MacArthur

The MacArthur Foundation

MacArthur Fellows Program

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation support creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks, building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk, and significantly increasing financial capital for the social sector.

President John Palfrey defines the values that drive the Foundation and remain accountable to the community. It is also the approach every narrative in search of resources should include. 

Creativity encompasses innovative, imaginative, and ground-breaking ideas, thinking, and strategies that will have a meaningful impact on large and complex challenges. Bring them inventive ideas that support the creativity of individuals and organizations.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion The Foundation sees Diversity as the characteristics that make people distinct. Equity as treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement while eliminating barriers that have prevented the full participation of some individuals. Inclusion is an environment where all individuals feel welcomed, respected, valued, and feel a sense of belonging.

Compassion is central to respectful and compassionate interpersonal interactions with kindness and caring, reflecting the foundation’s recognition and understanding of integrity as the act of behaving honorably. It is a commitment to sound judgment, honesty, dependability, and accountability. Finally, life-long learning is the practice of seeking new understanding, knowledge, and skill with values acknowledging continuous lessons from staff, grantees, partners, peers, and communities.

Environmental Works

Environmental Works is a nonprofit Community Design Center directed founded in Seattle, Washington (1997). EW’s long track record has proven to be pivotal in all areas of need in the Seattle area. For example, the design-resource library for sustainable, affordable communities developed by EW was instrumental in reducing the stormwater impacts and increasing overall energy conservation practices in vulnerable communities.

EW is organized into four studios: housing, community facilities, landscape, and special projects. Each studio is headed by an experienced architect with more than twenty years of experience. It is a nonprofit full-service landscape, and architectural firm that responds to projects that the for-profit architectural community agrees would be unprofitable. This community also recognizes that a substantial record of sustainable practice, material use, and cost impacts of this public service-based agency has been of value to community needs throughout Seattle.


Robert Gutman

Robert Gutman

In an all-encompassing life of research and study of the architecture profession, Robert Gutman (1926-2007) published a continuous critique of the state of that profession in a variety of well-grounded essays. It began with a 1965 research grant from the Russel Sage Foundation to explore interactions between architecture and sociology. This inquiry remains open and unresolved.

Architecture is driven by the “status” associated with design in an advanced capitalist society. It can be described as high or low, quality vs. the lack of it, and as a condition that expands to include entire neighborhoods, new and old, restored and gentrified, diverse or isolated, and most recently environmentally terrified.

Proving the Negative

Why do people demand proof, verified, and vetted facts when it comes to making changes in the quality of life in a community but do not apply similar demands to the ghosts and gods of change? Are these not the most dangerous in the world? Are these ghosts not swirling in the fossil fuel of war and terrorism? These are known forces. Why the lack of will to fill the gap between these ghostly and the general expectation that a better world is possible? Gutman saw the raw subjectivity that insists the builders are doing well and called it false. As Robert Gutman put, there is,

“an unreality of the espoused view of the world of practice is perpetuated by the profession itself, by the schools, and to some extent by the architectural press, and these distortions make it more difficult for architects to deal creatively and constructively with the problems which the profession faces.”

Architectural Practice – A Critical View 1988

What is the market for design among people who don’t believe they can afford it and have no respect for it? Are they correct? The provision of design resources is the initial architectural service and the entire built environment by extension. Do we accept that low- and moderate-income people represent an invisible segment in that market? The market exists with personal capital and credit. Others could be served, but only if serious gaps are acknowledged, and new values recognized.

Rarely will community organizations find themselves like a paper in the top drawer of a desk where there is proof can they have the answer to the problems of their community. Instead, a nonprofit institution may find itself responsible for a combination of services meeting the needs of vulnerable families. You will often see them as accountable for producing and managing affordable housing and community facilities. Yet, you may also know them working under poor or deteriorating conditions made tragically complex by meager, sporadic assistance.

To open that desk top, they will need built environment professionals to respond to their needs in a far less autonomous way. Unfortunately, architecture and those who study the structure and functioning of human society remain indecisive associates and silent to the indifference. Gutman, however, countered as a teacher by encouraging a significant segment of future architects to recognize that a form of architectural resistance, regardless of the disturbances caused, can help people demand a better world. These acts create a battle between design as fulfillment vs. corporate practice where the function is all that matters, leaving the work of realization to others. 

Sustaining design as a resource for finding complex solutions to complex problems recognizes that design and architecture can lead the way. There will always be projects that have the potential to shift the status of architecture toward comprehensively better places. What is needed is a set of self-renewing political acts and the institutional continuity of a design purpose in a community.

The technique of creating a drawing to envision a future or align intention is one of humanity’s most significant accomplishments. When done well, the design practice formulates what needs doing, and it has been so for thousands of years. In creating environments, whether raw survival or human actualization, the need is increasing among the invisible clients, and like refugees, altering the structure of demand. The entrants to the profession are undersupplied in this sector, often relegated to second-class status within the profession, yet this is the area of greatest need. It is vital to alter society’s perception of the architect as one with short-term relationships in a community. It is time make design a permanent institutional presence in underserved communities and make them as purpose-driven as a public school.

Every urban region’s density and structural complexity are too siloed into rigid regimental structures and components to manage. However, these parts need to be recognized and defined as a whole by a local institution with the primary purpose of structurally understanding all of the connective tissues that make it part of a city. Therefore, this institution needs to be in a community as a permanent entity to ask one question until answers are produced. What is our design? How do we create and renew ourselves?

The Opposite End

In February 2022 an opinion article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy was offered to its readers entitled: Will More in Philanthropy Adopt the MacKenzie or Melinda Approach to Giving? The term “end of the scale” is used to describe the power expressed by dollars in trillions, because the quantity and management of these huge fortunes have produced an “opposite end” or a new extreme to examine in the world of charitable giving.

First, the amount of cash involved is truly unfathomable but highly transparent via the Melinda Gates approach, and Mackensie Scott describes her approach to giving by saying her researchers and administrators form a constellation “attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change.”

The graphic below is a description of the Gates Foundation transparency by Wouter Aukema (here) as drawn from the foundation’s highly accessible database access (here). In Mackenzie’s blog, there is a list of nearly three hundred organizations given grants,($8.5 billion ), the suggestion that ongoing gifts may not be public, and the recipients will be trusted.

