Ziska Childs

Freelancer, united scenic artists


This conversation is closed.

How do we get back the neighborhood?

Of course I'm referencing the 2012 TED prize The talk which inspired this question has been posted: Jen Pahlka talking about "Peace Corps for Geeks" aka- coding for government. One of the ideas in that talk which resonated for me was it's not about making the bureaucracy easier- it's about solving the problems. More often than not that means getting the bureaucracy out of the way and letting people be neighborly. "Adopt a fire hydrant"- shovel it out when there's a snow storm. That's pretty simple stuff and it promotes Community - with an upper case "C".

I've seen my own home town go from a place where I could walk to everything (the butcher the baker the candlestick maker) to one where there are 30,000 vehicle round trips a day. This is for a town of 6000 residents. The service providers drive in and out for work. The residents drive out and in to go to school, the hospital, the rec center and to find lower priced goods. Employee housing (also out of town-but closer) has resulted in a boost for the construction industry which increases the service trips in and out. Placing a transfer tax on real estate has favored flipping and cowboy development. I only mention this to emphasize that treating the symptom doesn't work and the unintended consequences can be devastating.

So, how do we get back the neighborhood? How do we get back the Community?

  • thumb
    Apr 5 2012: Peace and Quiet. Being able to hear a pin drop outdoors in the middle of the night. Communing with the planets and stars with a sky that is unobstructed by buildings and city light. Truly seeing the Milky Way in all it's Glory for the first time, from my own back yard. Living within 2 blocks of a HUGE nature preserve. Sleeping in - in the mornings and taking naps in the afternoon. Asking to borrow a bail of hay to feed an abandoned horse. (a Real Estate crisis victim) And getting the entire communities help, support and admiration. Knowing exactly who lives where, within 500 yards of you, by name. Sitting in on Community Council meetings and having your voice listened to and more than that, having their backing when a problem arises with a public utility. (VERIZON!) These are just a few of those things - like Julie Andrews sings about: My favorite things. . . ."and then I don't feel so bad". The human condition is alive and well - and living in the far reaches, outside the cities. Very inexpensive homes in my neighborhood lately . . . .(?)
  • thumb
    Mar 31 2012: How do we get back the neighborhood?
    Its a vast subject. Were to start ? The solutions are not very complicated I think. There is the internal neighborhood our motivation, the reasons we desire Neighborhood and the external neighborhood.
    I have run a few events on our small community in Bath and these have helped in a small way develop neighborhood The strange thing is though that only about 10% of the population ever show events. If we see the Neighborhood as a network where everybody knows everybody then its practially none existent. But the master beighbourhood network has many smaller sub networks which link at ramdom places to other networks. Such networks include such things as old money/ land, school mums, kid, church, dog walkers, long term residents ( sort of elders) parish councilors, people who catch the bus at the same time.....
    There is no magic glue that bonds the network together, it just trivial contact which grows into something else.
    To develop neighborhood just needs a medium for such contact to happen. And I think food and music and alcohol provided in a way which invites all the cummunity along is a reasonable starting point. The next event will go further I hope and use things like open space and world cafe to increase the number of relationships which can develop.
    I do have some concern though as the majority will not come along. While I respect their rights I also feel that perhaps they are more vulnerable and far less well resourced due to lack on local connection. So when a crisis happens they will not know how to connect into others around them who in turn link to to others who might be able to help. It quite interesting mathematically. If i know only 3 people - the chance are they will not be very gagairious so after 4 links in the network I am linked to only 27 other. But if I have know 50 people on the other hand I am linked to 125,000 people. Its a massive pool of goodwil, and out of it the nectar of coincidence will flow
  • thumb
    Mar 30 2012: (This is meant to respond to comments below by Ziska Childs and Pat Gilbert.)

    Well, our Guidance Committee, and the organization in general, is non-partisan, comprised of a couple of labor activists, a GOP Central Committee Member, an attorney, a former professor of Public Administration, a mother of four whom she home-schooled, a real-estate agent/local business owner, a 90-something former machinist with a Simon for Governor bumper sticker still on his pick-up truck, and me, a former budget director of the County of Orange, CA. So, no "bent;" we try to keep focused on our mission.

    We have gatherings, not meetings and our organization chart is three concentric circles, each becoming increasingly porous as you approach the outer ring.

    Though this may sound a bit "California Woo Woo," we are actually pretty pragmatic, and like the "does it work" criterion. The model is pretty well thought-out, based on a lot of research and experience in community organizing here and abroad. And we're having fun!
  • thumb
    Mar 29 2012: Fun is important. While in Barcelona last year, we came across a local community project that was asking people to tell/show on paper (that got displayed in innovative was in an old plaza) what Barcelona meant to them, We're thinking: block parties, hotdogs, seed packets (of the Signal Hill city flower-zinnia), and the Barcelona model of getting input in a fun way.

    Trying to reach out in ways that respond to your comments above.
  • thumb
    Mar 29 2012: Hi Pat, (This is meant to respond to Pat Gilbert's question about metrics.)

    Great question. Admittedly, we have a ways to go in terms of the quantitative and systematic gathering of data to measure success--my understanding of "metric." But in our first year we deemed our efforts successful by: Surveys and polls taken--number of responses. Policy issues affected--City established new procedures abiding by the State open meetings act. Citizen participation--Council chambers packed to unprecedented levels on two occasions. Community First name recognition--number of times name is used by others in public meetings. Organizational rhythms established--Guidance Committee meetings monthly, special meetings to address specific issue intervention. Leadership dialogue (rich communications environment)--high number of email messages.

    As we add more community-building activities to our now established "watchdog" activities, we will be challenged to come up with more (and realistic) metrics.

    I'll be interested in your observations.
    • thumb
      Mar 29 2012: I like what you are doing I think it important to create this sort of activity as it is a place where the individual can have a platform something conspicuously absent these days.

      Regarding metrics I think that it a natural tendency to get get complex with them my advise would be to keep it simple. At the same time they are important to tell you if your surveys are working, that you are resonating with the public.

      Do you guys have a bent towards the left or the right?
      • thumb
        Mar 29 2012: ...the only label which really interests me is "does it work?" - (sort of like the "will it blend" series.) closely followed by "is it flexible enough to change when it stops working?"
        • thumb
          Mar 30 2012: The reality is that one of those labels does what you are saying.

          This is where the metrics come in.
  • thumb
    Mar 23 2012: Our cities in Germany are really total different - when I read the title of your conversation I was instantely triggerd to participate, but expected a total different problem.

    I am afraid to reverse the development, you regret and describe, would need a total different tax system to give incentives to change individual real-estate and housing habits. Here in Germany you have the profit of selling a house tax-free - if you have kept it for at least 10 years.... so this loweres mobility and resales of houses.

    Getting back the community in Germany is really about public space to meet .... the kindergarden for grown-ups is missing, especially in a single society.
  • thumb
    Mar 8 2012: Your question is your answer.

    Top down thinking is one of the fundamental problems with this country and the growth at the federal level that is unconstitutional. The neighborhood is bottom up thinking.

    To the point about fixing citizenship I would contend that government has metastasized into the culture-thought process of the citizens causing them to become more inane and requiring more government, down to the level of dealing with a possum.

    The only legitimate functions of government are rule of law and national defense. By getting back to the intended functions of the founders it forces people to handle the things that should be handled by the citizens.

    • thumb
      Mar 8 2012: You could argue that a strong Community is in the best interest of a National Defense. The best "security" on an airplane I ever experienced was October 2001 on United. Our Purser stood in the center aisle. Instead of giving the usual "This is a seat belt." speech she thanked us for flying United. Then she said "Look to the right of you, look to the left of you, introduce yourselves. These are your new best friends for the next 3 hours."

      How would you foster a sense of Community on an individual scale? What bottom up solutions could you suggest?
      • thumb
        Mar 8 2012: The question is the answer.

        30 yr ago our city had a volunteer fire department. When I was a kid staying at my grandfathers cabin in a very small town of 200 there was no fire department when a fire got of control the whole town dropped everything and put it out.

        100 or so years ago there was no public education, no welfare, no unemployment, no public health, no food stamps, no CRA, no energy department, et. al.; of course you will argue the relative value of each of these. Like I said before these have metastasized into the culture-thought process of the citizens causing them to become more inane and requiring more government, down to the level of dealing with a possum.

        So changing this is huge and probably not possible but make no mistake about it the result of this will be a failed nation whose story has been repeated itself many times throughout history. This video explains it very well:


        Anything that reduces spending will starve the cancer, so voting for candidates who reduce spending is key. This flies in the face of general TED thinking but it is none the less true.

        The individual survives and prospers in the small group, the small group (families, churches, local clubs) is where the individual can communicate, not so with a monolith, you see? Become active with these.
        • thumb
          Mar 8 2012: Small groups 150-200?

          Volunteerism (clubs, churches, fire department).

          Family. I can definitely see co-housing as a way to get an extended family.

          It's all sounding like Community to me. So, I think we're beginning to define *what* a Community is which is half the battle.

          Thanks for Niall Ferguson I hadn't listened to that talk before. I'd recommend considering GNH Gross National Happiness as a measure of successful Governance, the documentary "Happy" and Michael Wood's excellent series "Legacy"

          Aside, we still have a Volunteer Fire Department. Their response time is excellent the guys are great and they mostly hang out at the Elks Club.They needed extensive City funding for the new Fire House, Trucks and Communications equipment.
      • thumb
        Mar 8 2012: I will look at those vids when I have time.

        I would say that the extensive funding is a fraction of what the professional fire fighters
        here cost, and income spiking, and disability that allows them to retire with 90% (or more) at age 50. Here in Calif that is a 6 figure salary by the way.
      • thumb
        Mar 9 2012: Ziska

        I looked at this video re GNH and the prince of Butan.

        Not sure I agree as imo happiness comes from striving for and the achievement of goals. That is not to say that helping people is not a large part of that sucess, I think it is.
        I don't buy into the Maslow's hierarchy either, I have a different take on that.

        Most business owners are very much aware of and practice a lot of what Chip is talking about.

        The happiness scale imo should be an index of survival in other words is the individual citizen surviving better, the family surviving better, the community surviving better, the people of earth surviving better. When someone is surviving better he is happy this is obvious when he makes milestones of survival, graduation, marriage, children, your city prospers, your country prospers.

        The free market creates more survival for all involved, it is solely responsible for raising the standard of living of the world.

