This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Why is this so hard? It's complicated and it's complex but that's OK

The Economic Intelligence Unit, which did the research on Liveable cities | BUSINESS RESEARCH for the Philips Company, also did research on complexity in the business world (featured here at the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki) focusing on the shift businesses are going through on a global basis, transitioning from the industrial age to the information age. This is seen as a change evolving from being formal structured bureaucratic rule bound organizations based on policies and processes to ones more based on a networks of collaboration among individuals. The key word is transformation in terms of cause but the key result is complexity.  It was the conclusion of the Economic Intelligence Unit that this is one of the major challenges for businesses in the twenty-first century.

Can the same be said of public institutions and if so are they up to the challenge? People are more likely to think of government as being more bureaucratic than business, but there may not be an internal recognition by government institutions for the need to change which means that without outside influence it will never come. With businesses it comes down to adapting to ensure a chance to survive, for local governments it may come down to maintaining the politically convenient status quo and an opportunity for needed change that is ignored.

This challenge can also apply to community-based governance by members of the community. This is the biggest challenge to an effort to create new community paradigms for a community.  The members of the community will either depend upon information which is feed to them by City Hall and interact through a process that is largely defined by City Hall or it will develop its own resources and uses its influence to guide City Hall.

There has been an unstated assumption throughout the posts of this blog that City Hall has failed to adequately address the need for an economically and environmentally sustainable and livable community. That is obviously not going to be true for all cities and the degree to which it is will be different from city to city.  In some cases the effort will find a willing partner and the collaboration will create a new more expansive form of community governance.  In other cases there will be push back from the incumbent institutional government.  The key issue is whether City Hall truly represents the community as a whole or only special interests or privileged key community members.  If it is the later, then there are pathways that can be taken to weaken and subsequently disrupt that control in a sustained and innovative manner.   These will be explored in the future.

In deciding to form one's own community paradigms, it is very important to keep in mind that complexity is different than complicated. Transversing government institutions themselves will be complicated but the issues they deal with are instead complex.  Embracing complexity as a pathway to new community paradigms can lead to an actual greater simplicity in dealing with the community challenges. This aspect of community paradigms will need to be revisited but for now here is a short TED video by Eric Berlow: How complexity leads to simplicity.

Community groups organized around a principle of community paradigms have some advantages over entrenched incumbent city governments.  The move to globally networked connections is easier for individuals working in community groups than for governments. This still leaves though a number of questions that will need to be addressed.

Do our existing political organizational structures bring an increased level of complexity for community members who have to navigate them to the same degree as what the report spoke to for businesses? According to the report, a majority of firms have an inherent organizational structure that may be adding to the complexity faced by the organization. If the same is true for our governmental institutions or the political processes supporting those institutions, how is this to be addressed?

Of particular significance, the report says that the challenges of complexity cannot be addressed from a top down approach for businesses, calling for the empowerment of employees. How much more applicable is this then to the empowerment of citizens centered on a common communal task or community principle through a process of direct deliberative democracy?

The report recognizes that the single biggest cause of business complexity is greater expectation by the customer. This also applies to the public sector as people often see themselves as consumers of government service rather than having any meaningful role in its planning or policy determination. This blog takes and encourages an alternative perspective.

So far this blog has had three posts to talk about community paradigms and creating livable cities and it has only touched the surface of these issues. Ok, we are talking about creating communities or more to the point finding ways of changing the paradigms that define our communities. We are talking about what we want our communities to provide us including a proactively healthy place to live and not one that just doesn't kill us too quickly. We also talked about how economics will play a significant role in defining how we bring this about.  All of this means talking about how we change our current form of local community governance.

We alluded to other components of creating new community paradigms though we didn't speak about them explicitly. One is the role of usually non-governmental or quasi-governmental organizations that work to redefine one aspect or another towards creating community paradigms. A number of these are currently listed in the right hand column of this blog under PARTICIPATION, PLANNING & POLICY. These will be replaced over time by the new Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki.

