When you think social innovation, you might think micro loans in developing countries, or hand-ups to help people in from the fringes here at home. Or a wide range of ways to build social capital or how charitable institutions backstop community with philanthropy. But for those of you who are working in the city planning trenches every day, using collaborative design workshops to engage the people, you’re really running a form of social innovation lab.
Cheerleaders for American business used to get peeved when cynics contorted a quote by General Motors CEO Charles Erwin Wilson in 1953. The popular, misinterpreted version: “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” What Wilson actually said: “I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.”
Looking back over my years of writing for Placeshakers, I notice two themes that keep surfacing: First, we’re better off taking an active role in shaping the forces of community change than we are pretending that immunity to change is a legitimate or viable option; and second, connected communities are far better positioned to weather change, mitigate negative impacts, and seize opportunity than factionalized ones. Such connections, taken collectively, form the bedrock of what we call “resilience.”
Basically, working towards something beats working against something and communities where people know, trust and rely upon one another are far more effective at getting it done.
Being back in the south for a couple weeks has given me a chance to reflect on the Adventure Canada Heart of the Arctic expedition. The biggest imprints are three things: the inclusivity of the people, the vastness of the land, and the need to continue to do all we can to develop in compact settlement patterns as one of the many things that can help keep us from further damaging earth’s cooling system. The images on my mind for today happen to be from the one day of our expedition that did not upload successfully, due to intermittent internet access.
This is the second of two parts addressing Hurricane Katrina 10 years after the storm. The first looked at issues in New Orleans. This one focuses on one hoped-for innovation in the storm’s wake in Coastal Mississippi.
Right about now, a couple and their two children are getting much-needed affordable housing help via a move into one side of a cool-looking modular duplex in Mobile, Alabama.
I guess it says something about where I am on life’s conception-to-compost journey that the phrase “Ten Years After” evokes a forgettable British group from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. But, hey, let’s at least credit Alvin Lee with capturing a timeless sentiment in his lyrics for the band’s 1971 hit, “I’d Love to Change the World”:
I’d love to change the world
But I don’t know what to do
So I’ll leave it up to you
Kinda resonates through the ages, no?
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
After sailing up one of the longest fjords in the world, the delightfully scenic Söndre Strömfjord, we disembarked Ocean Endeavour for the last time, to explore the community of Kangerlussuaq. One group went off for a walk on the ice cap and the other on a nature hike, before we flew out of Greenland midafternoon. We headed for Toronto, stopping in Goose Bay, Labrador, to refuel. Tomorrow, we’ll disburse to Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain, Israel, across the US and Canada.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
We crossed the Arctic Circle at 07:37 today!
Early in the day, we landed at Itilleq, a tiny community of 97 people, set in a hollow between two hillsides. Itilleq means hollow. The tiny colorful wooden homes are a complete switch from Canada’s Arctic communities, here arranged as compactly as the stony landscape will allow.
Sunday, July 26, 2015
We docked in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, around dawn. We had successfully crossed the Davis Strait, formed 65 million years ago by a rift, thanks to a massive movement in the earth’s crust.
Our landform today was a peninsula, which is what the word “Nuuk” means, or some would say that the word means “the headland.” It’s actually a peninsula on a peninsula, at the mouth of a complex fjord system. Dominant rocks here include gneiss, schist, and basalt.