        I might add that production is what creates morale not the despair that is the common image. So from this perspective production creates happiness, this is my empirical view from 35 years of business.
        • thumb
          Mar 9 2012: The premise of the "Happy" documentary is that we've spent a long time studying what makes us depressed- about time we studied what makes us happy. We're 50% hardwired for our happiness mean, 10% is due to our material comfort and the remaining 40% is up to us. Most of the documentary is devoted to how we can effect our own happiness (40%). Survival isn't necessarily the route to happiness- in fact if you look at the stats once basic needs have been met it's 10% the other 40% is up to us. Asking the director of this documentary , Roko Belic, if he could pick just one thing which led to happiness what would it be his response was "Community".

          Maslow? Okay, not my field but I'd rather look at a study of endorphins- "exemplary people" is such a difficult paradigm. Aren't we all "exemplary" to someone? Isn't that locked in the moment?

          "Chip"? Chip who? (or am I going to be sorry I asked?)
      • thumb
        Mar 9 2012: Survival is not a yes or no question. You can survive better than your were surviving before, and you can survive better than before as part of your family, your group, your planet. Does that make sense?

        When I searched gross national happiness on TED I came up with Chip Conley

        • thumb
          Mar 9 2012: We judge ourselves in comparison to others. We just do- it's a human thing. Food, shelter, these are basics without which we're pretty unhappy (been there, done that, don't need to do it again). After that it's a matter of degree. Certainly we've all made personal choices as to what is the most important path to follow in our own lives (a luxury in itself that). If you feel that each of us is an island then you are free to pursue that in your daily life. Those of us who choose to get involved with others (yes, even in a digitized conversation like this one) may add "Community" to that list of "Survival" basics. Volunteerism, Family, communities of 150-200 (my extrapolation making that a number of people living in proximity to "essentials" in the analog sense) are basics which you've cited. Got any more?

          Oh That Chip! Loved his talk.
      • thumb
        Mar 9 2012: You understand I'm not saying anyone is an island? We are all in the same boat and connected.

        That is all I have to say about that.
        • thumb
          Mar 10 2012: Agreed. I'm seeing the gunwales getting lower in the water...

          A lot of people out here in the Wild and Wooly West think that reduced Government means "I have a shovel and a gun and keep your taxes to yourself." It's easy to understand really - since most ranchers and farmers see taxes going out of their pockets into bottomless wells of City and large Corporate contracts benefiting population centers (where the voters are).

          Only when our 20 counties on the Western Slope of Colorado started lobbying together did they insure infrastructure (paved roads) and airstrips and (most recently) broadband. I mention this because I believe there is a place for Citizen Activism on a larger scale - when you have a common need which can only be addressed with a larger scale solution.
  • thumb
    Mar 7 2012: I think this is such a good, apposite question Ziska. And framed exactly right - neighborhood. I read through the comments expecting to see people talk about how online communities play this role now. And they do fulfill part of this role, but there's a whole lot of it that they don't.

    I can't reference it right now, but I read somewhere that the size of extended circle of friends and acquaintances that we're most comfortable with is about 200.

    You can have neighborhoods within a city. Areas around universities often have many of the characteristics of a neighborhood, and I suppose that's related to the fact that they contains lots of students and academics and the university creates some sort of community.

    Perhaps a key thing is for people to work close to where they live - or even work from home. From an environmental perspective, cutting out commuting makes a lot of sense. I think the commute leads to a sort of compartmentalization of the different functions of a life that detracts from the sum of the whole. But how to achieve that ... I'm not sure. I think there are already some pressures in the right direction - the high cost of fuel, for instance. But when you're leading a more integrated life yourself, sometimes the neighborhood that you couldn't see before suddenly starts to emerge.
    • thumb
      Mar 8 2012: 'couldn't agree more (and not just because you used the word apposite although that makes me all melty inside). I intended the post above this to be a direct response. You've hit the nail on the head I think. The size of the neighborhood determines it's success. A density of 200 must be within walking distance of "necessities"- like coffee and a newspaper where they will be "forced" to interact on a daily basis.
    • thumb
      Mar 9 2012: From memory, I think it was Desmond Morris who made teh 200-persons estimate.
      He based that on the maximum size of tribal hunter-gatherer communities at the point that agriculture was invented.
      His assertion was that the agricultural revolution terminated Darwinian selection in the human species.
      I can't remember the whole book, but I suppose another form of selection has been operating since.
      I agree with Morris with some reservations - I haven't seen any good definitive studies on post agrarian selection - attempts to do so resulted in the horrors of the eugenics pseudo-science.
      I have great faith in human capacity to form-up into fully functional communities in a very short time.My faith is based on the folk festivals that I attend - these have comparatively loose organisation and run on volunteer contribution to produce an instant commmunity that lasts anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.
      WIth numbers ranging from 1 to 100 thousand. THey are very functional and are a joy to participate in. If such communities had a need to remain functioning permanently, I am confident they would do OK - specially the smaller ones (1 to 5 thousand).
      I have a suspicion that the best way to bind a local community would be to bring essential supply back into walking distance. Back in the 90's when I was assisting development of online-shopping for a major supermarket, it was seen as a "competition only" development because the customers had a primary communal need which was satisfied by the natural meeting place of the bricks-and-mortar store.

      The next step after securing local supply is to develop local currency - then reclaim local governance at a level that fosters engagement.

      Although - I'd like to see the internet retained to keep localities aware of each other - this would help prevent too much divergence from broader commonality and allow for a healthy competition for the distribution of surpluses.
    • thumb
      Mar 20 2012: I read about the thresshold of about 200 that any one person can know well in Gladwell's book the Tipping Point. Is it not possible, even in a big city, to have pockets of familiar neighbours of about 200 each? The larger city can support the infrastructure, while people are better at making connections (given the opportunity, location, and tools).

      Jim Diers gives compelling evidence from two neighbourhoods in Chicago; one vibrant, one disconnected. Both were similar demographically. When a killer heat wave hit the city, no-one died in the vibrant community. Neighbours checked in on the vulnerable, because they knew where they were. It was not so fortunate in the disconnected community next door.
  • thumb
    Mar 7 2012: Ziska, you have probably read the classic by Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Some of the ideas still ring true, about dispersion of a mix of establishments worth making a stop for within walking distance of peoples' homes, places that are used by different people throughout the day, and so forth. But the concept that I find most interesting from a grass roots standpoint is the way she defines public characters. Specifically, a few well situated people become like nodes in the network of relationships in the neighborhood. She has in mind people who have a reason to be about in public, like the grocery store clerks or the newspaper vendor or postmaster. But I think it is worth considering whether there are quite a few people who can make something of a personal commitment to be useful public characters who connect people. My neighborhood has people I see that way. We don't necessarily know each others names, but we know things that are more important than names. (I live in a neighborhood in a medium-sized city).
    • thumb
      Mar 7 2012: I lived in Greenwich Village for 10 years. What Jane Jacobs fought for is exactly what we've lost at the local level. If you want to find that in NYC today - and be able to buy into it- you need to go to Brooklyn. You need to go deep into Brooklyn and find a neighborhood which hasn't been gentrified and deal with the lack of services, the potential for violence, the long long walk from the subway.

      Years ago I worked on "Do the Right Thing" on BedSty Avenue. We "built" the pizza parlor and the bodega for the movie. Every day we would have people walking by asking if we were really building a pizza place or a grocery store. Every day we would say "No, this is a movie set. We'll tear it down after we leave." One day we had a man who had watched the whole process stand there shaking his head "If it's so easy to build it why don't we have them everywhere?" He wanted a small grocery store, he knew his neighborhood needed it, he didn't understand why there wasn't one- on every corner.

      I haven't read "Reconsidering Jane Jacobs" yet.
      • thumb
        Mar 7 2012: One issue that you note and that she did, as I recall, is that once one does liven up the neighborhood, the gentrification quickly begins. My neghborhood
        (not at the street level in the sense of Jacobs but in the slightly larger way most of us think of neighborhoods) is getting a metro station in close proximity to where the more affordable housing is. I expect over the next ten years to see a great reduction in affordability of housing there as a result.
        I know the artist Theaster Gates is making a significant investment in community in the southside of Chicago. I don't know how catalytic or long-lived that will be.
  • thumb
    Mar 6 2012: Probably one person at a time.

    To really have a community you need unity.....it starts with the individual being out and about getting to know one another and getting to know each other by name. Everybody today walks around, and more dangerously, drive around with their heads in their doodad, iphones, ipads, ipods, etc. The breakdown of communities in inevitable. The regaining of the neighborhood as you mention starts with the individuals themselves. If they do not see the value of getting to know their neighbor to begin with, I doubt you can get back the neighborhood back. Why clean up and beautify and contribute to a quality neighborhood when you do not like your neighbors?

    Short-cut solution: Move

    Long-term solution: Be the change agent

    Indifferent solution: Do as others do

    I like the long-term solution, but it involves a self-sacrificing spirit. Which involves spirituality of some sort (not religion). Anybody in your neighborhood take the time to visit you in your home and bring you good news lately?
  • thumb
    Apr 6 2012: I want to thank everyone who participated in answering this question. You've all raised valid and interesting points and I hope the discussion will continue- here. on the City2.0 facebook page or more importantly in your own communities.

    I'll leave you with this link to a kickstarter project called "walk your city"

  • thumb
    Apr 3 2012: ... continuing. But what I'm finding out is that our time and energies are consumed by our watchdog activities.

    I'm asking: Can the two--watchdog and community-building--be combined?
    • thumb
      Apr 5 2012: Richard,

      It's a difficult question. There are people who are good at both but I think its a difficult pair of hats to wear at the same time.
  • thumb
    Apr 3 2012: I'm hoping this conversation will continue. Regarding the use of technologies to build community, I suggest Etienne Wegner's "Digital Habitats: Stewarding Technology for Communities." http://amzn.to/Hduubt

    I stand somewhere in the middle between Ziska and Pat on the debate re. "shared experience for community building" vs. "goal-setting imperative." In the extreme, they are both simplistic. In fact, as you move toward the center of these two extremes, you arrive at a less fluffy and less rigid understanding that shared experience needs a unifying purpose, goals will come and go in the dynamics and evolution of your neighborhood-building efforts. That said--and to get back to earth--this is a very difficult position to operationalize, as we've found out at Community First. http://www.signalhillfirst.org/

    What is it that animates community participation? In Community First there are a few individuals--among them an attorney and former professor of Public Administration--who, when they dig deeply into city operations become outraged by the what they see as dishonest and unethical behavior. They have been leading the fight on a number of issues you can see on our website, and which generated outrage, in turn, by the powers that be and their allies.

