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.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Community Governance through Placemaking is a New Community Paradigm

This is an overdue blog post on the announcement in December of last year by Project for Public Spaces of their Launching the Placemaking Movement! 

For more than two years, this has been an effort to discover new ways of building what have been termed community paradigms, by allowing for greater depth and breadth of collaborative understanding through direct democracy.  So far though, I have been writing mostly about the expansion of my own personal understanding, building upon previously acquired lessons and developing certain lines of thinking such as democratic directed disruptive design or coherent complexity or entrenched city halls.  These concepts need to also be connected with ideas from others seeking to fundamentally change the way we govern our communities. 

A number of resources from a variety of different arenas of concern have been gathered in the New Community Paradigms Wiki. This blog then attempts to make new connections between those different arenas to highlight or come up with different approaches or new understandings. 

The organizations highlighted in the New Community Paradigms Wiki have set the ground work this effort is built upon. There is also a tremendous amount of work being done by some of these organizations in connecting different ideas and concepts that are also in the service of creating new community paradigms.

One organization currently doing this is Project for Public Spaces - Placemaking for Communities featured in the Community Places wiki-page and introduced through the blog post Placemaking, for communities the canvas becomes the art

The Project for Public Spaces, or PPS for short, is looking Toward Place Governance: What If We Reinvented Civic Infrastructure Around Placemaking?  By finding ways to connect community governance with their primary focus, they are developing new ways of creating new community paradigms. 
Governance, on every scale, is not set up to create great places. Indeed, the current culture and structure of government and civic infrastructure may actually be the greatest obstacle (more than money, ideas, talent, infrastructure, etc.) to successful Placemaking. As ingrained as government, and its relationship to communities, might seem, we are finding that these obstacles are ones that all parties are poised to overcome.
What PPS calls ingrained, this effort has labeled entrenched but the premise that the “current culture and structure of government and civic infrastructure may actually be the greatest obstacle (more than money, ideas, talent, infrastructure, etc.) to successful Placemaking” applies equally to issues of Community Governance.

In defining Place Governance and how it would work, PPS argues that, 
Currently, no department or community organization is in charge of creating good places. Even when everyone is doing their job masterfully, great places generally fall outside of everyones mission and goals. In fact, in siloed departments the desired outcomes of mobility, economic development, safety, cultural development, tourism, etc. are inevitably in conflict and competition, frequently undermining the public realm that determines their ultimate success.
The solution according to PPS is creating a government that organizes itself around creating successful public spaces and generating what it calls.  
“Place Capital can be defined as the shared wealth (built and natural) of the public realm – and it is increasingly becoming society’s most important means of generating sustainable economic growth for communities.”
This approach, it is asserted, would be able to accomplish a broad range of existing goals more efficiently through the creation of a more informally generated culture of governance or community based governance as opposed to institutional based governance that contributes to the public realm through shared value. This concept is very similar to ‘community wealth’ introduced in the blog post Economic Growth and Equity within a Community - Benefiting the 100%
After decades of shouting over the castle walls, Placemakers had a huge year. For our own part, at the Project for Public Spaces, we marked 2013 with the launch of the Placemaking Leadership Council, a fundamental new step that we decided to take in order to create a shared, collaborative forum for Placemakers across the world to learn from each other and grow this increasingly vital movement. Weve met so many incredible people through this new initiative, and we are looking forward to continuing to grow the ranks in 2014. Placemaking is changing the way that cities around the world work, and were thrilled to be a part of this movement with you.
During this early stage PPS is gathering information through a survey about Place Governance in your city. The usual suspects for obstacles can be found, siloed government, financing structures, and lack of resources, as well as positive models, public-private partnerships, interagency collaborations, and especially community-based organizations. What is particularly noteworthy is defining the culture of Place Governance as Project-led, Discipline-led, Place-sensitive or as Place-led.

Creating new community paradigms will, I believe, be a multifaceted endeavor. On-the-ground, locally organized, community groups are going to have to adopt and form different strategies or resources from various organizations such as Project for Public Spaces or Code for America but they are going to have to repurpose them to their own community needs. 

Place Governance is an excellent place to start because it provides a potential platform for change at a fundamental level and a means of democratic directed disruption by changing the rationale by which local institutional governments exercise power and places the questions being asked more directly into the hands of the community. 

Past Posts