The article closes with the “end of scale” elements that alter the traditional approach to the presumed partnership between vast wealth and the challenge of the 2010 Giving Pledge (Gates and Buffet) First, grants are made based on trust. Second, the cash is unrestricted, but the third end-of-scale element is the expectation that the funds reflect the problems the grant is addressing by directly benefiting those who experience those problems.

The Not for Profit Architect

Community Design

Community Design’s institutional development history began in the 1970s (here). Its practitioners continue to bring a transformational idea to community development by investing time with people at very early stages regarding the design of everything, of all places in which they live and work, as vistas, rows of buildings, gateways, hallways, entrances, and portals through which life occurs. The result of this design approach has planners and architects on an entirely new path in an attempt to advance the field of community development through design — a practice through which all cultures embrace discovery.

The philanthropic community continually improves its investment structure with resources that defend against threats and uplift the human spirit. The choices are many, improved educational opportunities, enhanced anticipation of economic shifts that leave people behind, including incentives and subsidies to level “the playing field.” These and many other investments in people are vital. But, why leave the physical environment where these advances must occur to individual projects and urban landscapes defined by pre-supposed functions in poorly thought out places? An investment in Community Design has become essential as it is greatly needed.

One aspect of the need to take this position examines the trillions of charitable dollars flowing into the world economy. In a brief examination of two huge foundations (here), the list of recipients can be discovered to have acquired millions of these dollars. All of them expect to function in physical environments that are inadequate and crumbling around them, and not one dollar could be found by The Report aimed at the professions expected to help them build for change. The quality of the physical environment is as much a clear community design problem as it is to uplift the human spirit. The agents expected to be responsible are woefully unprepared. Community Design offers answers.

Form Follows Feeling

Community Design is a practice that builds visions for the future in neighborhoods. It builds confidence in the capacity for change. It is a power that shows community leaders, emerging leadership, and ordinary people how to align their interests to one modest goal that all can share – creating a beautiful community for everyone.

In New York City, developers get added square footage as a supply-side incentive for affordable housing, known as mandatory inclusion. Other approaches look to demand-side subsidies to reduce economic disparities and support diversity. Unfortunately, these points of view are solely monetary decisions. As a result, there is very little design thinking beyond building height, bulk, and sky exposure.

On the other hand, the design process provides a more vital understanding of development and control points in every imaginable aspect. Public engagement improves when design thinking becomes a combination of investment in people and places for social action. Discovering a sequence of design innovations and integrations for creative use is a clear alternative to a predefined bulk with a function.

Innovations in Community Development

Architects interpret individual structures or combinations of places as a fabric that reveals a dimension of emotion and a capacity for insight into the human spirit and condition. Buildings transcend generations, structures decay, renew and adapt to ideas that form the design of a community many times over and for many generations. Vast physical areas are in constant physical change. Housing, schools, childcare centers, police and fire stations, shopping districts, parks, playgrounds, and places for worship fit as forms with functions along pathways. There is a design, but does the community see it, have a sense of control, and like or dislike the places surrounding them every day?

Here are a few examples of the innovation in design thinking made possible through design as it engages a community

More examples are needed for above that reflect the ideas below and a rewrite…

  • Resources to regularly engage stakeholders in shaping strategy or discussing choices are routine and well-understood public engagement activities. However, design help to shape the place for these discussions is still haphazard.
  • Testing the viability of new program ideas or getting existing programs and services to scale for more significant impact is a common requirement of nonprofit organizations. However, design is a valuable testing process in determining choices and is rarely used to its potential.
  • Nonprofits are asked to evaluate new business models and earned revenue opportunities to sustain impact, resources to examine the physical aspects of the idea, assist in aligning decisions, comparing resource selection, and draw action plans based on days, months, and years to bring a strategy to lifeng them every day?

Here are a few examples of the innovation in design thinking made possible through design as it engages a community.

More examples are needed, such as those that reflect the ideas below and rewrite…

  • Resources to regularly engage stakeholders in shaping strategy or discussing choices are routine and well-understood public engagement activities. However, design help to shape the place for these discussions is still haphazard.
  • Testing the viability of new program ideas or getting existing programs and services to scale for more significant impact is a common requirement of nonprofit organizations. However, design is a valuable testing process in determining choices and is rarely used to its potential.
  • Nonprofits are asked to evaluate new business models and earned revenue opportunities to sustain impact, resources to examine the physical aspects of the idea, assist in aligning decisions, comparing resource selection, and draw action plans based on days, months, and years to bring a strategy to life.

Design Democracy

The Kettering Foundation is listed as a possible resource in the design center resource directory (here). The Foundation expresses a singular purpose by asking, “what does it take for democracy to work as it should?” So naturally, a short question deserves a brief response from a design point of view.

Keep your imagination focused because we are in times that test our eyes and ears. Our imagination of the vote proves we can have expectations but that everyone gets a different test. A vote is a test that fills in what we think is there, but it is limited by what we are. To pass and fail, yet grow, we learn to take the test of others and work to become mates as if we were on a ship. Safe harbor offers time for preparation and a purpose, but to stay there is to fail a journey of unlimited tests. Whether that ship is the earth in the cosmos or a small boat in the ocean’s winds, the thinking we use to create the problems does not help solve them. Democracies work as they should when they take tests of our thoughts. The first test is the vote, and the second is on the value of its voice.

Tests work as standards in the teaching/learning situation. They can be diagnostic regarding proficiency with a subject. They can be internal or external, objective or subjective but always fall to the hand of a final arbiter. In the case of a democracy, that would be the law. In matters in law, one or more legal tests help resolve the propriety of law as enacted. However, in the context of a congressional hearing, discovery, or other legal proceedings, the resolution of specific questions of fact or law now hinges on the application of valid assessments disregarded by manipulating the rules. For democracy to work, replace the poor use of rules with final tests and an arbiter. The future of democracy is part of the American experience, most commonly considered a thing that happens to us and far too rarely as a thing made by us.

Design Centers

In applications for financial support, we believe the “made by us” is an area where the skills of design and architecture offer enormous resources. It can produce advances in the democratic processes by establishing a community design practice as a bedrock institution. The vast physical landscape is a product of professionals that do not control the products envisioned by their masters. The establishment of a community design practice in urban areas represents balance in the analysis of the as-built environment, the impact of new build practices as an evaluation, and through demonstrations.

