Sunday, June 10, 2012

Urbanism in a community development context

Urbanism means "making cities better". Design is just one of the issues in building stronger cities:

Social Capital: Supporting emergent leaders. We need to understand how leadership emerges from communities, learn how to support it, and how to make room in the decision making process for emergent leaders.

Culture: Building a culture of inclusion.  Cities consist of many overlapping cultures, which left to themselves tend toward separation and conservation. Healthy change requires an active common culture that engages the social ethos of each group to support the rights and needs of all.

Local Economy: Creating livelihoods. We need to reach deeper into the buy local movement to create new manufacturing and value-added enterprises, and support infrastructure like distribution and marketing. Many of these will be social entrepreneurships with triple-bottom-line charters.

Local Politics: Decentralizing the decision-making process.  We need to give local councils more meaningful roles in local government, especially in planning and public works.

Human Capital: Increasing personal capacity. Most workforce programs are overly focused on job skills training.  We need to recognize the immense productive potential of individuals, and support personal development and household stability much more broadly.

Built Environment: Restoring the public realm. Smart growth principles have become mainstream, but most of our cities' neighborhood centers are still neglected and dominated by automobiles. We need to raise residents' expectations for these places, and make a significant commitment of public resources.