    So we've generated some animosity, and the large majority of the population is "ho-hum" or turned-off as this is being "politics as usual;" while we see it as an important function of the organization to play this "watchdog" role. (The latest battle is around the city's efforts to expand its eminent domain powers in the wake of the state-mandated dissolution of the redevelopment agency; an esoteric but potentially significant turn of events, not fully appreciated by most of us.)

    A few of us in Community First are trying to figure out how to reach out to the community in more "positive" ways, to add a "community-building" component to our "watchdog" role.
    • thumb
      Apr 3 2012: It sounds like being a watchdog is a purpose? Even ambitious?

      I think you have to look at what other community organizations have done well in this area and emulate them.
  • Apr 3 2012: We are living in peculiar situation. We don`t know the neighbor`s information, but we can tell about entire data about a person who lived far away from us. Everybody shows interest in chatting with unknown people, but have no time and lack of interest to talk with neighborhood.
  • thumb
    Apr 3 2012: Dear Ms. Childs,
    It is a strange thing I've found. Having lived in big cities all my adult life, (NYC, LA, etc.) , it has been an eye opening experience to find the rural now area I live in to be the strongest sense of Community (Capital C) I have ever known. It has taken time, and a few crises, and talking to my neighbors and giving and getting help from them to give me the comfortable peaceful existence I think you crave. My experience tells me the answer to your question is this: Move to a rural area and start over.
    Warmest regards,
  • Apr 2 2012: This is a great question and I have struggled with it for years as I am a fan of bringing people together and encouraging community. I believe part of the answer is about creating incentives for people to interact and creating disincentives for using their cars. For example, in Chicago we have great mass transit system to get to the center of town and back. Chicago should consider taxing people who do not use mass transportation and use the money to subsidize it for those who use it. Perhaps a $5 per day tax on the hundreds of thousands of cars who travel from the suburbs to downtown each business day. This way we encourage people to come together to use common services.

    The trick is how do we get people to get out of their comfort zones (their houses and cars) and participate in their community.
    • thumb
      Apr 5 2012: Thanks Richard I think "community" is the answer but getting there IMO needs a "carrot" approach more than a "stick".

      We've done a lot of "disincentives" for travel by car in our area but as long as goods need to be trucked in and workers need to carry their own tools those 30,000 round trips a day into a town of 6000 are pretty much fixed. The economic engine is in a place which doesn't house it's own workforce. Housing subsidies have not closed the gap and the town is full of empty "spec" homes.

      I've heard of one company which is taking homes in foreclosure and converting them to Senior Centers.
  • thumb
    Apr 2 2012: WE have a system called LETS it is based on shares or credit system. i have information and resources from psychology, house sitting, mechanics, child minding, too hair cuts. im an electrician and dabble in handyman work but the best thing is you form good friendships....Damien McMinn
    • thumb
      Apr 5 2012: I agree, barter is a way to connect directly with your neighbors (and "gifting"). Barter has always been a big part of life in rural areas and when the economy takes a downturn. It is a taxable form of income so people tend not to talk about it much....and it's normally viewed as a source of "lost income" by local officials.
  • thumb
    Apr 1 2012: Pat, I don't mean to quote you out of context - but that pesky "reply" button seems to work on a quota system.

    "I tend to look at people or groups as to whether their purpose aligns with mine or not. "

    I understand the pleasure a person can get from being around "like minds". It's a great motivator.

    "In other words does gregariousness work or does purpose work? is gregariousness a product of purpose or is purpose a product of gregariousness? "

    They are not mutually exclusive in fact I don't think you can achieve your purpose without a certain amount of cooperative effort (hence the question on an open message board).

    The intent behind this question was to explore strategies for creating neighborhoods which are vital, close knit, enjoyable places to live.
    • thumb
      Apr 1 2012: Ziska

      It doesn't having anything to do with like mindedness, it has to do with achieving one's goals.

      I did not say they are mutually exclusive, I said one is the product of the other.

      I contend that it has to do with purpose and goals.

      That is all I have to say about this.
  • thumb
    Mar 30 2012: I think one suggestion I'd offer to many of the comments is that communities find ways to map discussion and issues. When I say map I have a few different concepts in mind.

    a) This link points to the Boston Indicators Project where there is a pie-chart that reflects issues important to Boston. Click into any slice and you dig deeper into that issue. http://www.bostonindicators.org/Indicators2008/
    b) This link points to a site that I host where a map of Chicago is used. It includes overlays showing poverty and poor schools, as well as sites of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs
    c) This link points to a map of information hosted in one section of my library - http://cmapspublic.ihmc.us/rid=1238727620187_1222661202_30228/Learnng%20Network%20-%20Research,%20Resources.cmap
    d) In a different TED discussion a writer showed how discussions could be mapped. http://www.ted.com/conversations/331/what_if_ted_utilized_the_mind.html.
    e) At http://debategraph.org/mentoring_kids_to_careers is another way to map discussions.

    If communities can provide sites that include these concepts they can expand the information that people have to build understanding of the issues and possible solutions. They create a platform anyone would be able to use. They also might make it easier to follow discussions related to specific topics. Using GIS maps the result could be more people sharing the same geographic working together.

    However, this is only a start. In order to get large numbers of people into these discussions all sorts of marketing and advertising techniques need to be used on an on-going basis to draw more people's to these sites. I wrote a blog article about this earlier this week. http://tutormentor.blogspot.com/2012/03/making-sense-of-info-using-it-to-solve.html In this I pointed to a concept called Massive Online Organized Curriculum (MOOC) that encourages on-going and in-depth learning by large numbers of people.

    The tools to make this possible keep expanding.
  • thumb
    Mar 30 2012: (This is meant to reply to the question by Pat Gilbert, below.)

    Purpose, yes. You'll see the mission of Signal Hill Community First on our website. http://www.signalhillfirst.org/
    What you'll see is an emphasis on our "watchdog" orientation. This has stimulated a lot of interest over the last year.

    We are evolving, however, and 2012 will be a watershed year. What you won't see on the website--not quite yet--is much reference to our community-building role, an essential ingredient in our dual track design. Nor will you see any reference--again, not quite yet--to C.F. being a self-organizing system, informed by the literature regarding communities of practice (CoPs). http://www.ewenger.com/theory/ Other helpful resources are found in the work of Margaret J. Wheatley ("Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time") and Peter Block ("Community: The Structure of Belonging.")
    • thumb
      Mar 30 2012: Richard

      Your mission statement is a bit ambiguous to me.

      Your purpose to me is for someone who has some time on their hands ie retired people.

      In today's environment I think that the government has become so onerous that making a living consumes a lot more of one's time, leaving little time to consider other activities.

      For me a purpose that I find to be imperative is the reduction in the size of government as this country very well may collapse if this does not occur. You can see how this is galvanizing.

      The corollary of shrinking government is the raising of the individual though small groups such as yours.
      Perhaps a better statement of the goals?
  • thumb
    Mar 30 2012: Neighborhoods everywhere have resources like ours! The challenge is how to animate them.

    Getting back the excellent original question, "So, how do we get back the neighborhood?", I love telling our own story--and will continue, more fully and in more detail, if there is sufficient interest--but this TED Conversation needs to continue, and we need more of an exchange among real-world neighborhood development practitioners.

    As you, Ziska, pointed out earlier, and as others have pointed out in the course of the discussion, this neighborhood focus, this bottom-up orientation, is a critical part of the City 2.0 initiative. Others have their own story to tell.

    As this conversation nears its end, I'm prompted to ask: How can we continue and how can we expand the participation?

    Food for thought...
    • thumb
      Mar 30 2012: I've found that telling stories sparks the same desire to share in others....

      Let's see if we can keep momentum for the next week..... if we still have interest it's as simple as posting another question to the TED board (just because I find the direct links from the individual talks helpful for bringing in diverse people with new insight)
    • thumb
      Mar 30 2012: Richard

      I think the irreducible minimum for a group is that they have a purpose. Perhaps if you talk more about the purpose of you group?
  • thumb
    Mar 29 2012: I just heard about "pop up museums" which use museum exhibits as a background for topical conversation. I certainly think there's room for improvement in our spaces for public debate.
  • thumb
    Mar 26 2012: Urban sprawl and the necessity to provide the services to maintain a modern urban centre is fueled by the building industry. The builders buy undeveloped land and build it to suit their profit ratios. Societies are now built to maximize profit instead of ensuring a thriving community where people can feel like they are valued member. Again, greed is the motivating force behind the disconnect of society. No profit in taking, say a waterfront industrial site that may need rehabilitation and making it a focal point of societal content. How do we get back to the neighbourhood? Empower people to push builders into building a community that is more in keeping with social harmony.
    • thumb
      Mar 26 2012: If the City Center is blighted developers will only purchase the "cheap" real estate if there is an equal or greater commitment from local government to provide transportation and other essential services. The reverse is true- if the City Center is too expensive services need to be trucked in.

      Who keeps the "social harmony" and how?
  • Comment deleted

  • thumb
    Mar 25 2012: There's some great discussion and a lot of potential solutions which all of you have brought out in this thread. May I trouble you to go one step further?

    Here's something which was sent to me recently. I've sat through quite a few meetings and I have to say- this rings true. Resoundingly true. One of the biggest problems when dealing with city planning is how to present your ideas in a friendly, informative and (this is really important) succinct fashion. We've got 12 days left. Any ideas?

    • thumb
      Mar 25 2012: I agree one needs to present ideas in an informative and succinct way, but there are some factors of the context I believe are important to understand. First, public hearings of a formal sort in any case tend to limit time for each speaker. Then many speakers speak one after the other in a way that mainly serves to get their ideas on the record. But often the decision at hand has already been made and the opportunity to give input is not as real as it may appear.A second factor in bringing ideas forward is that decisionmakers at the local level, if ideas are brought to them, are bombarded with different ideas from different parts of their constituencies. This makes more data to process than may be humanly possible. What makes its way through may be less the content of the message and its presentation than the relationship the decisionmaking body has with that specific constituency from interaction over time. It is a little bit like the way many people do not do through research into each item on a ballot but follow the recommendations of a group they have found credible over time.When we are not talking about public hearings but rather a meeting a group gains with an individual, a vital aspect of preparation is to study what the typical interests are of the person to whom one is bringing the proposal.
    • thumb
      Mar 27 2012: Can I throw the C-word at you?
      Charrette. I think it helps us to re-examine the whole idea of 'the presentation', of public hearings, and of the roles of the key players.

      There is a shifting of the role of architects/urban planners in the City 2.0. A new player, The Facilitator, has become a crucial element 'at the table'. Their main purpose is simply to organize the people involved (professionals, politicians and community-members alike) and send them towards goals that are defined by the community itself.
    • thumb
      Mar 28 2012: Yes, how to turn public hearings into public listenings?