These are resources that can be utilized in creating new community paradigms. We have also featured online tools that can be used to create change. One example was Healthy City at, another was the Vimeo video which explained How to use Healthy City California. These components work together as these organizations are accessible online and are the ones who created the community based tools that can be used by anyone willing to put in the effort. A number of other online community-based tools are listed on the right hand column of this blog under TECHTOOLS FOR GOVERNANCE.

Another important question is whether these technical solutions are really fostering community inclusion effectively? Businesses are focusing on technological solutions to tackle complexity but for businesses though technology in itself is not seen as one of the major sources of complexity. How this works for community-based governance still needs to be explored more fully. This leaves us with the still pressing question that will be the continuing focus of this blog. In a complex world where and how do we find opportunities to create value as and for our communities?

Collaborating to Create Healthy Cities

This is third of the first three posts of this new blog. Its mission as stated below the masthead is to help others in defining new community paradigms for themselves. "Paradigms" is one of those words not used much in everyday conversation. Here, the objective is to find means of expanding beyond everyday thinking and discovering new ways of creating our communities. That is going to take some time. It will not be accomplished in a few posts. In this post, we are still digging deeper and finding new avenues for creating new community paradigms.

In the first post, A Beginning: Working to create Liveable Cities through Liveanomics | EIU BUSINESS RESEARCH I wrote about some government staff, consultants and officials being able to quickly get to "no". It was a caution, not a guiding principle. Local government should be the focal point of inclusion in the process to achieve the best results. Sometimes local government needs help to get away from the "no" to finding new solutions, sometimes it needs a kick in the pants. First though try finding with whom you can work and ways of getting to "yes".

I do not write about any particular city for which I worked directly or had dealings with to avoid any conflicts, but I know from my own experience that if as a government worker you have a knowledgeable, dedicated, independent and engaged community group which with to work it makes the job all the more meaningful.

I raise this point because, in the last post, Healthy Cities make for Livable Communities we began discussing what a Healthy City is and gave an example of one community building tool that was not government based but created by an organization dedicated to civil rights. This type of outside influence will remain an important source of the creation of new community paradigms but far more can be done if the local government is on your side. To build a livable city through the use of Healthy Cities type programs is best done with local government playing a major role.

Better yet would be if you as the community members saw yourselves as an active component of the local government and fully understand that this means more than just being the consumers of government but its producers as well. Whatever approach is taken working from the inside or the outside, a guiding principle for making this work as a community is taking a collaborative approach to addressing important issues.

What are the collaborative methods governments can use to incorporate the concepts of Healthy Cities into their planning and decision-making process? This goes beyond the currently prevalent focus of city governments on environmental concerns. It requires recognizing that there is a definite need for action as the statistics on chronic disease become ever more alarming. It argues that both the planning and health professions need to come together in a substantive way to deal with creating healthier, age-friendly communities. This will be a challenge to both our planning systems and health approach in fundamental ways. The objective of this effort is to pioneer a new interface between health and planning.

In the previous post, we talked about the World Health Organization's (WHO) definition of what is meant by a Healthy City. WHO also has a global healthy cities project.

The Healthy Cities movement promotes comprehensive and systematic policy and planning for health and emphasizes
  • the need to address inequality in health and urban poverty
  • the needs of vulnerable groups
  • participatory governance
  • the social, economic and environmental determinants of health.

This is not about the health sector only. It includes health considerations in economic, regeneration and urban development efforts.

As stated before, these are factors that all communities can aspire to around the world. What is need are tools to implement these goals. One tool is a Health Impact Assessment (HIA), which as defined by WHO is a means of assessing the health impacts of policies, plans and projects in diverse economic sectors using quantitative, qualitative and participatory techniques.

Health Impact Assessment is similarly defined by the United States CDC Health impact assessment (HIA) is commonly defined as “a combination of procedures, methods, and tools by which a policy, program, or project may be judged as to its potential effects on the health of a population, and the distribution of those effects within the population” (1999 Gothenburg consensus statement,

This definition of HIA is related directly to the WHO definition and demonstrates a global network of cooperation to which communities starting to build their own systems can tap into. Local issues for example transportation can use national studies such as CDC's policy statement on transportation and health.