Nathan Cummings

Kavita Nandini Ramdas has departed after four months as president and CEO of the $473 million Nathan Cummings Foundation. If a social justice movement person needs help, have them look at their grant guidelines(here). The website has a “partner search” engine. I put in architecture, project, and “inclusive clean economy” from a drop-down menu to get a list of funded groups. One was the Auburn Theological Seminary. General Support $500,000 over 24 months in 2020 for its national programs that build the capacity of faith leaders, activists, and social movements.

Updates

The Graham Foundation

The Graham Foundation is well known for its contributions to the work of architects and designers as thought leaders. In recent grant programs, grantee projects (research), and public programs (social advocacy) The Available City program Chicago Architecture Biennial (Sept – Dec. 2021) revealed that some thinking never changes, fails to develop, and feeds on the most lasting problem of our time.

The video below describes a recent public program initiative of the Graham Foundation. As one involved in projects exactly like those below, only a half-century ago. The shock continues to be nothing has changed. It is as if I am watching a time loop with irrevokable power.

After watching it is easy to rationalize my experience and theirs. The vacant lot conversions of my New York past are now well-institutionalized community gardens or taken city-owned land absorbed into more extensive projects such as a head start center and housing. I wrote of one example in Brownsville, New York (here).

Another part of the surreal time loop feeling of “now it is all happening to you” is more critical regarding the essential sadness beneath the optimism of The Available City video. It is for the lack of robust, institutional stewardship of the built and “to be demolished” environment this is capable of reforming real estate development as a process. The lack of that stewardship allows the renewal strategy to be little more than restocking a supermarket shelf with packaged and processed, nutritionally neutral foods. Or, it could be worse than that. It supports development practices that are pleased to support a vacant, lead soil lot for a modest community garden or some adventure play. Oh, and a vague hint of change.

The sadness is that these are earnest attempts to create a new life. They reflect the possible elimination of poverty with further use. The design builds on a grand purpose, recalling the loss by considering rebirth. Yet, to this day, the despair remains. It is limited to vegetables or keeping a playground safe amidst the chaos of the vacant lot neighborhoods of Chicago or those of Brooklyn. It was not enough then, and it is still that way.

The Theory of Change

Combining ideas about systems of thinking needed to explain something is often based on principles independent of the thing to be explained because they involve feelings. On the other hand, direct actions seek to make someone or something different. The acts alter or modify an existing condition into a new one. The banners in the above graphic on the “Theory of Change” combine ideas with action applied in various institutional settings. It is a discipline worthy of routine use in achieving long-term goals. Perhaps this is why the phrase “community design” is used by the architects and planners. They practice it as an art. Community feelings are the vibrant heartbeats of change, and as an equal part of its street and building design. 

RLC

Interventions

The goal of philanthropic investment in supporting community vibrancy, financial sustainability, and resilience integrates three fundamental objectives:

  1. To magnify local power to address this generation’s pressing societal and environmental challenges to equitable change
  2. To implement strategies and programs to make self-sustaining organizations possible with solutions developed in partnerships with financial asset associates.
  3. To confirm new and traditional investment models that break down portfolio and grantmaking barriers to reduce the conflict of interest between short-term impact and the desired permanency of inclusion, diversity, and equity.

Of course, these are not the only objectives, but they can be measured. The purpose of an intervention is to bring about an outcome. For example, in community design, the construction and rebuilding of physical space is an intervention in a communities life. But unfortunately, terminology can get people hung up. For example, the production of tall residential buildings in a community yields a variety of emotions. Understanding a community’s experience of this as an intervention is an excellent example. In it, the relationship between community and design becomes extant. However, another less complicated example would be helpful regarding a desire to produce change instead of reacting to one.

“In ten years, the number of children from impoverished backgrounds that become successful students and citizens will be doubled in community-X to help meet broad citywide diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.”

When stated as a long-term goal with implied objective components (i.e., defining “successful student,” “impoverished household.” “doubled”) establishes a base criterion. That done, a set of possible actions can become strategic.

The next step is to provide a structure that will prove a proposed intervention is working. The desire for change lacks meaning without an empirical basis along the path to its achievement. So a tactical prototype could be “after-school programs.” The steps following this decision would be to create a managing policy and a supportive work plan involving students, faculty, space, and material resources. In addition, the spatial and project design for the program would take active shape with a sense of priority regarding implementation.

Why a Theory of Change? (TOC)

Kurt Lewin’s work as a psychologist initiated a strong understanding of human cognition combined with social change. His work became a significant interest of the Aspen Institute (Roundtable on Community Change). As a result, Aspen is credited with the broad dissemination of TOC and its wide acceptance. While it began under the auspices of Aspen in the 1980s, the body of work “in the field” over the last forty years has produced well-received and practical examples of TOC efficacy.

A global leader on TOC implementation is Actknowledge – a nonprofit organization in New York City. The founder of Acknowledge, Heléne Clark, has helped expand TOC from its early beginnings to include the Center for Theory of Change to provide additional training and education resources worldwide.

In 2007, the first web-based processes offered by the Theory of Change became available. Since then, it has drawn nearly 25,000 registered participants. The impressive list of Acknowledge TOC clients is (here) for review. In addition, a series of publications are available (here) for further reading. Also, there are a variety of spin-offs. One example points to the Theory of Change compared with the Logic Model used by ASAID (here) and more broadly (here).

The logic method is linear. It is used to extrapolate and optimize what exists as knowable. The process is functional, but there is an alternative. Design thinking offers equally practical processes by which concepts develop through a feedback loop that includes verifying measures yet involves a wider range of participants. 

Applications to Planning, Design and Architecture

Since Lewin’s founding work and the investment by the Aspen Institute, the Theory of Change is recognized today as a revolutionary contribution to social change because it is counterintuitive. TOC is an alternative to the prevailing thought that following specific indicators such as prescribed functions will lead to a design program. However, the sole use of “indicators” or “outputs” are not sufficient contributors to long-term social change as a process.

Implementing TOC is supported by the  Four W’s — asking who, when, where, and why, followed by how. The answers help define a change in the context of feelings — asking how injects that emotion into a place. As a thought experiment exercise, asking why with a minimum of five responses also produces tangible results. Working with a community to gain information specifying an experience with change (also known as the Big What?) has significant implications for the end products created by design and architecture. TOC offers an excellent pathway. Here is another example.

