stewardship: Achieving Visions and Plans

HIllsboro_FarmersMarket_350x457.jpgNote: This post is section two of a five-part series highlighting excerpts from the study Stewarding the Future of Our Communities by Steven C. Ames, the Foundation’s 2012 Craig Byrne Fellow. This paper addresses the challenges of stewarding local community engagement and planning in order to ensure its ongoing success and impact. Featuring case studies of five exemplary community engagement and planning experiences in small towns and cities around the country, Ames highlights specific stewardship approaches the communities have used to carry the success of their efforts far into the future. This blog post examines how communities translate visions into action.

It probably goes without saying that a vision or plan that is filed on a shelf and not achieved can easily negate all of the energy and effort that went into its creation. Similarly, without an organized, deliberate implementation effort, the most dynamic community vision or plan probably will not be achieved. The implementation that follows on the heels of a community visioning or planning initiative is often less visible or exciting than the community’s initial engagement, but it is when the rubber hits the road.

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Stewardship: Sustaining Citizen Engagement

Note: This post is section one of a five-part series highlighting excerpts from the study Stewarding the Future of Our Communities by Steven C. Ames, the Foundation’s 2012 Craig Byrne Fellow. This paper addresses the challenges of stewarding local community engagement and planning in order to ensure its ongoing success and impact. Featuring case studies of five exemplary community engagement and planning experiences in small towns and cities around the country, Ames highlights specific stewardship duluthbanner_350x388.jpgapproaches the communities have used to carry the success of their efforts far into the future. This blog post examines how communities keep residents engaged and participating in important local decision-making. 

The ongoing engagement of a community’s residents is the lifeline of its community plan and is essential to its successful future. No vision or plan, however eloquently stated or thoughtfully constructed, will endure long enough to be realized if the townspeople are not continually engaged in its achievement.

Beginning in the mid-2000s, the Duluth Local Initiative Support Corporation (Duluth LISC) and its At Home in Duluth collaborative, a program focused on five inner-city neighborhoods, intensified their efforts in West Duluth, an older, established neighborhood in need of revitalization. Since then, more than 40 major initiatives addressing housing, income, economic activity, education, and health have been implemented, resulting in a catalogue of achievements and a reenergized sense of community.

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Community Character 201: A Lesson from Italy

roman-bakery_ropepost_300x400.jpgWhen I go traveling to another country, I always take a book that helps me get in the right mindset. Oftentimes I choose fiction that takes place in that particular country. But this time as I packed for Italy, I made room in my suitcase for a fabulous collection of Paul Bowles collected writings entitled Travels.

While none of this book takes place in Italy, focusing more on Tangiers, where he lived for most of his life, and Morocco, in which he traveled extensively, it’s a book about exploring foreign lands. Bowles regales the reader with hilarious tales of near disasters, describes wonderful characters he meets along the way, and reflects on what it means to be traveling in a country other than one’s own.

In a re-published piece entitled “Windows on the Past” written in 1957 about his travels in Europe, Bowles argues that Americans travel to Europe to regain their connections to the past. We get lost, he claims, in the vast American melting pot, in a society always transforming and remaking itself, focused more on techniques and gadgets than something deeper and more meaningful. So we go to Europe seeking something else, something he labels “culture”.

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