In the State of Kansas, they used a Community Toolbox, a public service of the University of Kansas, to create HIAs as a way of connecting health impacts to the community from development projects.

Some communities approach to establishing healthy living in the built environment goes beyond a Health Impact Assessment exercise which means being even more proactive than reactive. Some communities in California are now including a Health and Wellness Elements in the General Plans required by California State law.

The city of Richmond, California was one of the first cities in the United States to develop a comprehensive general plan element that addressed the link between public health and community design. A full profile on this effort is available from the Prevention Institute of Oakland, CA and more information can be found at the Healthy Cities blog.

An initial step in the process is to form a community-based Health and Wellness Advisory Committee that helps scope and direct the nature of the element. It is important to conduct several community meetings to ensure the element is responding to the needs and concerns of each individual community.

The experience of many who of have done this before demonstrates that these types of programs are more effective when worked through with both professionals and stakeholders who then understand the rationale of the underlying concepts and are better able to apply them.

The City of El Monte, California, with support and coordination with the PLACE Program out of Los Angeles County's Public Health Department, was able to create a thorough approach to achieving a healthy community.

The work does not stop there, though, there is a continuing need to measure and assess. The City of San Francisco has available the Healthy Development Measurement Tool, a tool to guide Health Impact Assessments for development projects. GP RED from Lafayette, Colorado is continuing to develop a "Healthy Communities Surveillance and Management Toolkit (pdf) that can help communities go through a process of convening and engaging the community, staff, and stakeholders to create a warrant for agency action, conduct an inventory and assessment (similar to an HIA but targeted), project outcomes, create an action plan, and again, continue conducting monitorings and evaluations.

These are only some examples out there that community groups interested in creating their own new community paradigms can tap into. Each can be studied more in depth. While it is obvious that this is not something that one can do alone, it should also be obvious that one does not need to. There are help and resources available out there.  These resources and more are being made available on the Healthy Cities wiki page under Livable Communities of the New Community Paradigms Wiki.

Healthy Cities make for Livable Communities

As promised in the previous post, this post will drill down into one of the components of livable communities and better define is what is a Healthy City? Professor Jan Gehl spoke about Healthy Cities in his closing keynote "Cities for People" featured in the previous post.

While this blog is based in the San Gabriel Valley of California, it is committed to looking beyond that for inspiration. The World Health Organization provides a global setting for a Healthy City.

A healthy city is one that is continually creating and improving those physical and social environments and expanding those community resources which enable people to mutually support each other in performing all the functions of life and developing to their maximum potential.

In this aspect different parts of the world want the same thing, all of us want to live in a Healthy City. The question is how to bring that about for our own communities. There are a number of pathways available.

One resource available in our local area is Healthy City at an information + action resource that unites community voices, rigorous research and innovative technologies to solve the root causes of social inequity. The first of its kind in the country, our team consists of authorities in public policy, research, technology and data analysis. We provide actionable information such as data, maps, and service referrals through our easy-to-use online platform. Healthy City also partners directly with organizations to develop targeted strategies that fuel social change. Here is a link to a short video explanation of what Healthy City is about. A longer and more in depth webinar is available here HealthyCity Introductory Webinar (wiki page/heads up video starts up right away)

This blog will also be featuring other online resources for creating new community paradigms. Here is one on How to use Healthy City California from Cassidy Friedman on Vimeo which was designed to help San Franciscans see how Healthy City can be used to research trends in their community. Healthy City is also featured on the Economic Development in San Gabriel Valley + World Facebook page.

This still leaves the question as to how did come about? In this particular case it was not a governmental entity that created the HealthyCity initiative. The people behind it are the Advancement Project. A public policy change organization rooted in the civil rights movement. More on them here - Who We Are | Advancement Project California. So it is possible to create something without government, though they should be made a partner if possible. All of these resources and more are being made available on the Healthy City wiki page under Livable Communities of the New Community Paradigms Wiki.