The experience of travel is a helpful example to share regarding the practice of goal setting. Simply traveling is one aspect; however, it is very different when feelings and destinations allow for distinctions. For example, heading for Alaska requires significant differences in thinking compared to the Philippines. Getting to those differences and back-mapping to a present location offers many preparation planning and action choices with a place and a time.

In social change, it is crucial to develop a similar set of specifics to produce the needed perspective — it does seem counterintuitive to work backward from the desired outcome. Social change succeeds when the practice commands a combination of qualitative and quantitative measures. A well-known New York urban planner often quotes Yogi Berra, “You have to be careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.”

The example of the after-school program would require several specific quantities (attendance, grades, testing, grad rates) followed by results in the post-education experience of former students in the long term. Of equal importance, however, is the quality of experience. The feeling of getting to a destination. Here is one example of TOC’s impact on design. One fieldwork TOC effort sought to discover meager attendance rates in a Manhattan elementary school. It proved not to be the cause of parental or teaching behavior initially considered a function of the problem—a fully applied TOC process discovered it was the school’s adjacency to a high school with abusive students. The design solution – alter the design using time and the pathways. Initiate efforts at the HS level to effect change.

The contribution of TOC to the practice of community design is its emphasis on “long-term” when the goal is to achieve a social change as an outcome. Even randomized surveys of human opinion ironically prove that people lie on surveys. A typical example is that many people will say they practice recycling compared to the far lower percentage of actual household recycling. The TOC message is that it is difficult to measure an attitude accurately, but it is possible to measure observed behavior correctly.

Endnotes

Lewin’s 3-Stage Model of Change: Unfreezing, Changing & Refreezing. (2012, September 11) is available in (here).

In addition, two publications for downloading from Actknowldege examine goal formation and back mapping as a process for selecting short, medium, and long interventions to achieve outcomes. Theory of Change Technical Papers (Dr. Dana H. Taplin, Dr. Heléne Clark, Eoin Collins, and David C. Colby) and Basics, A Primer on Theory of Change, (Dr. Dana H. Taplin, Dr. Heléne Clark)

Don’t Look Up

It wasn’t mortifying George, it was liberating! www.monbiot.com

For every concerned adult, it is the same old story and it can cause emotional collapse.

“I was reminded of my own mortifying loss of control on Good Morning Britain in November. It was soon after the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow, where we had seen the least serious of all governments (the UK was hosting the talks) failing to rise to the most serious of all issues. I tried, for the thousandth time, to explain what we are facing, and suddenly couldn’t hold it in any longer. I burst into tears on live TV.”

Losing It Posted: 10 Jan 2022 02:20 AM PST. Following is what reminded him of tragic pointless action.

The incredulous air of a planet death film. We die slow, so duh! The planet can too. ACT!

How do you process bad news? What is your sense of urgency? Have a look at: “My Represent Us Story,” and the “Unbreaking America” video with Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Silver. Nearly two million people saw it by February 2019.

The following 12 minutes is the answer.

It has succeeded west coast and northeast. Our friends in Michigan, Nebraska, Arkansaw, Missouri, and all over the South are working. Are you? It is just 12 minutes. Get the verticle line answer.


New York, NY Metro COI

The argument for hearing out a democratic socialist will occur because we are headed there anyway. There are many reasons for this evolution of social governance in the complex urban community. After WWII, American people will remember that their parents or grandparents could purchase a new car every year; wages were strong and ahead of inflation. Their employers and unions negotiated good health insurance services, supported public schools, and helped with their children’s higher education goals. Well-supported retirement plans were common. What we do not remember is everything between WWI and WWII.  It is remembered as the Great Depression, not the hundreds of big government programs and policies that pulled ordinary people out of desperate times. Historians document this shift in America well, but it has faded from the American culture to become an unknown.

  • Francis Fukuyama (The End of History and the Last Man 1992) In this work, he does not neglect to say there will be a century or more for globalization to establish liberal democracy. Nor will this tumultuous century inject greater prosperity into the world easily. The trade and communications economy could bring the world close to peace and prosparity, but only if Reinhold Niebuhr was wrong in 1932 (Moral Man and Immoral Society).

Social Democracy

Jack Dangermond is the founder and president of Esri, a geographic information system software company approaching $6 billion in assets since its formation in 1969. Thanks to rapid transformation in every aspect of digital technology, it is possible for an ordinary person to examine the availability of complex data sets by location. Jack’s interests are global, yet he is one of the people that fully understand that people will think local. It is about their front door and acting accordingly for events such as the welfare of their children. Take a few minutes (here) with his presentation ongoing global to local.

The Child Opportunity Index (COI) map is an excellent example (here) and is pictured below. It is calculated based on Education, Health & Built Environment, and Neighborhood Social & Economic Opportunity indicators. The Kirwan Institute published this research free and online because it works to create a just and inclusive society where all people and communities have the opportunity to succeed. For more information, visit their website (here).

It is developed here as a link shared with a discussion of a large housing development project near Flushing Creek in Queens. The need for this development to recognize related community development interests (e.g. childhood opportunity) is clear. What is not evident is whether the development will displace those young people, or bring them the future.

Point Layers

Polygon Layers

Housing + Transportation

The ESRI resource brings data to people, freely and without cost. It is not a service offering answers to problems, it is an invitation to people to recognize their power. In the example below the people of Flushing, Queens, and a large section of New York City do not need an automobile. What they do need is a high-quality investment in the subway and related mass transit system to be competitive with private transit. The people of NYC are the low-carbon emitters, however, they are not well represented.

Remote Sense

Jack Dangermond is the founder and president of Esri, a geographic information system software company approaching $6 billion in assets since its formation in 1969.

The technology to watch systems deteriorate and thrive at the local, regional and global level of observation is available. Jack illustrates the power of geospatial data in a mere six minutes. Still, the solution offered is frustration personified, but only if the tragedy of the commons moves from the pasture to the planet. or the alternative (here) “let’s all work together” is realistic.

Without a doubt, he expresses a powerful sense of urgency. It is worrisome, but Jack sees how geography has a way of combining the self-interest found at every doorstep with the regional thresholds of common interest and, after that, the hope of a global capacity to manage change.

