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If I have learned anything from my career in community planning, it is this: change is inevitable, but the destruction of community character and identity is not. Progress does not demand degraded surroundings.
A sense of place is a unique collection of qualities and characteristics—visual, cultural, social, and environmental—that provide meaning to a location. Sense of place is what makes one city or town different from another, but sense of place is also what makes our physical surroundings worth caring about.More
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.More
This is an exciting month for the Orton Family Foundation and CommunityMatters®. To help you understand the significance, bear with me as I hit the reverse button.
In 2007 the Foundation held a national conference in Burlington, VT, which we named CommunityMatters. The new name reflected an important principle underlying our work—that is, the need for people across divides to come together to pursue change collaboratively. The Foundation was developing its Heart & Soul approach and others had their own ideas and methods, but CommunityMatters was about achieving greater change collectively than we could individually.More
Photo: ©Audrey Heller
When I was in grade school, my best friend and I performed piano duets for our families and at school talent shows. Our pièce de résistance was Heart and Soul, the quintessential duet for young piano students. We spent hours practicing and improvising new ways to expand the melody and accompanying chord progression.
As we got older, we moved on to other pursuits but to this day, we can still sit down and tickle the ivories with the best of ’em.More
When 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”.More
This post is the fourteenth in a month-long series hosted by PlaceMatters on the impressive diversity of participatory decision-making tools that communities can use for land use plans, transportation plans, sustainability plans, or any other type of community plan. The series covers the gamut, from low-tech to high-tech, web-based to tactile, art-based to those based on scenario planning tools, and more. Along with PlaceMatters, we welcome your feedback and would love to hear about the participatory design strategies that you’ve found to be the most useful.
Everyone has a story to tell about his or her community. It doesn’t matter whether you are young or old, native or newcomer; we all have personal experiences that connect us to our city or town. Stories tell us a lot about what we value most—the customs, characteristics and special places that make our community unique.
There are many examples of how stories have been used to understand community, such as Why Here Why Now or Saving the Sierra, and there is also great potential to apply personal story in community planning efforts.
The Orton Family Foundation’s Heart & Soul Community Planning approach uses personal stories to identify what people value in their community. We rely on personal stories for three key reasons:More
I was recently chatting with Lyman Orton, founder of the Orton Family Foundation, about the difficulties of describing Heart & Soul community planning.
The Foundation’s Heart & Soul Principles describe the process as tapping local wisdom through broad engagement, articulating shared values, and taking action to enhance those values.
But how do we delve into what that means specifically in a community? We live in such a charged ideological and political environment that it can be difficult to find words to describe a community process that doesn’t feed into political divides.More
There’s no doubt that Boston sports fans are a community. For every season and every sport complete strangers come together to support their beloved teams. Stadiums and arenas undulate with greens, blacks and golds, navys, and the iconic reds. All Boston sports fans revere the names Bird, Orr, and Williams just as much as today’s Brady, Garnett, and Pedroia.
And like any community, this one has its own legends rituals, heroes, and adversaries celebreated in numberous museums, books and movies. While sports communities have obvious benefits like creating camaraderie that crosses formidable social lines, there is something amiss. The fervent and vocal expression of animosity towards a shared enemy struck a chord, especially in light of my recent experience with Orton’s community work.More