This post provides resources showing what is possible if you make use of web based tools to help you make your community healthy and in turn more livable.  It demonstrates how people have taken steps to implement these resources in their own community. It also though raises a number of issues. Where do you find programs to help with this effort? What other organizations are out there to help? What other issues are there to be concerned with besides economics discussed in the first post and health discussed in this one? Does local government have any programs for Health Cities? Most importantly, the question as to how to start on the path of creating a new community paradigm has not really been addressed.

The last question will take the most time for this blog, but the second to last, " Does local government have any programs for Health Cities?"  will be the topic of the next post.

A Beginning: Working to create Liveable Cities through Liveanomics | EIU BUSINESS RESEARCH

In beginning to try to define new paradigms for our communities, we need some idea as to what it is that we are attempting to create.

On the surface that is not that hard. We all want the same basic things at a minimum - to have enough food to eat, to be free from disease, to be able to educate our children. There are other goals that many would add to this list as being as essential, such as ensuring a healthy environment in which to live, access to maternal care and other health providers. Markets that provide for the products we seek without exploiting others or the environment. Then we want to be able to improve our lives beyond that minimum standard.

It seems straight forward enough but what this basically comes down to is trying to create what are being called "livable communities". It is a term that calls for a new word in the English language. It would be the opposite of oxymoron which is two words that don't logically seem to go together like jumbo shrimp. Livable communities seems absurdly obvious and even redundant, of course all communities should be livable, all our communities are livable, we have lived here for decades.  Yet, in many ways our communities are not livable in the fullest sense.

For the professionals in the field this approach may seem naively simplistic, even paternalistic but this blog is not geared toward them. It is targeted toward someone without experience and only minimal knowledge of economic or community development. Someone who is just getting the notion that they could make make a better and more fully livable community and wants to start taking the necessary steps to do so.

To talk about creating livable communities from a grassroots level we need to go further in our definition. One online definition says that livable communities are:

Communities that provide and promote civic engagement and a sense of place through safe, sustainable choices for a variety of elements that include housing, transportation, education, cultural diversity and enrichment and recreation.

This definition includes a number of different aspects, housing, transportation, etc. It is not that different from the same list of basic minimum things we all want in life mentioned above. Clearly, creating something such as this is not something anyone can do by themselves. There will be a need for professionals in these fields. There will need to have government officials involved in some capacity as well. Most importantly, there will be a need for other people who are also willing to be educated and to work toward this.

It is the last group that is the most important. Professionals and politicians can sometimes be a hinderance in creating livable communities because it is far easier for them to get to the no as in 'no, we can't afford it' or 'no, we never did it that way'.

As was said, creating a livable community means bringing together a number of elements but all of them have an economic component to them in common. Despite my last statement concerning professionals and the word no, I will be emphasizing the economics component of my economic development background on these pages. In the world we face after the financial mess created in the first part of this century, it will be the economic challenges that will be the most daunting in trying to create livable communities.

This particular post examines the work done through a partnership between the Economic Intelligence Unit of the Economist Group (publishers of the Economist) and the Philips Company.

It provides a good survey of the challenges and means of overcoming those challenges when taking on this endeavor. Although it is from Europe with an English slant in accents (also explaining the different spellings) it still contains valuable lessons. There are two reports with links provided below that are rich in information. The first deals with what people want from livable communities, the second, titled "Liveanomics" explores more closely the economic aspects that need to be considered. I will be breaking this issues down into smaller components in the future.

Both reports offer key findings, case study and multimedia for further study. I am also making links to the videos and other resources provided under the Liveanomics report readily available at a new wiki appropriately named New Community Paradigms Wiki under Livable Communities at the "Liveanomics" EIU Livable Cities Studies wiki page.

Making cities work: Delivering results in a downturn A panel discussion at the Economist Conferences event, "Creating tomorrow's liveable cities", which was held in London in January 2011.

Ideas to revolutionise urban living A panel discussion featuring Sir Jeremy Beecham, Former Chairman, LGA and Labour Member, House of Lords; Kate Henderson, chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association; Rogier van der Heide, chief design officer at Philips Lighting; and Nancy Holman, director of planning studies at the London School of Economics.