The technological capacity to combine orbiting remote sensing tools and the somewhat ominous ability to predict land/ocean uses as they change is astounding. In addition, Esri’s interest in supporting open source business and pubic agency planning and development data is comforting.

With regular programming and artificial intelligence mapping and analysis, Jack calls upon all people and organizations to the geospatial platform. He sees it as a central tool for understanding local, regional, and global conditions as one with the power to improve planning, policy- and decision-making on the ground in every “layer” imaginable.

Do you or your organization use a GIS system for making decisions in an area of public interest? Examples are housing, public safety, air, and water quality, tenant organizing, public markets, food deserts — you get the idea.

If you are unfamiliar with this resource, consider opening a public account where information is made freely available by ESRI with the help of local, regional, and national organizations. Have a look (here)

An example from a member of The Report is available for review (here).

    Please Respond

    The White Chair

    The White Chair Prompt

    The photographer’s relationship to architecture equips us with a possibility — an agreement of care for the immense impact of density on human life.

    The artist’s eye on urban density requires an exploration of beauty with the planet in mind. Michael Wolf’s favorite photograph of Hong Kong (here) may not be this landscape from his website homepage. Still, it reveals the opportunity for reflections on intensely urbanized life and the wildness of that white chair. With his help, one can explore a series of graphic landscapes (here) that force quality of life thinking with visceral effect. The sense of humanity in his pictures discovers shades of life’s transparency (here). His portraits reveal the beating heart of society.

    Imagine the white chair as an opportunity to gain perspective on the purpose of architecture. What do we reveal if the spread of these apartments became small buildings spread across the hills and valleys below? Is it possible to slip into the ground space among these structures to discover an abundant sense of warmth and protection, art and entertainment, education and training, fresh garden foods, children laughing, the soft bounce of a ball? Are the hallways, corridors, doors, and elevators equally comforting? These questions dismiss judgment of architectural mass for a higher level of contemplation on the quality of dense urban life.

    Startups

    Startups are efforts to plan and deliver a new project, program, product, or service under conditions of uncertainty. To examine the precariousness implied, pay close attention to five well-recognized organizing views   They are known to business development interests in every field. Software services dominate today’s startup business market, but these systemizations of the entrepreneurial spirit probably date to when someone imagined a potter’s wheel becoming a vehicle.

    RLC

    Here are those five views:

    Entrepreneurs are 1) everywhere 2) most have management skills 3) and they are subject to “validated learning.” (?) Therefore, the fourth and fifth views focus on 4) implementation as a “build, measure, learn” sequence but rarely are they well informed by 5) innovation accounting.

    If you hit that “? link,” you took a peek into the twilight zone of management gurus and a vast array of elegant maxims for ending uncertainty. One of those clever maxim gurus, Eric Reis, The Lean Startup made enough sense to hold a strong place on the NYT Best Seller List (roughly 5-10K sold per week to get on the list, then rising to #2). You will also find his approach transferable to the nonprofit, NGO world. The following is how we read it from that point of view.


    Deem it possible to create ventures for an idea in short precise cycles. In that case, the institution, business, or industry size is not relevant. Instead, the key to using these views for a project is to notice changes, savor them and validate what was learned. A startup can perfectly or poorly select the metrics for deciding. Some of the most common are linked below that focus on the more agile sequences.

    The startup strategy may seem obvious, but it varies significantly by the project or product sought. The traditional steps are 1) setting the requirements, 2) with specifications, to 3) begin design.  As these steps occur, they make the problem and the product solution prominent in the mind of individuals.  With this comes the confidence to 1) implement, 2) verify with modeling, and 3) test for maintenance and usability issues. Finally, the practice of fully recognizing the problem/issue leads to trusting the intended solution as understood equally. Unfortunately, these concluding steps tend to involve unsatisfactory participatory bargaining frameworks, even with oneself. To prevent these malfunctions from destroying the whole, innovation accounting is essential, especially to “startup” initiatives. There is a useful introduction to the novelty implied by this phrase from Reis (here).

    What is the Account?

    The release of a project/program into “the wild” may deploy many iterations for acceptance, rejection, and eventual dismissal into the market and a life of use destined to fail or soar. Trying to understand customers with specific consumable solutions (Joost vs. YouTube ?) share this unknown destiny. The effort to inject something into the world, even if it is a singular, unique item, hopes for approval marked by an exchange. Thereafter, the use and enjoyment, or how likely it will be dismissed or displaced by a competitor, is less concerned. Only the uncertainty seems sustainable. Nevertheless, the practices described above are reasonably successful when the solution and the problem are well known and similar to past endeavors.  Injecting the lasting practice of discovery into the “account” requires a diversified approach.

    All the iterations of a known solution from the horse and carriage to a self-driving car led to this brief tale on innovation.

    Leaving the country estate, Sir Alfred Reid passed out while driving his carriage. He awakens outside his London home, surprised he stroked his horse and stumbled off to his bed. Thereafter, he was happy to tell everyone that he had a good-pony-solution or GPS.

    Getting to transformative innovation in transportation doesn’t mean putting everyone into Sir Alfred’s carriage. Instead, this tale represents a singular feedback failure. However, even though creating systems as functional as a horse’s pathway memory appears to be today’s advanced technology, it does not. It merely presses for a known and comfortable solution. Moreover, it ignores innovation accounting disciplines in preference to the useful comforts of validated learning. Finally, it fails by not understanding the customer, only the product. The account is a practice that maintains a reckoning with customers as immediately as possible. In this century, the open-ended practice of dropping sparkling objects ere the consumer’s eye is one of the most self-destructive mistakes to social and environmental well-being ever made. Reis argues it is for the lack of revolutionary innovation. We agree.

    What is Innovation?

    Successful innovation has two sides of a coin. One moves quickly to understand conditions in short-time sequences. The other side uses data from these compact arrays that define relationships. Thus, two sides of a coin establish opportunity, but you have to move like Mario with new data. (?)

    How? First, with your product or service, create a clearly established baseline composed of a minimally sustainable/viable product (MSVP). Sustainable means undamaging to future generations, and viable, in our opinion, means “not dead yet.” Couple the MSVP with the ability to measure customer utilization and behavior as it occurs. Next, collect the short cycle data and measure each trial. Savor the metrics in these cycles, but know they must be carefully selected.  

