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 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

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