      Turning around a dysfunctional civic culture is not easy, as we have found in our small Southern California city, near the now-infamous City of Bell. We've been at it for about a year, and have developed a model mixing the "watchdog" approach with the more educational approach of the League of Women Voters. (So, we've found, there is a time for friendly dialogue, and a time for calculated conflict.)

      But sensitive to concerns about simply "promoting the same but with a different flavor," we (a small group dedicated to governmental transparency and inspiring our neighbors to engage in city affairs), have laid the groundwork for our own functioning using the ideas of Communities of Practice (CoPs). It took us a while to get there (see Etienne Wenger's work on CoPs: http://www.ewenger.com/theory/ ), and we are still defining our community and seeking the proper mix of problem-solving with community-building. Take a look at our website www.signalhillfirst.org/

      We are an evolving organization and very sympathetic to many of the ideas and views presented in this fascinating thread. I would love to continue this discussion among others who are in the throes of actual neighborhood action/organization.

      Good Job Ziska!
      • thumb
        Mar 28 2012: You had me at "Public listenings."

        Is the Signal Hill page based on Etienne Wenger's "community platform" using a wordpress format?

        (and thanks)
        • thumb
          Mar 28 2012: Hi Ziska,

          Wenger's thesis--and our guide for how to go about our business--is, I'm told, a bit too theoretical for our website which, yes, is on Wordpress.... if I understand your question correctly.

          As Facilitator of Community First, my focus is on organization design and internal communications--the superstructure upon which the responses to issues addressed in our website are built. Sounds a bit too high-falutin, but its at that organization level where I think a dialogue on policy-related, community building can most effectively occur.

          We are talking about a change in civic culture which begins with BEING the community we desire; but also within real-world, political context. A challenge, as you can imagine.

          There may be some similarities with the Occupy Movement and, perhaps, even Burning Man. (At least according to some we met at the BIL "unconference" where we presented recently.) But we, by contrast, are a bunch of old fogies.

          So, if anyone is curious about what we are up to, the theoretical foundation and practical issues that arise as we move forward, i.e., expand our "core" and focus more on community-building (to supplement our "watchdog" role), perhaps we can continue to dialogue.

          Ziska, you did such a great job of formulating the original question. Perhaps now you can prompts a new, more focused, practical discussion. We need your ideas and perhaps a few of ours might be helpful to you.
      • thumb
        Mar 29 2012: Hi Richard

        Can I ask what metric you use for your organization?
      • thumb
        Mar 29 2012: Richard,

        Replying to this thread since it seems we've maxed out replies on the one below.

        "(Citizens are) seen as an essential resource and stakeholder in the public policy process"

        The ones who show up are the ones who get to influence the policy (squeaky wheel syndrome).

        We're back to a really big question- how do we get people motivated to participate?
        How do we keep it civilized?
        How do we keep discussions on point?

        Not everyone is comfortable speaking in public or on the internet. Not everyone can state their issues without becoming emotional- or worse- using personal attacks. Not everyone can speak in simple enough language to make their point; and *everyone* gets misunderstood at one time or another.

        Catching flies with honey.

  • thumb
    Mar 25 2012: What a complex problem! I think the key element is (captain obviously) the built environment. Despite all the advances in our virtual reality - the non-physical world - I think in the end we must admit that only a reorganization of our physical world, i.e. the built environment, will allow us to see our way through this coming transformation of society.

    Having said that, our built environment is ultimately created according to land use regulations/zoning laws that are themselves governed at a municipal level. This is reassuring. Municipalities are comprised of a (relatively) small group of people.

    With the right user-interface, and competent facilitators to guide the overall process, it is certainly possible to physically alter the built environment in favor of ‘the neighborhood’. The trick is to try and get the neighborhood itself involved in the process.

    I’m not saying there is a formula for this; surely we are still figuring it out. But to say that it is beyond our current capability, considering politics, economics, etc., is uninformed; it is already happening.

    If you have any interest at all in this process or case studies resulting from it, please see the linked document below.

    • thumb
      Mar 25 2012: Allen,

      Thanks for posting the link- the "you fix the budget" example is interesting. I'll forward this to local government (and it will take me a little time to digest it)
  • thumb
    Mar 24 2012: I have no concrete & ready-to-go proposal - I meant to express that adults also need places to "play" - change roles, leave their daily social routines and stereo-types asf.... of course sports can be used for this.

    I like especially situations where levels of hierachy are confused..... this opens a lot of options f.e.
    - kids teaching their parents on the newest internet & apps trends
    - all husbands - working long hours, never really at home - meet for a public, in the street cooking event, to which all kids are invited under one condition: they bring some one from neighbourhood to this "cook & gather" event which they do NOT know already. some one they always wanted to talk to, but failed to do ....

    I hope I can explain my line of thought...?!
  • thumb
    Mar 24 2012: Ziska,

    Your community sounds much like mine. And, of course, is like so many. In spite of how infrastructure conspires to disperse us, I nonetheless witness community creation occurring where intentional efforts are made.

    My short answer, nothing you don't know is: We stay in the neighborhood. We engage our neighbors.

    Less simplistic, and more important: We re-create and "re-spirit" community by intentionally and persistently practicing together how to stay in relationship as community members. In various places and venues, but with the clear and stated intention of being present (best in person, where possible) in community together.

    Which means we invite others different from us to participate, judge all much less, be less self-conscious, more forthcoming and more "with other" cooperative.

    And as we do, we communicate how we are doing so in as many ways as we possibly can. By telling ours and others stories of sincere efforts and particularly successes in co-creating community. This is key.

    With that I'll take some of my own advice and share a few stories about ways I witness my community co-creating itself:


  • Mar 23 2012: As far as the physical neighborhood goes, I think these people have a solution: http://www.cottagecompany.com/
    Unfortunately zoning laws in many cities do not allow for this kind of development.
  • Mar 23 2012: Any Social Media - is always an international one. because they need international outlook. In fact with this media, we have "International neighborhood" where we feel we are interacting with lots of people. I suggested to an IT professional - to start a La facebook - "back-pack.com" or "backyard.com" -- which should be only for that particular city only, for only those people in certain trade - like Software -back-pack or Designer -backpack or butcher -backpack or say - Dubai-backyard.com where only dubai residents will be allowed to mingle with, like only software engineers will be allowed to mingle with. By which -- we can real time - neighbourhood on-line - this is actually called social media web sites where we all speak the language we know, fashion we care, motives we gad etc., The developer of this idea can have 10 or 20 social media sites - political-back-pack.com, New Delhi.backyard.com; James Town.backyard.com like wise. I am not looking at FB page for particular area where some how or other a person like me would like to enter and spoil the game. Any comments??
  • Comment deleted

  • thumb
    Mar 21 2012: I'd like to spin off of the ideas Pat and Spencer were mentioning. This is a bottom-up approach. Who's at the bottom? The people. The individuals. Technology is an enabler of the individual... if implemented correctly. Government has (clearly) lost that ability because of it's 'intangible' process of operation (bureaucracy).

    So how do we get back the community, you ask? We have to empower individuals to do what is good for their communities. We cannot expect government to do it. There are two high-level problems that I have concluded with this:

    1) People have lost the knowledge required to do such things
    2) People are not motivated (or given enough face-value incentive) to make the leap of taking action

    If we can provide an accessible web experience that begins to answer those two problems, I believe we can start to generate interest in a new form of 'technologically local' community.
    • thumb
      Mar 21 2012: Tim are you talking about gamification of local services?
      • thumb
        Mar 22 2012: Not exactly. I ended with the statement I did because I am into the design/technology/web industries, but there's much more to consider than just one topic.

        I see gamification as a trending interest. It's newer, and people haven't had that perspective before. Speaking generally, however, games can serve as a subset of research for a higher-level field of psychology. Take for instance design with intent (http://www.danlockton.com/dwi/Main_Page). With this, the focus is on the psychology of behavior change. It just so happens that games have been using a set of these design with intent lenses that Dan Lockton studies. That leaves more lenses yet to consider.

        When we take the view that this is a whole field of psychology, then it's apparent that technology is simply a subset tool to be used for behavior change (and gamification a subset of that). There are other tools as well that can assist behavior change. This is why Mark Raymond, in "Victim of a City", brings the discussion about the psychology of architecture (again, generalizing). And wouldn't you know, Dan Lockton has a lens for that! Architecture as a tool for behavior change. This is also what Steve Johnson, in "Where Good Ideas Come From", addresses. Johnson also goes a step further, however and grounds the idea with the way biology functions. This, in my opinion, brings someone like myself back to ideas about technology.

        Technology allows us to network like our biology intends us to. It can empower us, in such ways as Jennifer Pahlka, in "Coding a Better Government", suggests. Why can it do this? Because it networks us. It puts us in, or mimics the likeness of, an environment to create new ideas. It may not be the exact local communities that we remember, but at least it might be the start of something more meaningful than what we have.

        Hopefully this clarifies/expands my previous message. I'll gladly try again if it doesn't!
        • thumb
          Mar 22 2012: Interesting thesis. As a Scenographer it's all about supporting the central idea of the performance while serving the needs of the script. The major goal is to allow the audience to listen. This means you are very concerned with focus. We become sensitive to visual cuing- very sensitive. Visual cuing is always contingent on "intent". If it doesn't make sense the audience won't believe it.

          But I digress.

          From Shakespeare to Chekov. "Deeds not Words"

          Perhaps it's the town square we need as much as the coffee shop. I know I meet a lot of people in the downtown park. The park serves as a playing field, a performance space, fair ground and a dog park. One side is a pedestrian mall. You can walk to fast food, slow food and shops but on 3 sides you can park your car. This works pretty well for meeting people in a friendly way.
    • thumb
      Mar 31 2012: Hi Tim

      I don't see the technology as a bad idea. I don't see the environment as a bad idea, James Q Wilson did a lot in this area and they were very much deeds not words.

      But I think that it has to be about purpose. A meeting has to have purpose or goal which is the reason for the gathering. Otherwise it is just to socialize which is fine but not a real driving force.
      • thumb
        Mar 31 2012: I'm looking for a City where people care about each other and their City. Socialization is one of the best goals there is. It's the driving force behind a platoon of soldiers, a team of ballplayers, a business, a family- if you don't care about the people in your "group" you won't do anything with them or for the "group". It's where you learn politeness, cooperation, loyalty, communication- which are all basic to living and working together.
        • thumb
          Mar 31 2012: No its not.