    No matter how innovative, a point of diminishing returns occurs. If attention is only paid to the first two components of the accounting effort, trouble will brew.  The final benchmark, therefore, becomes knowing when to pivot or persevere. Despite the uncertainty of this decision, recognizing the third side of the coin is critical during this process. The pivot or persevere side is the one on which it spins. Here is one story of the “when, where, and why” of a pivot.

    In the mid-1980s, a well-known university architecture and urban planning program offered its students two studios entitled Community Design and Social Action to be taken sequentially. The courses were supported by a small administrative office that vetted requests for planning and design assistance from local community development organizations throughout the city. One prospective client approached the office with an idea for an extensive training and education center. The center would heighten the skills of volunteers from neighborhood associations and the staff of community-based development corporations.

    The Community Design course provided the planning and research for the concept. Within fifteen weeks, the idea of a training center proved positive, as confirmed by a study of community needs, availability of participants, and a line of probable funding for training people. However, capital for a new or rehabilitated physical location was not available. As a result, the client’s dream of a bustling center of social change agents faded. New questions were asked in the next fifteen-week Social Action cycle. Is space of any size available to demonstrate the training idea? Eventually, a location previously thought of as undesirable was re-identified. It was small but in a convenient location. It represented a minimal but sustainable opportunity. At this point, a clearly identified program baseline was defined. The product became the design and construction of a flexible set of inexpensive, lightweight tables and vertical surfaces adaptable for small-group workshop areas and moderately large presentations.

    Tools for Resilence

    The first distribution of sequences occurred in fifteen weeks, involving traditional steps. The project could have produced one process: presentation drawings for an extensive training center design along with a hearty handshake and a good luck smile. However, the metrics to demonstrate successes/failures would have been obscure. So instead, the Social Action component in the ensuing fifteen weeks asked to identify a minimally sustainable product. It was assigned metrics and benchmarks to sustain a record of accomplishment lasting years. In this process, multiple layers for understanding “the customer” occurred in just thirty weeks. The project selection process for access to this planning and design resource used a detailed online questionnaire. In brief, it incorporated the organization’s characteristics, the type of assistance requested, background logistical data, timeframe, names of committed participants, mission statements, and extra-investigative elements. It was the minimum sustainable product for establishing essential data to define opportunities for a close customer relationship.

    The project began with students, faculty, and a client/customer. The customer/client transformation into a training director was possible because the initial selection and interview process and research confirmed the client’s skills and experience in attracting customers. In this training center case, a modest effort was launched with volunteers and staff. Unfortunately, the process came face-to-face with the spinning side of that coin, and rather than persevere in hope. There was a pivot.

    In the decades since this example, the capacity for a deep exploration of the relationship between technical assistance needs of all kinds and the desire of leaders to improve the quality of change is available for development. It lies in a vast digital matrix for expediting the delivery of products and services with a built-in capacity for rapid change. With the thirty-week sequence, including uptake and administrative follow-up support, this customer joined a growing movement of nonprofit local development corporations, community-based organizations, businesses, and companies dedicated to mission-driven change in metropolitan areas.


    Draw Conclusions

    Feedback is best when it is unhesitating in a social setting. However, moving quickly from idea to building and measuring, gathering data, and leaning back into a conceptual idea should also be immediate. Developing a digital backbone for networks is extremely useful but demands new techniques. The links below can be explored for ideas on how to gather and share data on a platform.

    From the fine artist or artisan to the builders of the new, new thing, the content of a post-product relationship varies dramatically. These relationships are vital but can be as simple as “how is that ‘it‘ working out for you” to the millions of data queries accessible by grouping values that aggregate items using the discrete categories of mathematical functions. Functions such as arithmetic mean, median, mode, range are available to anyone that decides to count things and, with their customers, build a platform to do so. A startup can establish a relationship with all those interested in acquiring a mutually useful set of products or services with prepared resources. These systems can focus on money solely, but the metrics are available to include other views such as those expressed by the term 3BL (?).

    Whether for a social change training center or alternatives to a self-driving pod, the practice of innovation demands a careful selection of metrics. Moreover, the choice to engage in social change training or urban transportation engineering requires interacting with people and serving investors of all kinds. The following links will take you to a set of choices. Some of them may be uniquely suited to your program, project, or product development. Most will not. The options are many to choose from. They tend to focus on digital products. However, even the smallest product and service endeavor will have a digital existence. Transcending the customer-consumer model begins with the challenges of mutuality, transparency, and environmental intelligence. Understanding new and extraordinary ways to establish reciprocity in the exchange is the central provocation.

    The following needs vetting. Each link is a rabbit hole to peek into for one reason. A fast sequence could list clients to compile a customer/client archetype and possible recommendations and referrals. A fast measure could be to prepare a split test occupied with a fast build unit test. If you have a website, you have an SQL database subject to refactoring. As mentioned above, these are rabbit holes. Choosing by adding information is not.

    We are interested in personal reactions and recommendations useful for NGO B Corporation efforts. If you have some to share, please use the contact link (here). For example, becoming a Certified B Corporation® (here) does not refer to tax status at all; it describes a business with a particular mission to promote the public good in certain ways. Another post (here) examines New York City B-Certified businesses and seeks reviews.

    Fast Sequence

    Fast Measure

    Fast Build

    B Corporations

    The B Lab Company (B Lab) is a nonprofit (IRS Form 990 N.E.C. (W99) that serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good.  Located in Berwin, PA (EIN20-5958773 its mission is “to change the operating system, culture, and practice of business so that all companies compete to be best for the world.  In 2020 it self-reported about 12M in revenue and 10M in expenses (Guidestar).

    Is B Corp Certification Worth It?

    A Certified B Corporation® (here) does not refer to tax status; it describes a business with a particular mission to promote the public good in certain ways. B Corp Certification measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance. The B Impact Assessment evaluates and verifies operations and business model impact on workers, community, environment, and customers.

    Transparency and accountability requirements are used but do not prove where a company excels, however it commits a company to the long-term changes in a company’s legal structure.  A true Benefit Corporation is formed under state law. A list of NYS statute-produced corporations (here) does not include businesses with B Lab certification.