Eric Pickles: A vision for the future of UK cities The keynote address at the Economist Conferences event,"Creating Tomorrow's Liveable Cities", held in London in January 2011, by Eric Pickles, Britain's Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Jan Gehl: Cities for people (wiki page) The closing keynote at the Economist Conferences Event, "Creating tomorrow's liveable cities", presented by Professor Jan Gehl, founding partner of Gehl Architects, Copenhagen.

This video provides a good deal of information on the benefits bicycling and walking have on a livable community when integrated into the community landscape.

Urban liveability and economic growth Iain Scott, editor of the report, discusses the findings of the Economist Intelligence Unit's research with Mark Kleinman, assistant director of economic and business policy and Greater London Authority. The discussion took place at an Economist Conferences event, "Creating tomorrow's liveable cities", in London in January 2011.

Defining a new direction hoping to create new paradigms

This was the beginning of the Pathways to New Community Paradigms.  Because I lost all of the posts so far I am republishing them.

I have been slowly putting this blog together in my free time. It is about time that I defined what I intend to try and do here. The remainder of this post will become a permanent feature below the masthead defining its mission.  This blog is intended to help others in a quest to define what is being called here "new community paradigms" for themselves and others with whom they live.

Paradigms, according to the first definition of the Free Merriam-Webster are patterns, especially outstandingly clear ones. Patterns, however, are usually thought of as static and this blog is seeking a dynamic definition. The word community means that these paradigms will not start out clear. Their definition will be created through multiple sources and voices.

A University of Arizona course on methods and approaches for studying the future sees paradigms from the following perspective.

"Paradigms can be thought of as the framework that has unwritten rules but directs actions. There are several definitions below and some links to varying perspectives or applications of paradigms. When one paradigm looses influence and another takes over, there is a paradigm shift. Knowing in advance how a paradigm shift might occur gives you an advantage over others."

This site will seek to help write the rules so that the new paradigm can be chosen rather than imposed. It will also try to help keep others from taking advantage. Finally it will endeavor to help in defining a new and hopefully better future.

Ambiguous Collaboration

Still working on republishing the pre-posts to Pathways to New Community Paradigms which were lost.

Part of the motivation to start to blog again is to explore means of collaboration in public arenas, not only within specific focused public arenas but also across different public arenas and more importantly incorporating a policy of expanded inclusiveness while maintaining project or program effectiveness.

This interest arose from online discussions regarding John Kotter, change management guru and author of Leading Change, idea that 70% of change initiatives in organizations and businesses fail.

A 30% success rate sounds reasonable to me considering all the pieces that need to come together in a dynamic fashion to make any large scale endeavor a success. I am of the view that most transformations, e.g. evolution, our own aging, are taken for granted because we have seen them before. How an apple seed become an apple tree or a caterpillar becomes a butterfly would not seem possible otherwise, especially if we were made responsible for the task. When you are the caterpillar change might seem not only unlikely, it may also seem dangerous.

Lately I have had this concept bouncing around in my head of "ambiguous collaboration". A quick Googling of the term indicates that combining these two words is usually seen in a negative light, at least when viewing events in hindsight. I believe though that it could be a useful concept in creating collaboration networks. I am thinking along the lines of Malcolm Gladwell's Weak Ties and how to make it an intended component of designing what may in reality be an ad hoc organizational system.

Originally I was thinking of separate organizations with different missions but having loose connections to the same potential resources, clientele (though different relations) and information but still having trouble working together on common missions because of internal demands.

The same though could be said of internal components of an organization that has become too silo'ed . Until the collaboration coalesces deep change is unlikely to occur. The relationship network is not only individual to individual requiring trust and expectation of return on investment and commitment from others but also with individuals and the collaborative process itself. There are is also the relationship with the old organization and the new organization - two different things if the change is meaningful. It is the devil you haven't met versus the devil you have been living with for so long.

Has social media made us lazy or more importantly ineffectual?

This is a another pre-post to the actual creation of the Pathways to New Community Paradigms. Because of a mishap all the posts were lost so I am republishing again.