          The purpose of the soldiers is to win the war, the purpose of the ball players is to win the game or be champions, the purpose of the business is to help the customer (it is not to make money as the customer could not care less if the business makes any money), the purpose of a family is to reproduce.

          Yes other benefits/dynamics of the relationship are manners, cooperation, communication, etc. but they are not the purpose.

          When a business is expanding and producing and organizing that is a sight to behold and that is absolutely about purpose. "“If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.”" — Simon Sinek

          When a country does what the United States did in world war 2 stopping oppression in 2 theaters simultaneously, that was about purpose the greatest purpose of all survival of the planet a side product of which I might add were some of the finest individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting because of this purpose.

          Landing on the moon 10 yrs after the goal was set the goal was met that was about purpose and very definitely something to be hold.

          I have yet to see a superstar of sports announce his retirement who was not in tears people like Mike Singletary, Jack Lambert, Dick Butkus, how could this be some of the toughest football players ever to play the game, it is about them following their calling.
      • thumb
        Mar 31 2012: That's a top down philosophy.

        "In the heat of battle it ceases to be an idea for which we fight. Or a flag. Rather we fight for the man on our left, and we fight for the man on our right."
        • thumb
          Mar 31 2012: Yes to the extent that there has to be a purpose and yes top down does have it's place but what is sorely missing these days is the bottom up.

          The reason they are there at all is the purpose which does apply to any group.
      • thumb
        Mar 31 2012: I'll go right back to my "happiness" (pursuit of) corner. It should be the prime purpose to a civilized society. Without contact, without community, it's very difficult to achieve any purpose or to have more happy days than sad days.

        In referencing my (no-military- but military based) training in Outward Bound and National Outdoor Leadership School- it's about teambuilding . All of the exercises for creating a cohesive successful response to natural and man made challenges were based on teambuilding- and - in the case of Outward Bound - creating situations which seem insurmountable but are survivable if tackled as a team. It seems to me that this tactic would also work for building a successful community. Can I tell you the ideology of this team? No. But I can tell you the elements which create a successful team. Shared experience shoots right to the head of the list. It can be a shared meal, shared education, shared fear or shared joy- all of this works to build community (aka "team"). What I know does *not* build a thriving community is isolation and intolerance.
        • thumb
          Mar 31 2012: Are you saying there is no I in Team?

          All I can say is I don't agree, you mentioned somewhere the idea of does it work doesn't it?
          In other words does gregariousness work or does purpose work? is gregariousness a product of purpose or is purpose a product of gregariousness?

          I tend to look at people or groups as to whether their purpose aligns with mine or not. Which has me questioning the purpose of TED.
  • thumb
    Mar 20 2012: I've forwarded this on to local government- thanks much!
  • thumb
    Mar 20 2012: If we are looking for a technical solution, you might be interested in the Open Data Movement. The City of Vancouver has risen to the challenge and provided an Open Data platform available for developers.
    • thumb
      Mar 22 2012: Janet, Sorry I thought I'd hit reply on the comment thread but this bumped to the top of the conversation instead. That Open Data Movement page is very interesting. Thanks for posting the link. I've forwarded it to my local gov guys (advantages of a small town).
    • thumb
      Mar 23 2012: This is a really good thing to see, thanks for the link, Janet!

      There's definitely a need for more transparent data so everyone can easily access it. What we need next is a developer to take all that data, and put it into an automatically-updated system where other developers can access the data via API. We also need more cities around the world to get on-board with this sort of data access :)

      Did a bit of a google spree over lunch - for those of us in the US: http://www.data.gov/ Of course this is on the national level. It would be good to research states and individual cities beyond this.
    • thumb
      Mar 23 2012: I can agree too - here is a film on the open data movement at a leading festival in amsterdam, called PICNIC: http://bit.ly/GRcUK1

      I hope it sparks even more ideas how to get the community back !
      • thumb
        Mar 23 2012: Bernd, That's a great link- thanks very much!
        • thumb
          Mar 29 2012: I am a real fan of the open data movement, and here in California we've seen a lot of progress toward transparency associated with it, and with our long history of "sunshine law" enactment.

          But, in my experience, there is still a fundamental weakness here, if we want to build vibrant and empowered neighborhoods--it doesn't really get at the assumption, held by the power elite, of the citizen as consumer of services, rather than seen as an essential resource and stakeholder in the public policy process. All that "open data" is of minimal value if there isn't a strong and engaged community--independent of government--to be reckoned with.
  • thumb
    Mar 20 2012: I found comfort in concepts laid out in Jim Diers' Neighbourhood Power. He gives tips on how to engage people in projects, especially building neighbourhood "bumping places" where we come together and interact.

    I wonder if there is something fundamentally flawed in the process of developer to town submission to build. The developer does his best to build what we say we want. But our craving for georgeous indoor spaces and Privacy may come at the cost of engaging our neighbours.

    Might individuals, public service associations, and clubs be given the tools to put together coherent submissions for community projects - such as the ever-popular community garden - that the town can comprehend and support to implementation?
    • thumb
      Mar 22 2012: If we can use what you and Tim Leisio are suggesting in tandem I think there's a high chance of success. IMO you're both right- the needs of the community give you the "laundry list" of what has to be built but there also needs to be a central idea which stitches it all together. We've been touching on this central theme with the recurring theme of "be kind to each other". The question becomes how do we reinforce that theme of kindness each time we implement a task on the laundry list?
  • thumb
    Mar 15 2012: Cross Pollinate a little guys.... there's another fascinating discussion going on about City 2.0

    The City 2.0 according to YOU... 2 Things a City that YOU design, Must Have...


    Started by Terry Torok
  • thumb
    Mar 15 2012: Hmm, too bad I have forgotten most of my programming skills :D, been retired too long . . . I will watch the talk, thank you for the link Ziska.
    Maybe someone on TED have the competency to create City 2.0 :)
  • thumb
    Mar 15 2012: I grew up in Denmark, and as in France we went to the market every day or more likely in my case, just picked what we needed from the garden. We had small independent stores. We all know the scenario. We also had no television until after the 50s. So we grew up sharing playtime with the neighboring children.
    I doubt that anyone want to regress, however as long as we sit in front of a TV, spend our time on computers, cell-phones and playing video games. Nothing will change.
    We are becoming more and more socially isolated. Technology is, imho, not the problem. We, the people, are the problem. What I am observing is a seeming need (in too many people) to fill their lives with things, gadgets etc I"I have to have the latest and the best, which used to be competing with the Joneses.
    Now it seems to have literally taken over our world and until we are willing, (we are still able) to TAKE TIME for others, to make conscious choices that will benefit our communities, without thought of neither reward nor acknowledgement. To be kind, be understanding, have compassion, or simply put: let the EGO have a much smaller place in our lives there will be little if any change.
    We ARE all connected, even if too many either have forgotten or no longer feel it.
    ALL of the ills in todays societies can be traced back to the "feeling" of "Never having enough" No matter how much we have. People will "fill the emptiness" so many seem to be experiencing, new "toys", cars, fancy clothes will only satisfy for a brief moment. The documentary from Butan do have something to teach us all. Priorities!!!!!
    So, imo, if we truly want to DO something, maybe we can just go do it. Yes one person can and do make a difference. What I observe: we are so busy attempting to solve problems by thinking about them, talking about them and not doing! That won't work.
    Yes of course communication is very important!
    A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed. Henrik Ibsen
  • thumb
    Mar 14 2012: For some reason Mark Raymond's talk is not showing up in the TED search but I thought I'd include it here as a starting point for discussion:

  • Mar 13 2012: of course they may
    I just try to find a Free Mesh Community equal to this in Germany. It would be easier to explain what Freifunk means.
  • Mar 13 2012: What about "Freifunk"? I'm not quite sure about how to describe it in English properly. I think you could call it open Mesh-Networks.

    I think those are good neighbourhood-projects in 2 ways.

    1) If you want to have Freifunk in your region (which is of many advantages) you have to realise it with your neighbours . No single one has to do much, but you have to talk about it with your neighbours.

    2) With just a little more input the mesh network can be a great tool, to keep the local communication alive.
  • thumb
    Mar 11 2012: Smile at a stranger, say hello. Start a conversation when you wait in line. Most easily accomplished by noticing something "nice" or positive about the person, And say it out loud :) Believe me it is really easy and the gift is that You both feel better.
    How many people can you say something to, to see them smile in one day :)
    Our communities all start with US! Can we be the reminders of what seemingly has been forgotten? Can we grow or make a product to sell or barter it in our neighborhood.? It only takes one person to start.
    I see how such seemingly "small actions" has been the beginning of changes where I live.
    • thumb
      Mar 13 2012: Is there something which can promote kindness in the City2.0?
      • thumb
        Mar 15 2012: Ziska:
        Yes, imho, definitely. My experience tells me that one kind act more often than not will snowball. By being and acting kindly we set an example for others.

        You let a car enter in front of you; keep an eye on the car and most likely you'll see the driver stop for someone else. A banal example maybe, however being kind will generate kindness. I do not think telling or suggesting to people to be kind works too well. Nor do I think that a "program" to promote kindness would be effective. Although the popular (around here) bumper sticker "Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty" does seem to allow some people to take notice.
        I feel that we mostly learn by example.
        PS I had to look up City 2.0 (Laughing) I wasn't sure what you were talking about. It could have been a computer game for all that I knew :)
        • thumb
          Mar 15 2012: I hope they post the talks for the TED prize soon. That will help explain it better than I ever could.

          Yes, being kind to each other - basic politeness- cannot be overrated.

          OTOH City 2.0 as a computer game what a great idea! Jane McGonigal's talk at TED was inspiring


          If we can use gamification to get local citizens interested in their own neighborhood development that might be a way to get more people involved. Too often people only become involved in local government when they have something to complain about. If we could get people involved for "fun" that would be (pardon the pun) a game changer. Think of it as Farmville for City Council.
      • thumb
        Mar 28 2012: How about kindness/hugging flash mobs? Here is the Haleleujah chorus in a food court.
        Of course, this would take a little more PLANNING than a a spontaneous event....

        I suspect the civic authorities are cautious about such things because they are so UNCONTROLLED.
  • thumb
    Mar 10 2012: When you moved to a small town you must have noticed that there were limited stores and cultural activities. Bedroom neighborhoods are for a reason. People do not want the hustle and bustle of the big town. If there was a need to "change" the lifestyle it would have been explored and developed. As I recall Aspen is "ski" dependent. A tourist based town. I suggest that you accept that way of life or else move to big town and go to the opera. I bet the persona of your town is well thought out to attract the skiiers and tourists. I see no change in the future for Aspen. Bob
    • thumb
      Mar 10 2012: What happens in a town of 6000 residents with half a billion dollars in sales tax revenue? Money doesn't solve everything and Aspen proves that.