    Public authorities have the power to create subsidiary authorities without additional legislative authorization. An example is 2007, the Empire State Development Corporation, (ESDC) dissolves 13 of its subsidiaries and merged 25 others into a single holding company and still encompasses many subsidiary organizations. While major public authorities can only be created by special legislation, many local development corporations have been created under the General Not-For-Profit Corporation Law as Local Development Corporations (LDC). They function in much the same way as other public benefit corporations and public authorities, but do not need to be established by specific state legislation and like businesses seek B Corp Certification. The speculation is the surge in interest seeks to soften the negatives associated $1.5 trillion tax cut package in 2018. Even B Lab posts an apology for certification delays.

    Should a new startup seek a B Corporation Certification as a means to link other studio and production activities?  One way to find out is to look at the current group that has certification in New York. Using the B Lab directory the following selection of B Corporations based in New York City and nearby areas can be explored. The image to the right exhibits a selection from the B Corp directory. Use it (here) for individual searches not found on the list to the left. Reviews are requested and held in confidence. Use the contact link (here).

    Income <=>

    Obama defines the problem extremely well.

    He actually answers the question about how and why we are in this fix.

    This one looks at implementing a political agenda to reverse the trend where self-interest economics has lost its ability to reinvest. This is thirty minutes on the growing demand from the ordinary person for progressive solutions. The business community had better get involved.

    EPA Saved Cities

    11 Ways the EPA Has Helped Americans

    March 17, 2017 by

    This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.

    The budget proposal Donald Trump’s administration announced yesterday will slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s funding by nearly a third, crippling an agency that has played a key — but often unnoticed — role in American life for nearly a half-century.

    The main target of the president’s ire seems to be the agency’s programs that address climate change. “We’re not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said at a press conference. But cuts so large won’t just affect climate change-related programs — they will trickle down, affecting all of the agency’s work and the state environmental protection offices it supports.

    Even Scott Pruitt, Trump’s climate science-denying EPA administrator, seems to feel Trump’s cuts go too far. When an initial budget proposal surfaced slashing the EPA’s funding from $8.2 billion to $6 billion, Pruitt expressed concern about the effect a reduced budget would have on programs aimed at cleaning up and repurposing toxic and polluted sites, a function of the agency that he supports. The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush and Coral Davenport report that Pruitt lobbied Trump to rethink the cuts, but his appeal, apparently, didn’t work: Trump’s finalized budget flouts his EPA administrator’s wishes by calling for even deeper cuts than initially proposed, slashing the agency’s budget to about $5.7 billion.

    That budget isn’t final. It will still have to get through a Congress where even Republicans who have staunchly opposed the agency in the past are worried about what the funding cuts will mean for their districts. So, given that some in Congress might be deciding if and when to take a stand, we thought it would be a good time to take a look back at some of what the EPA has accomplished over the last 46 years since Richard Nixon signed an executive order in 1970 bringing the agency into existence. These successes were, almost unanimously, won despite the strenuous and well-financed objections of recalcitrant polluters, and are, almost unanimously, now taken for granted.

    1. Patching the Ozone Hole

    Remember the ozone hole? We don’t really either. But ozone concerns were front-and-center in the ‘80s when, frighteningly, scientists discovered that pollution was causing the part of the upper atmosphere that protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation to deteriorate. The issue came to a head when, in 1985, British scientists announced that an expanding hole had formed in the ozone layer over Antarctica.

    The president at the time was Ronald Reagan, a zealous proponent of deregulation who did not seem to have strong feelings about environmental protection. But he surprised his advisers by vigorously backing the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty between 197 nations that banned chlorofluorocarbons, a chemical that was used as a refrigerant and was also found aerosol sprays, and was to blame for the hole. (Why did Reagan take up the cause? No one is quite sure. One theory is that Reagan’s own experience with skin cancer made him particularly sensitive to the topic.)

    Once the Montreal Protocol was signed, Congress amended the Clean Air Act to give the EPA the power to enforce a ban on chlorofluorocarbons and protect the ozone layer. The agency’s success in doing so, along with the efforts of environmental regulators worldwide, helped the hole begin to repair itself — and also, it turns out, lessened climate change. Though scientists didn’t realize it at the time, chlorofluorocarbons contribute to global warming. If not for the Montreal Protocol, climate change’s effects might be twice as bad.

    2. Cleaning up America’s Harbors

    When the EPA was created in 1970, the water around America’s cities was in a notably different state than it is today. Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River was, famously, so thick with combustible industrial chemicals that it often caught fire. Manhattan was dumping some 150 million gallons of raw sewage into the Hudson River each day. Around the same time, a failing wastewater treatment plant in Boston was also spitting out huge amounts of sludge, leading health officials to warn that anyone who fell into Boston’s Charles River or the harbor it emptied into should go immediately to the hospital to be assessed by a doctor.

    It was the EPA’s job to deal with these problems. The Clean Water Act of 1972 charged the agency with cleaning up America’s waters, and provided billions of dollars to do so. Among other responsibilities, the EPA was tasked with laying down minimum standards for wastewater treatment before cities could release it. The EPA was also responsible for regulating city sewer systems so they didn’t overflow, spilling sewage into the streets during heavy rains.

    This made a big difference in America’s cities. New York brought a large, new sewage treatment plant online in 1986, solving Manhattan’s dumping problem. In Boston, a series of lawsuits prompted federal action. “Secondary treatment of sewage is a national standard, which means no more Boston Harbors,” said Union of Concerned Scientists President Ken Kimmell, who, as a former commissioner of Massachusetts’s Department of Environmental Protection, worked hand-in-hand with the EPA to clean up the water around the city. Boston Harbor is now one of the cleanest in the country.

    3. Cracking Down on Lead

    For years, industrial players who used lead fought regulation, with disastrous effects for Americans. A 1985 EPA study estimated that as many as 5,000 people died each year from lead-related heart disease. Tackling lead poisoning was one of the agency’s founding agenda items, and it did so over strenuous objections from the industries that put it in their products. The metal is now virtually illegal, leading to dramatic improvements in public health.

    Legislation in the 1970s effectively banned lead from paint, and a 1985 EPA order required that the amount of lead in gasoline be cut by 90 percent by the following year. Five years later, a 1990 amendment to the Clean Air Act demanded that lead be completely removed from gasoline by 1995. The EPA also reduced the amount of lead that could be emitted by smelters, mines and other industrial operations, leading to an 85 percent decrease in the amount of airborne lead pollution between 1990 and 2015.

