This is the first of a four-part series adapted from the book Slow Democracy: Rediscovering Community, Bringing Decision Making Back Home by Susan Clark and Woden Teachout (Chelsea Green, 2012).
The “slow food” movement began in the mid-1980s with protests against the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome, but it has since inspired untold thousands of supporters across the globe.
Slow food argues that fast food symbolizes much of what’s wrong with the world today. We’ve taken the goal of “efficiency” too far, advocates argue. We need to slow down and understand where our food comes from, and recognize our connection to agriculture, to communities, and to our natural systems. We have a responsibility to do so, for human, economic, and ecological health.
I was thinking about slow food while thinning carrots in my garden one weekend, listening to Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma on my ear buds. That’s when it hit me: the work I had been doing in community development was perfectly aligned with the efforts of the slow food movement. Local, human-scale, interconnected…the metaphor was inspiring, and it brought a wave of fresh, exciting ideas to mind. Slow Democracy!
I ran inside to test the idea out on my husband Mark. He seemed impressed, saying enthusiastically, “Slow Democracy? Great idea! Hey, I bet you could even get the domain name—SlowDemocracy.org!”More
This post is the first of a nine-part series that shows how the Heart & Soul Principles are being applied and coming to life on the ground in communities across the country. The first three Principles fall under the theme Tap Local Wisdom.
The first Principle is first because engaging everyone is the essential ingredient—the bedrock, the soil, and the roots—out of which everything else in Heart & Soul Community Planning grows.
Here is the Principle in full:
“Go directly to the people, and go early and often—do not expect them to come to you. Create relevant, compelling and continuous opportunities for participation that reach all parts of the community.”
That may seem intuitive, even obvious, at first. But for most, it’s easier said than done. Typical public hearings are considered a success when a couple dozen of the usual suspects show up at City Hall. Heart & Soul engagement means many more and many different sorts of people participating, often, and in places other than City Hall.More
When the Foundation was first developing its Heart & Soul program back in 2007, we convened a group of thought leaders from various disciplines to help us define how to improve community planning in America. People who have dedicated much of their lives to change-making in their fields, including social ecologist Jim Kent and landscape architect and sociologist Randy Hester, joined us one late-September day to wrestle with this question: How could we build a radically different chassis for driving community decisions—one that is citizen driven and based on what residents value most?More
What have residents in our Heart & Soul towns been up to this year? Here is a taste:
While Orton staff visited North Fork, Essex, Polson, Gardiner and Cortez on training and capacity building trips this year, we set up a camera and let it run. What we came away with was hours of footage of energized residents getting together and talking about what matters most and how to begin planning in ways that reflect the things that matter most.
But this is just a slice, the tip of the old iceberg. To learn more about the impressive early progress these communities have made, check out our latest newsletter online, and then follow your nose to each town's own website for more detailed information on partnerships, events, achievements and stories.
And, as always, feel free to share your own!
Sara Grier is External Relations Manager for ShickshinnyForward.
Natural disasters bring a level of destruction to communities that is difficult to understand for those who have never experienced it.
While the physical ruination of shops, schools, homes and businesses takes an enormous toll, it is often the devastation of the emotional “soul” of a community that makes re-building such an uphill effort.
For the cities and towns along the Susquehanna River, the flood of September 2011 surpassed anything experienced in over 100 years. Shickshinny, PA, population 800, was one of the hardest hit communities. Since the flood, the town has not only drained basements and repaired roads; it has taken this opportunity to make itself “home” once again.More
One of my top priorities in choosing where to live this summer was the convenience and walkability of the neighborhood (second to actually finding a job, of course). Now that about a month has passed and I’m feeling settled in, I’d say the place I chose meets those desires.
Every day I walk to work in about four minutes. On my way out the door, I pass the most popular local bar on the ground floor of my apartment building. I shop for all my daily needs within a five minute walk. And, perhaps not so ideal, I hear the constant roar of traffic and sirens as they whiz by my window.
So, take a guess, where do I live? If you imagined New York, Boston, or any other city, you’re wrong.
What I didn’t mention is that my commute takes me over Otter Creek via a pedestrian bridge, that the local bar on the ground floor of my building is the only local bar, that those stores I shop at fill the few blocks downtown, and that noise outside…well, that’s only there because my apartment happens to be right next to one of the few traffic circles in town.More
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