TED Conversations

Ziska Childs

Freelancer, united scenic artists


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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?


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    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.
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      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).
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      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.
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      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 !
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        Mar 23 2012: Bernd, That's a great link- thanks very much!
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          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.

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