      Culture we got. Aspen Music School (+Opera), Aspen Writers Conference, Food and Wine Festival, Aspen Institute, Comedy Fest, Aspen Physics Institute, Aspen Film Festival, Ballet Aspen/Santa Fe, Aspen Theatre that's just what I can think of off the top of my head. We overflow with Sports activities. The shopping is pretty Prada/ Ralph Lauren centric although a few mom and pops have survived. The quality of life is pretty high- so's the cost of living.

      We shouldn't judge by Aspen alone (the sales tax receipts for Aspen are certainly *not* normal for a small town.) Lots of small towns are huge cultural and intellectual centers, Spoletto, Bayreuth, Wolftrap, Davos...

      Aspen services 150,000 tourists for Christmas, New Years and Xgames. The Chamber is doing a hell of a job.

      It's the price of real estate. The median price for a home in Aspen is $4 million dollars. If you go 30 miles outside of town that drops to half a million- once you get 150 miles away it gets down to $50K. Rents in Aspen are similar to Manhattan- 150 miles away- closer to a typical rural US rental market. Our "bedroom" communities are two fold- 150 miles away for service industry workers and empty beds in multi-million dollar mansions occupied 2 weeks out of the year.

      Many long time residents cashed in and moved down valley (while doing a lot of griping about how Aspen has lost it's magic). Other long time residents have stuck- and struggle with increased taxes, increased value (without increased income) and reduced local services (like health care, senior services, youth centers etc.) Their kids are in the same position as many Farmers and Ranchers- they can't afford to inherit the house they grew up in. Very few stuck *and* prospered.

      Yes, we have many affordable housing initiatives but there is yet to be an "affordable living" initiative.
  • thumb
    Mar 9 2012: I think our current political structures are in opposition to the idea of having a healthy neighborhood. I posted a relevant talk about an idea in a book called Tiered Democratic Governance. I believe one of your commenters said that living should be a bottom-up phenomenon, not a top-down phenomenon. The proposed political system starts at a small tier of about 250 people (aptly called a 'Neighborhood'). The tier votes among itself for a Neighborhood representative. The next tier (the District) is 15-20 Neighborhoods. The representatives all vote among themselves for a District representative. The process works up to the top tier.

    The system abolishes political parties and removes the need for campaigning. It encourages relationships between local families and gives small groups of people a direct link to their top governance tiers. It also allow the most trusted and skilled members of society to affect policy change, rather then those who are best able to 'play the game' as is in our current system.

    Check out the conversation for more details:
  • thumb
    Mar 9 2012: Certainly, a lot of that had to do with growing up right after a World War. I figure trouble will find me I don't need to go out looking for it; but we certainly "pull together" when things get tough.
  • thumb
    Mar 9 2012: I think, that in a lot of ways, humanity has developed way beyond its capacity to comprehend what humanity has become.
    We encounter walls of complexity that are simply not practical to understand. THis results in ever narrowing specialisation. A community of 200 people can quite easily comprehend the roles of each within that community - can quite easily comprehend the common needs, the common beneit and the responsibility for each to contribute enough to keep that benefit functioning.
    When the community gets to be a few million, it is an error to expect that the members of that community can relate to it in any functional sense. The result is dysfunction. The dysfunctions are addressed as "issues" and have ever more complex solutions applied to them - this creates beaurocrasy - specialsts in public "issues".
    Another thing that happens is sub-societies - interest/focus groups arise to fill the human gregarious need for a manageable community. THese groups are ideologically defined - not geographically. THis then gives rise to the phenomenon of not actually knowing the person living next door - you are in different communities - when you have to interact with that neighbor, you find a greatly reduced commonality and less motive to act in the common interest.
    When you add the internet to this, these sub-communities can span the globe - further reducing the motive for common responsibility at the local level.
    Jennifer Pahlka sees a way to re-focus local responsibility through internet APPs .. that might work to some extent, but I am reminded of a time when I hired IT teams how the .. dare I say aspberger ..s boys and girls in the team would much rather email me than talk to my face - even though they were sitting right next to me. Perhaps autism is on the rise - not from environmental poisons, but because this is the evolutionary adaptation required for the techno-urban environment?
    As an old-style human .. I'd prefer to just live in a small town . hey ho.
    • thumb
      Mar 9 2012: There is some evidence that pixelization promotes dyslexia (Gadi Geiger MIT). I don't know of any research which links computer use or lifestyle to Aspberger's. I wouldn't be surprised though....

      Jen Pahlka's talk shows a wonderful positive way to use connectivity to connect (what a concept).

      That's the world we're in so let's start from there.

      Then let's talk about the world we want. I've lived in a large City which kept the best of what you find in a small town while remaining a large City. That was the Paris of my past in the 1950's. There were elements of that which I think are well worth trying to recapture: a market street, a bakery, a cafe, hardware (general) store, a school, parks, local newspaper, metro stop, churches, micro government within walking distance (fire house, post office, police station, "city" hall). As I write this I realize that many of these elements are still there but it's a chain grocery store, a chain department store- even if I see the same faces there daily we no longer stop and chat. There is no cookie cutter answer but I think we can get to one if we work together....
      • thumb
        Mar 9 2012: I Agree - our "cookie cutter" has to be a new one.
        I think communities will start to become defined by their local energy grid.
        Personal energy needs can be suplimented by rooftop solar collectors - I note that Europe has embraced this idea well in advance of the other continents. Well done!
        I also note that 60% or more of personal energy needs are for heating. So .. solar energy collecred into electricity and then converted to heat is wasteful. Direct energy collection into heat can be done relatively easily using water. Each micro-community should have a solar-smith, as in the past there were blacksmiths. The blacksmith will still be needed. Then we will need a net-smith to take care of our computers and networks. Community energy requirements will call for larger scale energy projects - all with the result of supporting a basic micro-community that is self-contained energy-wise. Of course, a city location precludes full food/water security, certainly it can be supplimented, but some logistics will be needed - but only enough to support redistribution of surplus.
        My alusion to autism comes from being a "smith" - a Scotish one at that. Smith just means "technologist".
        A very high proportion of teh programmers I hired were aspbergers, my own son is autistic the incidence rate has grown from 1/1000 to 1/30 in just 30 years. Attempts to pin this on environmental poisons has failed, genetic predisposition is known, lately, there is evidence that environmental noise is part of it - but the trend could be adaptive .. the major environmental change is cyberspace joining with air and light as a medium through which our senses conduct perception. The old classifications of earth/air/fire/water are now joined with internet - this is a massive environmental change .. everything changes, and we are ill-equiped to deal with it. Well .. us old-style humans anyhow.
        I look forward to seeing what our kids do - best we can do is try to not get in their way.
        • thumb
          Mar 10 2012: I have difficulty with the hobbyist installations of PV that we have here in the States. I believe we really need this to be a Community installation. We have one local business which let's you buy into their solar grid system.


          You lose the tax credit but you gain the clean(er) energy and you don't have to outlay a big wad of cash to get panels on your roof while you wait for a rebate. In fact you don't get panels on your roof at all - you just get the juice.

          There's a big debate locally about a hydroelectric plant. We had one here during the mining days (1890's) and a faction would like to have that rebuilt with modern technology. We have a kayaking faction that's dead set against it- joined by an anti-government spending faction- joined by homeowners who live on the river- joined by fresh water sportsmen. It's never straightforward....

          You've seen Temple Grandin's talk I presume.

        • thumb
          Mar 11 2012: Lisi, when you suggest starting new Mom and Pops with lowered expectations of profit, are you thinking that the decline in Mom and Pops results from the proprietors' having too high an expectation of profit? I had more the impression that these proprietors in many places shut down when they no longer earn the revenues to meet their financial obligations. On the flip side, people will be unlikely to start small businesses which will have higher costs than the larger companies with whom they compete unless they expect to be able to offer enough extra convenience or service that people will want to pay the higher price they would have to charge. If they have something unique to offer that a larger business can replicate less expensively, that would be a high risk business to start, as the larger business may well copy in that regard. For example, large bookstores as well as small offer book clubs, staff recommendations and eateries. The large ones are often located near services that tend not to be offered in small neighborhoods, places where a person can do one stop shopping which offsets the convenience of the more expensive neighborhood version. Busy people like to do their shopping places where they can find variety. To survive as a neighborhood business, what the store needs to offer are aspects of service that cannot be obtained less expensively or more conveniently from elsewhere. Those who might start small neighborhood businesses likely understand this better than most of us, because they have been trying to make it work "on the ground."
          Note everyone loves small businesses, but if they had the actual patronage from their neighbors (which is to say purchasing of their products and services) that would allow the proprietors to pay their bills, we would likely not see them disappearing to the extent that they do. It is not that owners expect too much in profits but that neighbors do not patronize them enough for the proprietors to break even.
      • thumb
        Mar 10 2012: Ziska, several times you have described an image of what you are thinking a community should have- market street, cafe, shops, school, park, metro stop, police station/fire, and so forth. I think you are right that people do flock to live in such places, provided they are either able to get from there to a place of work that gives them adequate income to live there, or they are retired. And where such neighborhoods are few, the housing/rental prices are substantial. So the availability of some sort of employment is vital to support the cost of housing. Beyond this, people need- if they want these small establishments around- to be willing to patronize them in lieu of buying the book or whatever it may be from Amazon instead. Bookshops are a wonderful thing in a neighborhood, a traditional place to which people could walk and see interesting things and people, often without buying anything. But proprietors cannot afford to provide such wonderful community meeting spaces as a public service while people buy their books at the lower price Amazon can charge, with their lower costs.I give this only as an example. We have a well-loved bookstore in the neighborhood, but when it moved in from the place where it had been for its entire history, many of the well-wishers hoping for its success did admit that they love browsing there but buy their books from Amazon.The ease with which people can buy goods at lower prices from larger retailers is one reason that we no longer see the generous sprinkling of Mom and Pop establishments that we used to.In my neighborhood, at least, what seems to be able to sustain itself over the long-run are restaurants, coffee houses, a drug store, and a chain grocery store. The long-running natural food store could not survive once the big grocery stores started offering natural and organic food for less money..
        • thumb
          Mar 10 2012: The feasability of global logistics such as offered by Amazon is set to suffer a big decline over the next few years.
          Transportation costs are reliant on cheap fuels - the remaining fuel supplies have dropped from 1:100 energy investment to less than 1:10 - some say 1:3.
          Long distance transportation will rapidly become limited to things that cannot be produced locally.
          The increasing likelyhood of financial collapse of debt-based money will, in all probablity, precipitate a movement into local currencies and direct barter. Such systems will further reduce the practice of long-distance logistics - presumably gold will become the coin of such logistics.
          Employment will resolve into provision of the goods and services required by communities within walking distance - this will have the affect of de-homogenizing goods back into form-fit-function of practical use - independant of global resources - back to a dependancy on local resources. THis will stimulate work opportunities in local community. e.g. if you can't get plastic shipped in from 1000 miles away, there will be work for those willing to mine the plastic out of land-fills closer to hand.
          AS I see it - it's all going to happen anyway. Being phsychologically prepared for it will make it more of a life challenge than a disaster.
          I have great faith in the ability of community to form-up and face reality in very short timespan - but those communities can not be very big.
          Walking distance is a good measure.
          Prices .. well .. indications are that - how it is now is not how it is going to be in the not too distant future. Even if you had shares in Amazon .. you might find it impossible to sell them if the currency required to sell has no exchange mechanism.
        • thumb
          Mar 10 2012: Fritzie,

          You're absolutely right.

