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You hear a lot of talk about sustainability and the Green Revolution, about shrinking carbon footprints and maximizing solar gain, about new, innovative methods for building energy efficient homes using local or renewable or recycled materials.
You also hear a lot about how these methods can be prohibitively expensive, sensible only for those with large expendable incomes that afford them the luxury to consider their impact on the environment—unlike most other, average, working Americans.
Well, here’s a story about a young couple of Annapolis, Maryland, who have neither expendable incomes nor much “luxury” in the way of resources, time or connections, let alone cash. They have three children, ages 11, 6 and 1. One, Carri Beer, is an architect at Brennan + Company Architects, the other, Michael Hindle, a Passive House consultant who works out of their small home in Catonsville while also caring for their youngest. Read their bios here at INDRAlogic, a passive house and holistic sustainability architecture firm they co-founded.More
Visit any local planning office and you’ll find an abundance of plans addressing housing, transportation, open space, economic development, etc. These issues are important building blocks of community planning and development, but do they really express what makes our communities special? Did the process of creating them tap into a shared community vision? Did that process help people take action and achieve tangible results?
If we are to fight off the spread of “Anywhere, USA” and help people take ownership of the future of their towns, we need a planning process that embeds community values in decision-making.
So, what are community values? They are what people care about in their community—the customs, characteristics and places that create a town’s unique identity. They are what connect people to their community and to each other. They are a community’s heart and soul.More
If you answered “yes” or “no” to any of these questions, then you should keep reading.
Engaging young people can be seen as both an obligation (they are stakeholders) and a boon. Young people can expand your talent pool; they can diversify and broaden participation; and they can identify new issues and new solutions that will offer a welcome departure from your town meeting regulars.
Beyond this, the effort to engage young people can force you to reconsider what you think you know about planning. In reaching out to young people, you will find that you are doing a better job of reaching out to everyone. Your message becomes more straightforward (not dumber), your answers less circumspect, and your communications more accessible.More
Storytelling and art can be powerful tools to help identify and act on shared values in a community planning process. The Foundation has been working with five communities in the Rocky Mountains and New England over the last three years integrating story sharing or art making into their planning efforts with great results. The process has built new relationships and bridges between divided groups; brought new voices to the project; revealed common values and connections; and built empathy and hope.
In a nutshell, it transforms the planning process.More
On April 18, 2011 the Orton Family Foundation issued its second Request for Proposals seeking four new communities to undertake and evolve Heart & Soul Community Planning.
We selected our first round of experimental projects in 2008 as part of a $10 million Heart & Soul initiative, and have been working ever since with Damariscotta and Biddeford, ME, Victor, ID, Golden, CO and Starksboro, VT.
Our work is predicated on the belief that if a community initiates engagement based on what people value about their place (instead of in response to a crisis) and insists on citizen-led (instead of developer- or official-led) thinking and action, then the community will make wiser, more enduring decisions about planning.More
In James Howard Kunstler’s provocative book Home from Nowhere, he wonders whether we “have the will to reimagine city and town life as a general proposition.” The phrase “will to reimagine” has stuck with me. It’s full of promise.
Residents of towns often feel constrained by existing politics or structures, and when they are given permission to claim the right to think differently, the resulting creativity and energy is remarkable. The most dramatic current examples are certainly found in Egypt and Bahrain. But closer to home, we at the Foundation have witnessed this kind of excitement in our projects.More
When you picture the Rocky Mountains, what do you see? I’m betting on gondolas and waist-deep powder, the Maroon Bells and the Grand Tetons, and quaint tourist attractions like narrow-gauge railways and natural hot springs pools.
With our best foot forward, those are indeed the images that represent the Rockies. And those images help drive the tourism industry that generates a huge chunk of mountain town revenue. But the real essence of the West lies in the gritty, unpolished towns that most people never visit.More
Recently, the Knight Foundation teamed with Gallup to survey Knight’s 26 communities “to find out what emotionally attaches people to a community—what makes them want to put down roots and build a life there.”
This report, Knight Soul of the Community 2010, found the three most important factors to residents’ attachment to their communities were social offerings; openness; and aesthetics: “These seemingly softer needs have an even larger effect than previously thought when it comes to residents’ attachment to their communities.”More