TEDxHarlem, hosted by Majora Carter and two others, will be held on March 27th at the Apollo Theater, and one of the topic areas is built environment. I like this line from the event website (even though its construction needs work):
There is a unique, historical richness in communities steeped in culture, art and innovation and the human spirit’s capacity to hope and dream.
John Fetterman, the mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, is one of the speakers. You may have seen Fetterman profiled in Rolling Stone or featured in the New York Times (Mayor of Rust). At 6-foot-8 with a linebacker’s build, bald head, and arms tattooed with Braddock’s zip code and dates when murders occurred there, he’s … noticeable. His public policy degree from Harvard perhaps lends something to the elevated profile of Fetterman’s work in Braddock. But tapping into the “human spirit’s capacity to hope and dream” does seem to be what Fetterman’s goal is, not unlike many leaders in Rust Belt towns. You can get a sense of what John and his fellow urban pioneers are doing by checking out the 15104 website.
From Harvard"s Kennedy School Magazine
And from the Times:
In contrast to urban planners caught up in political wrangling, budget constraints and bureaucratic shambling, Fetterman embraces a do-it-yourself aesthetic and a tendency to put up his own money to move things along. He has turned a 13-block town into a sampling of urban renewal trends: land-banking (replacing vacant buildings with green space, as in Cleveland); urban agriculture (Detroit); championing the creative class to bring new energy to old places (an approach popularized by Richard Florida); “greening” the economy as a path out of poverty (as Majora Carter has worked to do in the South Bronx); embracing depopulation (like nearby Pittsburgh). Thrust into the national spotlight, Fetterman has become something of a folk hero, a Paul Bunyan of hipster urban revival, with his own Shepard Fairey block print — the Fetterman mien with the word “mayor” underneath. This, the poster suggests, is what a mayor should be.
The article is worth reading, as it describes both our hopes for a place like Braddock and the difficulties of turning it around. Ideas worth sharing, yes. And hard work and sacrifices worth making if ideas are to be transformed into reality.
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Posted in New York State, Recession Watch, tagged community planning, community resilience, economy, future, innovation, New Normal, New York State, paradigm shift, recession, resilience, trends on November 13, 2011|
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In December, we celebrate the 4th anniversary of the official start of the Great Recession or Lesser Depression. One silver lining that I see would be if communities (i.e., community residents) started to take matters into their own hands and began to create their own better futures. Recently there have been signs that some communities are doing just that. From today’s New York Times, the story of the new department store in Saranac Lake, NY, entirely financed by shares sold to community residents. After the town’s last department store closed, residents had to drive 50 miles to buy basic necessities, and they were considering an offer by Wal-Mart to develop a store. Not liking either alternative…
But rather than accept their fate, residents of Saranac Lake did something unusual: they decided to raise capital to open their own department store. Shares in the store, priced at $100 each, were marketed to local residents as a way to “take control of our future and help our community,” said Melinda Little, a Saranac Lake resident who has been involved in the effort from the start. “The idea was, this is an investment in the community as well as the store.”
And later in the article:
Think of it as the retail equivalent of the Green Bay Packers — a department store owned by its customers that will not pick up and leave when a better opportunity comes along or a corporate parent takes on too much debt.
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It would seem that conceptual thinking is inseparable from design, but I find that many design students just cannot grasp the idea of abstraction. Can this be taught? Is the capacity for conceptual thought just part of a person’s DNA? In searching online for insights, I found these observations.
1. This definition from the Eleven Seconds blog:
conceptual thinking is simply the ability to effortlessly walk up and down the ladder of abstraction
and the slightly murkier:
To make their thinking useful, abstract thinkers need to be able to convert something abstract into something concrete, and vice versa. This ability is what I call conceptual thinking. A conceptual thinker starts in the concrete, then walks up the hierarchy of abstractions. At some level they make connections between the abstract representation of the concrete thought and another abstract representation. If need be, they can then walk that abstract thought back into another, very different concrete thought. The idea is that a local search (i.e. making connections) in the abstract space is easier than a local search in the concrete space. And so that person can either communicate more effectively, or solve the problem more effortlessly.
The example given of moving from the concrete to the abstract is seeing the concrete problem as an example of a more generic class or category of problems. Pattern recognition leads to relationships between ideas and eventually back to the concrete.
2. Discussion about conceptual thinking in the world of business tends to focus on the growing need for such thinkers in business (critical for the flexibility and innovation demanded by the global economy) and on the fact that these people are “hard to come by.” (more…)
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