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.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Placemaking for communities the canvas becomes the art

So far new community paradigms have been loosely defined as the changes brought purposely about by communities to redefine themselves as being more "livable".  More livable was defined on the onset as offering healthy environments for the members of the community.  We also began discussions on the essential inclusion of economics into the equation and the challenge of complexity in addressing these paradigms.

All of this has to take "Place" somewhere. "Place", particularly when speaking of community, is a defining element of a livable city.  How we define "Place" is an important component of creating new paradigms for our communities.  We have available to us a number of resources that can assist us with this endeavor.  As way of introducing them I am going to introduce a page from the New Community Paradigms wiki that is being created in parallel with this blog. The Places wikipage will be a depository for community resources addressing ideas regarding "place" as a community asset. Right now there are two categories Community Places, which will be examined in this post. Soul of a Community will be dealt with in a future post. 

The first offering in New Community Paradigm Community Places is PPS Project for PUBLIC SPACES. The About page for PPS informs us that PPS was founded in 1975 to expand on the work of William (Holly) Whyte, the author of The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces.  As a resource for this effort, it is important to note that:

In addition to leading projects in our nine program areas, PPS also trains more than 10,000 people every year and reaches countless more through our websites and publications. PPS has become an internationally recognized center for resources, tools and inspiration about Placemaking.

The most important question maybe though,

What is Placemaking?

Categories: Articles, Creating Public Multi-use Destinations, Multi-Use, Placemaking 101
“’Placemaking’ is both an overarching idea and a hands-on tool for improving a neighborhood, city or region. It has the potential to be one of the most transformative ideas of this century.” -Metropolitan Planning Council of Chicago
Placemaking, as PPS so aptly puts it comes From the Heart of a Community. 

Other work being done with Placemaking can be found on the PPS Facebook site. Facebook, because it is so popular, will be used as another avenue to promote community connections upon which to build new community paradigms. PPS was chosen to lead this particular perspective on new community paradigms because they see the community as a canvas on which to try new ideas, maybe clay would be a better analogy since the "Place" becomes an integral part of the community. 

Smart Growth America is an organization that advocates for people who want to live and work in great neighborhoods. We believe smart growth solutions support businesses and jobs, provide more options for how people get around and make it more affordable to live near work and the grocery store. Our coalition works with communities to fight sprawl and save money. We are making America’s neighborhoods great together.  

As creative as the ideas that can come from PPS and their like may be, they cannot be put into practice if there is not a strong movement to make them a reality.  Some communities may be able to create this movement on their own, but others will need some form of support. The creation of new community paradigms is not limited to within the boundaries of any community.  Smart Growth America is one organization that can offer support.  As with PPS, there is also a Smart Growth America Facebook page.  

One of the founding principles of this blog and of the accompanying wiki is that the economics of creating new community paradigms are of the utmost importance.  One Placemaking advocacy group that has this as a fundamental basis for their work is Strong Towns.  Here is the Strong Towns Facebook page.

The mission of Strong Towns is to support a model for growth that allows America's towns to become financially strong and resilient. The American approach to growth is causing economic stagnation and decline along with land use practices that force a dependency on public subsidies. The inefficiencies of the current approach have left American towns financially insolvent, unable to pay even the maintenance costs of their basic infrastructure. A new approach that accounts for the full cost of growth is needed to make our towns strong again. 

It should be noted that this blog will not be agreeing with every view put out by the organizations that it features.  This is likely to be especially true of Strong Towns.  However, I do respect their basic approach to make communities economically sustainable as much as I respect those organizations that seek to make them environmentally sustainable.  The paradigm shift being sought is bringing those two concepts together into a viable whole.

I am going to leave this survey of Placemaking resources with another organization that is thinking outside of the box.  The Guggenheim is not a box in any sense of the word and their BMW Guggenheim Lab pushes the concept of Place and what it means to communities through onsite experimentation.

The BMW Guggenheim Lab is a mobile laboratory that will travel to nine major cities worldwide over six years. Part urban think tank, part community center and public gathering space, the BMW Guggenheim Lab is conceived to engage public discourse in cities around the world and through the BMW Guggenheim Lab website and online social communities.

While many communities will find it difficult and may not be willing to implement the ideas created during this ongoing placemaking experiment, the may also take inspiration in the creative endeavor to find new ways of making our communities more livable.  One readily available resource provided by the BMW Guggenheim Lab is Urbonology, an online survey to help determine the type of community one wants to build.

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