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January 22, 2008

« The Poor and the Mobile | Main | The Hidden Election »

Over at the New American City blog, Hayley Richardson writes about some things she learned spending time in New Hampshire during this primary election season:

We fill up coffeeshops with jagged haircuts and laptops, we keep boutiques in business and performance houses booked solid. We ride bikes, we do art –sort of. But the question asked of me over and over again by New Hampshirites was a fair one; what am I doing in Philadelphia to better my community? An astounding number of quality of life issues are decided at the local level, yet I was forced to admit that I don’t know the names of my neighborhood council members, have never been to a city council meeting. This post isn’t about the political apathy of my generation; that subject has certainly been exhausted. What I’m more concerned with is how to harness the power of the so-called creative class to make a difference that transcends the aesthetic.

Amen!  I agree wholeheartedly with the post, and will gladly attest that I surely am not a "messiah" of any sort.

Note to Hayley: This is exactly what the last chapter of Rise asserts.  In Flight I argue for a new model of pro-active inclusion where people plug in and communities massively lower the barriers for participation.  It's also what a good deal of our practical work with communities has tried to do, by building teams of empowered catalysts who can plug into local efforts and act as a spur to broader community wide participation. And, if you're looking for models of how to spur real change at the local level by tapping into broad based community energy have a look at what's happening here in Toronto.

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Comments

The City Gal

Richard,

This may be rather irrelevant to this post, but when I was reading The Rise, I kept asking myself if prosperity (in the context of talent management in a creative economy) has any relationship with the size of a community (city/country). (I have posted more of such ramblings on my weblog)

When I hear the word prosperity, many European countries come to my mind. It is their size? Is smaller necessarily more beautiful? (Referring to the classic book "Small is Beautiful"). Naturally, my profession (environmental management) imposes a bias on how I view economy, and for a long time, there has been a popular school of thought that smaller systems are more environmentally sustainable (much smaller foot-print) than large centrally-managed systems. In the light of the potential energy crisis in the 21st century, many people draw parallels between environmental sustainability and economic prosperity. Is it simply the case that smaller countries have better potential for prosperity in the 21st century?

Michael R. Bernstein

Richard, the link at the end of your post is incorrect.

Shawn Micallef

Engage citizens in Toronto is a huge reason why we were able to start, and continue, Spacing Magazine here. Without that active community -- something that's been going on in Toronto for 40 years now -- to tap into, we'd have likely withered on the usual vine like many other good ideas. That tradition of engagement in this city is easy to take for granted.

RF

Shawn - Thank you. I love spacing. That's exactly the vein I am trying to talk about. Why do so many other places have so much trouble tapping? Ah, the squelchers as Jane Jacobs called them. I am going to try to get some students and colleagues working on identifying and detailing the attributes of what I might be so bold as to call the Toronto model. Engagement is at its core and you know that's a two-way street.

Michael Wells

Wow, I didn't know about Spacing. The website is great, I'll have to see about getting the mag. What's the cost to subscribe/get back issues from Oregon?

And I suspect Spacing is an inspiration for the new Portland Spaces, which promises to shake up publishing in this part of the world.
http://www.portlandspaces.net/

Check out this interview with Ziba Design founder/CEO Sohrab Vossoughi, an immigrant of course, about Portland's creative class.
http://www.portlandspaces.net/blog/the-burnside-blog/2008/1/12/ziba-founder-waxes-on-creative-portland

RF

Interesting dialogue between "nodes." At a little meeting yesterday in Toronto and the discussion was about cutting edge places, and someone shot back. "In the U.S., it's Portland ..."

Shawn Micallef

Michael> We've chatted with the City Repair people from Portland before who do wonderful things, and even showed their video at one of our events at the Drake Hotel. And also a few years ago we met with a woman from the City Club (is that the name?) -- that group of folks who get together to talk about the city -- sort of arms length from gov't but quasi-official?

And if you go here, you can indeed order back issues (some are sold out though):

http://spacing.ca/buy.htm

RF> When I've given talks about Toronto here and abroad I've mentioned that network of active and engage citizens, and speculated (wondered, more accurately) how an uptight WASPy provincial backwater became the city it is today. Some obvious factors are the huge influx of creative liberal thought with the American draft dodgers (a new wave of U.S. mobile "refugees" have come again in recent years), Pearson/Trudeau opening the country to immigration that largely settled in cities, the intact neighbourhoods that survived... Though perhaps it was that WASP foundation that acted when things seemed to be going wrong (small things first) that started things off. Protestant resolve, or something.

But a proper study of this phenomenon would be really great. It's likely one of the under rated things about Toronto that could be exported.

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