Organizational Capacity Building

Candace LaRue and Associates

#nei2012 Building Urban Local Economies from the Ground up

on June 9, 2012

WOW this one was fast!

Building Urban Local Economies from the Ground Up
Mary Rowe, David Boyle, and Anne Tate

Anne from RISD

Urban Eden: how do we build resilient, sustainable, beautiful cities? Building a Partnership with Nature for the 21st Century.

There are many things we know how to do, but are not yet doing. Historically, Americans tend to think of nature as wilderness – an “other” thing, there are three concepts – the wilderness, the city, and middle landscapes (sometimes called pastoral). The ideal is cultivated, inhabited, manupulative, productive, and managed. What has been created is wasteful, resource-intensie, low density suburban sprawl.

What comes after the end of nature? There is still no paradigm for what we have when the “wild” nature is gone. There needs to be a more grown up way of thinking about nature that acknowledges how we have changed nature.


“we need to live in cities if we are going to save nature.” — why?

There is a need to shift goals from the highest and best use ($$), one-time value extraction, and private property value. The new goals should be about unique value of a particular place, long term productive capacity, and community value.

In water, there needs to be a shift from protect the material of the city from water, rain, snow, and floods; protecting individuals from water; minimizing the impact of the weather. Nw goals are how to harvest the rain, helping people adapting to weather and keep doing their activities, and celebrate its qualities, ecological, sensory, and theatrical.

There are also goals shifting in food, movement, energy and power, and design goals. With food, the old goals are maximizing supplier’s profit, minimizing the consumer’s inconvenience, and securing year round access.

Wow this presentation was fast! I will try to access the PowerPoint to add to this post.

She finishes with a vision of what the city could be like from her new book.

David Boyle – from NEF

Building Urban local economies from the ground up.

There is a campaign called “Ghost Town Britain” from 2003-2004 – things start to go down slowly in terms of losing small institutions, but then there is a tipping point and all of a sudden changes go much quicker. Likewise, richer communities seem to all look the same because of corporate interests driving economic activity, sometimes called “cloned towns.”

Three points:

– assets are more than monetary
– small scale can be productive
– green cities have a different shape

There is a leaky bucket of monetary assets, and an open question is how to keep money in the community for longer. The assets are often in communities already, but they need to be circulated and used for more efficient projects.

William Cobbet is quoted as a British radical who noted the productivity of small scale growers. The sentiment was echoed in Country Life in 1917.

These points relate to the importance of local pride – the ability of individuals to make things happen, and the value of local distinctiveness.

Green cities have a different shape. Cities in Britain are incredibly dense cities, and there needs to be creative adaptation of cities to improve sustainability.

Mary Rowe from Municipal Art Society of New York

Building Local Urban Economies from the Ground Up

“Cities” and “jobs” barely appear in the program for this organization. This society is fundamentally anti-urban, and “the answer is in cities.”. If we do not start to meet the bulk of the population where they are, then it will not become a serious conversation. Language we use about city is always about “fixing” the cities. Cities are inherently “fabulous” – they are where innovation occur. She was influenced by Jane Jacobs.

enabling self-organization

New Orleans is an example of a city organically rebuilding itself after disaster. Feedback loops are how self-organization happens – fixing leaky buckets is about collecting the feedback loops. People demonstrated resilience and established beacons of home. There are hubs with tight links, which are then linked by loose links.

Some examples of networked economy to use resources efficiently and tighten up excess capacity – United States of Craigslist, AirBnB, loose cubes, Picture the Homeless and analyzing vacant space, Metcalf foundation

notes from questions:

“the tendency is to start with training, but then there are no jobs. So start with the jobs that can be made available instead” – example of Evergreen co-ops in Cleveland

The problem may not be at there is no entrepreneurial spirit, but that the social networks are not bringing the potential entrepreneurs together – see Biz Fizz


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