Patrick Fiorenza posted back on July 19, a blog post on the GovLoop - Social Network, "Has social media made us lazy? " This is a particularly relevant question since I am about to get back into blogging. This time I will be focusing on local government policies and how they can be impacted by communities in which they operate. My previous blogging endeavors included a more personal version of this blog and Milestones for a New Millennium which focused on the Millennium Development Goals. This time, I am going for a GovLoop meets Coffee Party approach.

The question was first raised by Dean Obeidallah, who posted the original article on CNN, Are Social Media Creating the Laziest Generation?, This question has been around for a while with Evgeny Morozov being the most vocal regarding what has been called Slactivist argument. I personally have a fondness for Slacktivists and count myself among them.

On the other side of the question has been Clay Shirky, who has been featured at TED Talks looking at how the end of top-down control of news is changing the nature of politics via Iranian protesters streaming news to the world, showing how Facebook, Twitter and TXTs help citizens in repressive regimes to report on real news by bypassing censors (if all too briefly).

The question raised by both Dean Obeidallah and Patrick Fiorenza is however more personal in nature, challenging how we use social media as Change-agents, both on a community level and on a personal level. There are important differences between how we approach each level.

I will submit that there are different levels of slacktivists or on the community level different levels of engagement.
  • “creators”, who blog on their own web pages,
  • “critics” who post comments,
  • “joiners” who sign up for online communities,
  • “spectators” who read and watch, and finally
  • the unengaged “inactives”
I took this idea directly from GROUNDSWELL by Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff. It is not practical though to expect that everyone is going to be a creator nor does everyone need to be to bring about social change. Organizations can move their agenda by communicating to the group they are endeavoring to influence without necessarily moving the majority of members past the Joiners level.

The question becomes harder on a more personal level. We can ask is even being a creator enough? We need to move people to action not merely comments. Truthfully it may never be enough, we could always do more. We can only use this to judge ourselves, we cannot know what others do beyond their online presence. Some may work with their churches or donate through the United Way.

Social media can still be an effective tool for individuals addressing issues such as that raised recently by Transportation For America » Prosecuting the victim, absolving the perpetrators which can in turn be shared across the web by organizations such as or Care2. It is not an issue for which I will likely have a chance to vote on or become significantly more involved with, but I can still share my voice with others. Do I decide not to sign the petitions simply because I can't get to Georgia?

GovLoop recently provided an online training on training "How Stunning Storytelling Can Advance Your Government Career" featuring OPM Human Resources Specialist and University of Louisville professor Dr. Bill Brantley. It can also help to make important issues more human, hopefully moving the inactives further up the levels of engagement to reach a groundswell needed to bring about policy changes such as a national transportation systems and planning which has been ignored for too long. This is something that a few individuals in each state will decide is important enough to advocate and from the base there may be a change in public policy.

From my perspective, social media will remain an essential tool for Change-agents at all levels, whether or not it makes us or other lazy will depend upon how inspiring we can be in advocating change.

Starting on another Roadmap to a Life that Matters

Because of a mishap all my blog posts related to Pathways to New Community Paradigms were lost so I am publishing again.  This was one of the pre-posts in creating Pathways to New Community Paradigms.

In preparation to final start blogging again, this morning was spent continuing to reformat this blog and redefine its purpose, including giving it a new url and feed. Now I have to wait for the feed to be "registered" on the web so it can be found by some of the other online tools that I use.

This afternoon will be spent watching the the Harry Potter Deathly Hollows part 1 on video. This brings a usable segue into a recent article by Umair Haque.

The roadmap you need to follow is deeply, resonantly, profoundly, and irrevocably your own — the one that calls to you in every dreary meeting, every missed birthday, and every misplaced-but-not-quite-forgotten dream. It's the one that leads you to your better self. It says: "Follow my lead. Let's go somewhere that matters — not just somewhere that glitters." A Roadmap to a Life that Matters - Umair Haque - Harvard Business Review

Once I get the mechanics straightened out, I can start addressing the issues with which this blog has determined to be concerned.

Past Posts