          Our local mom and pops which have survived have done so because they've added value. The Bookstore is a bookstore/cafe with local authors book signings and a space for book clubs in the back (coffee pays the freight). The library has been reinvigorated with librarians teaching computer skills- specifically researching and job search. The clothing store which offers tailoring, the hardware store which delivers, the office supply store which offers in home tech serve, the animal shelter which offers boarding, kibble and classes, the restaurant where they remember your name and your order, all of these have not only survived, they've thrived. Virtuous Circles can work.

          More difficult has been the price of housing and commercial rents.That's where the Vicious Circle sucks everything in. We were awash with Real Estate Agencies until the housing crash- Brokers swallowed every business which didn't own the building. As a result the successful businesses which left due to killing rents moved into the virtual world, lowered their overhead, increased their sales and thrived.

          The biggest losers in this scenario? IMO, The local residents. Property taxes soared- making it impossible for fixed income residents to stay in their homes. At the same time the crash killed the wildest Real Estate gamblers- that left 40 empty commercial spaces in the downtown core. In a town of 6000- that's a chunk. The crash also left many developments half finished. You walk through the West End of town, you walk through a lot of "dark".

          Whole Foods stopped mid pour on the concrete foundation in 2008- they just started up again this fall. Will Whole Foods kill the winter farmer's market? I don't know- I hope not.
        • thumb
          Mar 11 2012: Maybe we would benefit from starting new Mom & Pop businesses. Maybe lowering our expectations of what profit really is??
      • thumb
        Mar 10 2012: Ziska - yes saw the Temple Grandin talk - and a lot of her work. As a responsible parent, one cannot have an autistic child and not become aware of the condition in terms of science and literature at every single level possible. Our research has been exhaustive. THis has yielded a vast amount of knowledge and awareness that most people never get to see. The thing with autism is that it is a spectrum .. and it's not one-dimensional - there are many nuances that exist along the entire continuum that gets called "autism". THe key component in all that is that the child has to demonstrate what he/she is before you know anything at all. Then you have to support and encourage that child accordingly. All stuff you ever heard about child-raising becomes absolute rubbish - and that insight also applies to "normal" children as well. Our parenting now resolves more to "getting out of the kid's way" than "teaching" him.
        This is why I suspect that the rise in autism is an adaptive response - the range covered by the condition seems like a speciulative "casting" to find which bits work better - just exactly as evolution is supposed to work. There may be hope in that.
        With regards to the community power company .. well .. if it's relative to a national grid, it's next to useless untill it becomes a physically defined unit of the grid.
        If all you have is access to "hobyist" collectors - then perhaps you could be buying-up every single little panel you can get from Jaycar or out of garden-lamps or any of the novelty solar doo-dads that are trying to commercialize the thing in the usual cynical exploitive rush to rip each other off. Just get bags of teh things and learn how to hook them up.
        FInd out where there is a data centre nearby - and offer to pay a dollar each for salvage of teh deep-cycle bateries they use for power-backup. THey get replaced every year and still have a couple years left in them, so long as you don't mind the odd one exploding. THey carry 12 volts at 70 watts
        • thumb
          Mar 10 2012: Mitch "Childhoods End" Arthur C. Clarke

          National Grid means something different in the States. Private companies buy and sell power from each other transferred over the "National Grid" which is actually these private companies connected to each other. Locally we have 2 power companies. They, in turn, purchase power from providers (Coal, Solar, Hydroelectric). They purchase at wholesale prices unless you are a provider *and* an end user- then they "purchase" retail- the amount you use and purchase wholesale the extra you produce. The difference between wholesale and retail is .02¢ vs $2.00. This is why large scale PV isn't financially viable in the US without Government rebates. When I say "hobbyists" I refer to private individuals, Institutions and Corporations with sufficient income and power usage to take advantage of the tax rebates and credits. Some local governments have invested in power sources- but no State ones which I know of- and on the Federal level it's limited to incentives- no actual large scale projects. (If anyone else knows of something please do chime in).

          I hold out hope for printing PV cels.


          Hmmm, the dogs don't like it when things explode.
      • thumb
        Mar 10 2012: Thanks for the link!
        That's very encouraging! No estimate on availability though .. we shall see.
        The thing with grids is the infrastructure requied to distribute electricity and the capacity to isolate or join the grids for surplus distribution. What I was suggesting is the "grain-size" of grids relative to walking-distance communities.
        The deep-cycle batteries are brilliant - I once ran a rock band on a single charged battery for 6 hours (before the venue asked us to stop) - and that was using an inverter in-circuit to drive standard AC mains-level power for the equipment - which reduced efficiency. They have been known to explode, but that's a housing issue easily overcome by putting the right kind of box around them.
        I don't like to view things in terms of current debt-currency .. any trick being employed to manipulate subsidies and investment/risk management based on currency is likely to hit problems before too long. Moving debt arround is not preferable to actually doing physical things .. even without new printed photovoltaics, there is much that can be done by just wiring up what is already available.
        THe absolute basis of a neighbourhood is the functional capacity within that neighbourhood - what people can actually do - for things to eat and things to heat and things to keep the rain off your head - not how they shove debt around.
        What I suggest is that much can be done without very much technology or super-niche specialisation. That all the skills and resources we require are already within walking distance.
        My only caveat to that is that the internet is worth keeping - as a repository for our hard-won global knowledge if nothing else. Failing that, books. .. Although, I'd argue for some degree of international connection to keep communities within compatible ideological range of each other.
        I agree that A. C. Clarke was a brilliant man, .. can't remember if I read that one, I read most of his work, but ..in this case, we don't need any aliens ;)
        • thumb
          Mar 10 2012: Watch for Donald Sadoway's talk when it goes on line. It's battery porn.

          I really wonder if economies of scale might be better for energy production. Do we make the grid local also or does that automatically make "energy rich" and "energy poor" regions? Maybe this only works if there is a cheap low tech way to capture and distribute green energy.

          Barter has always been a big part of the rural economy- even in the US. Most people don't talk about it or formalize it because it's taxable. Gifts are also taxable.

          This book by Clarke isn't about aliens- as with all his books (some more than others) it's about *us* and it's one I find particularly pertinent to the internet.
      • thumb
        Mar 10 2012: I look forward to that talk!
        Tax .. yes, well, governments don't like grassroots things because they are difficult to tax.
        Electricity does not transport very well, the economy of scale is quickly lost.
        Also - most the electrical appliances we use do not require 110 or 240 volts. The power is "stepped-down" using transformers and losing efficiency in the process.
        Large voltages are needed for electric cooking, refrigeration and stuff that needs 4-horsepower motors.
        The existence of power lines already in place needs only have some isolation switches placed to define neighborhoods (already does) .. just add to that some local power capture and administer the switching to "even-out" power rich/poor. for the purposes of large AC voltage needs. Disconnect the common 12-volt DC apliances (with transformers removed) and have domestic grids - or even single household supply for them. It's not a huge or particularly expensive thing to do.
        With economies of scale .. well, most of what we call economy relies on cost savings which yield micro benefit within massive corporate ledgers. I think Jesus called it "gleaning the field" and results in high-risk supply-chain inventory. It is a sign that all is not well - that the operating abundance is too close to reversal into scarcity.
        I have grave concerns about currency and the power it exerts over the participants. THere is a better way to do trade - I suspect that involves electricity or potential-energy - as it stands, money is potential-agency .. agency and energy are not the same thing, agency requires energy, but energy does not require agency .. having a meta currency makes it disconnect with reality. A neighborhood community can trade in potential energy in the form of collected electricity and food. For larger community projects, the neighborhood could keep an "energy bank" to procure capital equipment and macro services from other communities.
        I will find the book and re-read it.
      • thumb
        Mar 11 2012: @Fritzie,
        What most people don't see in the phenomenon of large-scale retail is that these companies do not make their profits from sales. They are actually not retailers - they are cash-speculators.
        A big retailer will settle payment for supply on 30 to 90 day accounts, however, the cash coming in through customers is instant. This means, that at any point in time there will be millions, or billions sitting in the operating account waiting 30 to 90 days for settlement. In effect, they are getting interest free loans from the suppliers. THey then take that enormous cash pool and invest it in short-term-yield investments - usually the short-term money market. They need only get a fraction of a percent on each trade, but that quickly becomes a large percentage over the fiscal year. No small retail operation can compete with that because they have to make profit on sales.
        It is true that prices have been reduvced by big retail operations - but it is all at teh expense of the suppliers - just ask any of these suppliers and they will tell you how badly they are being screwed.
        And it's all just a trick - a loophole in money-as-debt - it produces dividends for shareholders without adding a single iota of value to the community.
        If we return to energy trade instead of agency trade, this loophole would close - prices would rise to the true cost of production and distribution instead of being ripped out of the general value pool of the community..
      • thumb
        Mar 12 2012: Thanks once again for the link ZIska!
        You see how Donald Sadoway's liquid metal bateries will come into play?
        WHat they all seem to miss is that the real power revolution will be driven bottom-up.
        Everyone's attention is still stuck in the "baseload" model. THey all assume that these massive suppliers are the "economic" solution with large companies concentrating all the wealth into the hands of a few shareholders .. but hang-on, there will be no "economic" in a few years as the fiat currency system collapses.
        From what I can gather, Donald Sadoway's batteries are scaleable. With today's grid patterns, you will find that neighborhood grid-cells are defined by big stepdown transformers which convert the baseload voltages (10 to 40kvolts) to the domestic 110 volt supplies.
        These transformers could easily be paired with neighborhood-scaled Sadoway batteries. The batteries could be charged by neighborhood grassroots solar/wind collectors and only "topped-up" if the demand exceeds the supply. But that top-up supply would have to be made costly in order to encourage energy efficiency within the neighborhood. Perhaps the grid cells should be permanently isolated to force each neighborhood to consider it's own backup - e.g. diesel, gas or wood-fired steam generators. Wood-fired steam generators can also be run on garbage - thus solving another problem.
        The more I think about it, the more desirable neighborhood community becomes.
        But there is one very important thing that needs to be ingested by our sick, out of control society - usury must become recognised for the evil it is. Charging interest on energy must become an offense punishable by public humiliation. The future is fueled by abundance - taking any percentage on that abundance leaches value from the future of the community into the pockets of the usurer - it has to stop.
      • thumb
        Mar 13 2012: Ziska,

        I have to admit that the whole TED experience for me takes me way beyond my comfort zone - but I have to tell it as it is.

