From the Good Ideas File: Developing the Community Can Do attitude

This interesting piece from the Sustainability Collective talks about issues relating to shifting residents’ and leaders’ perspectives, and gets at one of the toughest issues embedded in the Local Economy Revolution book: the need to not just get public feedback, but to crowdsource wisdom from members of the community.  One of the impacts, and perhaps it should be one of the goals, of crowdsourcing wisdom, is that people learn (or re-learn) that they can make a real impact on the direction and value of the community, and that leads to better decision-making and a more economically and culturally resilient community.  That’s also the main topic of an upcoming book — you can read a draft of the introduction here.

Do go read the whole thing, but here’s a couple of pieces that I thought were very broadly relevant:


If only it were just a matter of a city authority taking such an example and saying, right, let’s implement that. Besides the economic hurdle to be overcome there is an even greater one: the cultural hurdle.

How do you change the mindsets and attitudes of officials who, in some cases, have been working for the authority for decades, and have their own fixed ways of doing things which were set in stone when they themselves were trained?

And how do you get a community that is not used to thinking for itself to take responsibility for developments in its own neighbourhood?

Aren’t these the greatest challenges to sustainability?

And, after an overview of a specific project:

It’s not just officials’ attitudes that have to change; the community itself has to develop a ‘can do’ attitude, something especially challenging in areas with a high student or transient population.

A new initiative – an ideas and innovation hub – is being developed in Swansea for council officials to brainstorm how they will deal with the challenges ahead. But even this approach is not necessarily straightforward because often officials are reluctant to admit their agendas.

(We all have encountered situations where a department has developed a plan for an area and then operates a consultation process where it goes through the motions of soliciting the opinions of others, eventually plumping for the original option.)

Short-term solutions tend to be easier for the human mind to grapple with. Say a plot of land becomes available, you can get a developer to come in, build something and in return provide a relief road or a park. Job done. But this outcome is not necessarily in the interests of the community where the building is situated, and the community will continue to have the impression that things are done to them rather than with them. Nor is it likely to be a sustainable solution to the requirements of that community.

It’s getting this kind of attitude to change that is perhaps the hardest challenge of all to those of us working to make our cities more sustainable.



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