        All this virtue-vice dichotemy seem a little artificial to me now - I could wish that evrythign was as clean-cut as my old existence seemed to be. But it's not.
        I keep coming back .. being forced to come back to a whole bunch of wisdom that came from times when the thinkers had so much less to deal with.
        We see that simplicity as banal these days - to our detriment.
        Nothing has really changed.
        All I can add, is that there is a world of difference between what an individual directly percieves and all the second-hand perception that threatens to overwhelm us .. it's really hard to maintain a present identity in all the noise.
        We are so in-love with our social capacity and all the benefits it brings. But we are bad at understanding how hopelessly inadeqate we are at coping with what we have created.
        THe bottom-up approach returns us to our capacity - our "sweet-spot" where we can function as we are - not what we imagine ourselves to be.
        The "neighborhood principle" gives us some space to gain traction again - so we can move forward.
        We've been spinning our wheels in the slippery bog of our own narcisism for hundreds of years.

        Time to just be.

        From that - all things arise - all wisdom, all progress, all being.

        But first .. each and every one of us must stop.

        And start agian.

        Pick up from the simple insights of simple paople .

        And admit .. at last ..

        We are simply people.
  • thumb
    Mar 8 2012: I used to work as a staffer for our City Council- 15 years ago, so I know about Council meetings. I liked in Pahika's talk how she stressed collaboration rather than taking a seat of comfortable, but ultimately unproductive, complaint. It's a myth that most of those who work for government, or decisionmakers in government, pursue personal interest rather than the public interest. The problems of running cities are simply more complex than sometimes meets the eye.
  • thumb
    Mar 8 2012: I believe I have a distorted view of the challenges in this, because where I live, places that use volunteers tend to have more people offering to volunteer than they can accomodate for their projects. The only exceptions are "one shot" opportunities, like cleaning up after a one time event. Where I live, people are interviewed for openings to volunteer as if they are being interviewed for a job- sometimes through multiple interviews.I think multiple factors draw people to volunteering. One is to be part of something larger than themselves and another is to feel part of a community. My hypothesis, then, is that people would be more easily drawn to activities that give them a continuing connection to a group and in a capacity where they feel valued. People do not feel valued just because someone thanked them. People feel valued if they can see the outcome of what they have done and feel what they did was not simply menial- what no one else would have wanted to do. I think having an opportunity to do meaningful things in the community would ameliorate the understandable frustrations of youth and the unemployed and the sense of a life gone by that retired or elderly people may have. There is a bit of a sense of their being some people in the center of life and others watching from the outside when it seems that the interesting work and volunteer opportunities- opportunities to make a difference- are in the hands of some people but not available to others.
    • thumb
      Mar 8 2012: Jen Pahlka's talk has just gone online and it's the one which inspired me to post the question.

      Jennifer Pahlka: Coding a better government

      "Adopt a fire-hydrant" IMO is just brilliant. It makes volunteering easy.
      • thumb
        Mar 8 2012: Thanks. I needed a break anyway and watched it. I had thought these adopt-a-street, adopt-a-highway, adopt-a-park programs were already part of the generic city toolkit. I have never known, though, how these programs were organized so that people would know which were available to adopt. There are so many vehicles city givernments use to communicate with neighborhoods, both in public meetings, through neighborhood papers, and online. I had assumed these evolved through the public meetings but I had never looked more closely. Now I will.
        • thumb
          Mar 8 2012: Great! Stay optimistic- even in a City Council Meeting. (It can be challenging.) Bring back the good ideas you hear. Every toolkit is different.
  • Comment deleted

    • thumb
      Mar 8 2012: A mile square, 157 people, a post office, a cafe, we're getting to a real blueprint here.....
      • Comment deleted

        • thumb
          Mar 9 2012: LOL! Well,in Colorado we would drive 200 miles to "stock up" for winter. That's after we did a lot of canning. A few neighbors made a home brew which was memorable.

          In Paris we went to the market every day. We didn't have refrigeration so we had to go every day and then we'd "keep" the perishables in a chicken wire box outside the window . I didn't realize till recently how much produce was actually grown inside the city limits of Paris. Eliot Coleman's excellent book on Winter Harvest goes into detail about getting 4 crops a year using methods developed for Paris City farming.
  • Comment deleted

    • thumb
      Mar 8 2012: 150, that sounds like a good number. What was in your town (if you don't mind my asking)? Did you have a soda fountain? I was a soda jerk for awhile, talk about meeting your neighbors.

      The neighborhood in Paris was so small my mom got a letter once addressed to "Mrs. Childs, Paris France"

      What made those small neighborhoods even in large cities? What connected those 150-200 people together and how can we develop that into current city planning? Is there an app for that?
  • thumb
    Mar 8 2012: I don't have a specific proposal in mind! I think one thing that makes a place not a community is when individuals have no reason to extend their presence or effort beyond their home, work, and car. Particularly during challenging economic times, it doesn't work to say that people who want to connect can go to the coffee shop. Ideally elderly people would have a way of feeling useful in the community, unemployed people would find something that felt worthwhile to do while they look for work, and people who go to a job outside the neighborhood would not just come home and stay in all the time. It is useful if people who want to volunteer could find something to volunteer at in the community as part of a team of members of the community. This might be raising a structure, building a playground, doing public art, a network of people who visit people who are shut in, being helpful to people who traverse the neighborhood, working in the neighborhood, of course, shelving books at the library, supervising a playground, those with skills helping those without...
    • thumb
      Mar 8 2012: "I think one thing that makes a place not a community is when individuals have no reason to extend their presence or effort beyond their home, work, and car." I couldn't agree more. Most people would say they're at their limit taking care of their home, their work and their family.

      Volunteerism is certainly a way become a member of a community. Community gardens, concerts, schools, sports, spiritual gatherings, shared activities these are all ways to bring people together. How do we encourage all this in City 2.0?
  • Comment deleted

    • thumb
      Mar 8 2012: That seems to promote isolation instead of a neighborhood.
      • Comment deleted

        • thumb
          Mar 8 2012: Let me tell you about the security system on many blocks in Brooklyn. There's a stoop- there's a group of old women on the stoop- or a group of old men on the stoop. They talk to each other all day long. They observe what happens on the block. They know the names of all the children and all the parents. They know who lives in which house. They talk to people passing by. They know when someone doesn't belong and they know when someone is loitering in a suspicious manner. People look after each other. That, IMO, is security.
  • Comment deleted

    • thumb
      Mar 8 2012: Dean,

      Help me out here and make the connection. Do you mean neighborhood watches?
      • Comment deleted

        • thumb
          Mar 8 2012: My dogs know who's a friend and who's a stranger. Their "territory" varies. If I'm on a city sidewalk it's about a 5' diameter circle. If I'm in an apartment it's the other side of the front door. If I'm on a ranch it's as far as they can see. If I'm in a car- well forget about it- they're nuts in a car. Overall they're pretty good security. They can be friendly- or not- their attitude changes with mine and with the attitude of the people around them.

          A neighborhood - or a security zone - can vary according to the space you're in. I think we can design spaces which promote both.
  • thumb
    Mar 8 2012: There are strategies for local governments from the top end, strategies for individuals at the most grassroots level, and strategies for institutions like colleges and museums. One piece of this ought to be finding ways to give a range of people in the neighborhood a role in tthings. I am thinking of Paul Farmer's complaint that the aid to Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake involved lots of non-profits coming in as white knights to do things in a way that did nothing to promote or leverage the latent capabilities of those who live there.What I feel stands between the present and a reasonable vision of the integrated community/neighborhood is that there are some people or cohorts who have a meaningful role but there is often a failure to recognize that the way to make a community is for those who want a role to have a way of finding a meaningful place for themselves rather than looking in wistfully from the outside. Organizations that seek to be builders often telegraph a message that says "get involved," but the "get involved" is about giving money or soliciting donations.People in a neighborhood need meaningful roles that help them own the neighborhood together.People become commited to things they are creating.
  • thumb
    Mar 7 2012: I know I had that neighborhood in my childhood- in Paris. There are cities within the city (arrondisements) and each neighborhood had it's market, it's general store, it's clothing stores, it's repair shops, it's newstands, it's bakeries, it's cafe (we all lived in the cafes because there we had heat in the winter and cool drinks in the summer). Everything was in walking distance. I walked home from the metro after school- I picked up the bread hot from the oven for dinner (two loaves- because one never made it home). Sometimes I would meet mom at the cafe at the metro stop and we sat at the cafe before going home. The same was true in the States- I would stop at the grocery store on the way back from school and pick up what we needed for dinner and charge it to the family account. The grocer knew me and my family- as did the gas station owner, the restaurant owner, the pharmacist. I saw the same people on my walk to and from school each day- we greeted each other. I could say the same of the West Village in New York.

    None of these were wealthy neighborhoods when I lived there. Now they are very exclusive and expensive. In that exclusiveness they have lost some of their heart. Now the schools are outside the city, the market is gone from my old Paris neighborhood, the bakers have their bread trucked in instead of baking on site, there are no family charge accounts at the grocery and when I walk down the street I seldom see people who know me or whom I know.

    My online community is rich and I value it highly but I miss the neighborhood. I feel our Cities are losing something extremely valuable and we are the poorer for it.

    I believe we can plan *for* neighborhoods and encourage them. The question is: "How?"
    • Comment deleted

      • thumb
        Mar 8 2012: Let's take a step back into City Planning- just for the sake of discussion.

        Why did Socrates pick the Agora? I think it's possible he picked it because that's where the people were. The people were there to buy bread. City planning can promote community and it can promote the neighborhood. It can also kill community and kill the neighborhood.