    The effort, of course, was imperfect. A December 2016 Reuters report following Flint, Michigan’s lead crisis found 1,100 areas around the country where lead levels were regularly four times what they were at the peak of Flint’s contamination. Many, like Flint, were in poor regions neglected by state and federal policymakers. Unlike other toxic chemicals, lead does not break down over time. But the agency’s efforts did have an enormous effect. A 2002 study found that the level of lead in young children’s blood fell by more than 80 percent from 1976 to 1999, and that IQs increased as a result.

    4. Making the Air Safe to Breathe

    The agency also cracked down on other forms of air pollution, leading to a decrease in particulate matter and chemicals in the air that cause asthma. Their efforts meant a visible decrease in the smog that often choked cities in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

    To do this, the agency cracked down on vehicle emissions and the pollutants coming from the smokestacks of factories and power plants. As the number of miles Americans travel per year has steadily climbed and the amount of power Americans consume has grown, emissions have fallen.

    That saved hundreds of thousands of lives per year, and meant millions fewer cases of asthma and respiratory diseases. According to a peer-reviewed EPA study, these regulations in particular meant 165,000 fewer deaths per year in 2010 than in 1990 and 1.7 million fewer cases of asthma. One recent study found that, thanks to these air pollution controls, children in Southern California have lungs that are 10 percent larger and stronger than children’s lungs were 20 years ago.

    5. Cleaning Up Industrialism’s Legacy

    Throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, residents of Love Canal, New York noticed an odd smell coming from the 99th Street School. And they noticed that odd things were happening too: Childrens’ sneakers melted to the pavement; dogs burned their nose when they sniffed it. Turns out, the school was built on top of a toxic waste dump. The “canal” for which the town is named was filled with toxic waste by the Hooker Chemical Company for three decades — 22,000 tons in all — before, in 1955, the area was paved over and a school was built on top of it. The chemical company had sold the property to the city for $1 — part of the deal, the “Hooker clause,” was that the company would not be liable if anyone got sick or died in the school.

    When residents of Love Canal uncovered this sordid history, it provoked national outrage. Efforts to regulate toxic chemicals had already been in the works — in 1976, Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act as part of an effort to respond to concerns about illegal, toxic dumping, and the Toxic Substances Control Act, which gave the EPA the authority to protect public health by regulating toxic chemicals. But in 1980, largely in response to Love Canal and other toxic disasters that garnered headlines, Congress established a program to make use of a “superfund” that would clean up America’s most toxic places, and throughout the ’80s the EPA put the money to work, cleaning up heavily polluted sites from landfills to oil spills, factory fires to sludge pits, throughout the US. A program for less-urgent but still important cases, the Brownfields Program, was launched in 1995, tasked with cleaning up sites where contamination was an impediment to putting a vacant property to better use.

    These programs, taken together, amounted to a formalized, government-supported environmental justice initiative, improving toxic sites that were unjustly distributed across America’s poor and minority neighborhoods. But, in recent years, shrinking appropriations from congress have slowed cleanup efforts.

    6. Making Water Safe to Drink

    In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, giving the EPA the ability to regulate the water that came out of Americans’ taps. The agency ended up banning more than 90 contaminants from the water supply and cracking down on companies whose business practices poisoned Americans.

    The EPA also issues “revolving funds” to communities to for improvements to the infrastructure that brings water to homes and to water supplies.

    7. Controlling Pesticides

    The EPA has also played a role in regulating pesticides, which helps keep our food safe. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, a law that dates back to the Progressive Era, was put under EPA’s responsibility in 1972.

    One of the agency’s first acts was to ban DDT, a pesticide that first came into use in the 1940s but poisoned wildlife and humans as well as bugs. The chemical’s effects were, famously, documented in Rachel Carson’s 1962 New Yorker serial Silent Spring, but the chemical industry, lead by Monsanto, fought bitterly to keep it in use. The EPA’s decision to ban it was a major environmental victory.

    8. Attacking Acid Rain

    We heard a lot about acid rain in the ’90s but don’t so much anymore. Congress took up the issue in 1990 — George H.W. Bush had, in fact, campaigned on addressing it. Despite opposition from electric utilities, Congress passed an amendment to the Clean Air Act so that the EPA could regulate the chemicals that were to blame: sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

    It worked. “Despite the doomsday warnings from some in the power industry that the regulations would cause electricity prices to spike and lead to blackouts, over the last 25 years, acid rain levels are down 60 percent — while electricity prices have stayed stable, and the lights have stayed on,” former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy wrote in 2015.

    9. Paving the Way for Indoor Smoking Bans

    Back in 1993, the EPA, in response to overwhelming research, classified secondhand smoke as a pollutant likely to cause cancer. At the time, this position was braver than it might seem today. Tobacco companies had waged a multidecade-long campaign to keep Americans smoking by questioning the link between cigarettes and cancer, even going so far as to suppress their own internal research that indicated otherwise.

    The following year, tobacco CEOs admitted in testimony before Congress that cigarettes were dangerous, though their lobbying efforts against regulation would continue for years (a PR effort spearheaded by, among others, Myron Ebell, who resurfaced on Trump’s EPA transition team). But the EPA’s decision prompted a wave of city- and statewide indoor smoking bans; the majority of states now have them in place. And in the decade and a half following the EPA classification, the number of Americans who smoke — and, in particular, the number of high school-aged Americans who smoke — decreased dramatically.

    10. Building a Cache of Public Data

    One of the EPA’s greatest resources is the vast supply of information it has collected over four decades, some of which is available to the public through the internet. This data provides excellent documentation of the threat posed by climate change, but it isn’t limited to that. Spread across dozens of databases, the numbers include such information as the chemical compositions of various toxic pollutants and the locations in the US that those pollutants affect. The databases document the trends in air and water pollution, acid rain and the health of beaches and watersheds. It tracks which companies have been inspected and cited for enforcement.

    Scientists are worried about the fate of this data under Trump, and have been scrambling to preserve it. “There is no reason to think the data is safe,” Gretchen Goldman, a research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, recently told The Guardian. “The administration, so far, hasn’t given any indication it will respect science and scientific data, especially when it’s inconvenient to its policy agendas.”

    11. Beginning to Address Climate Change

    The US government’s effort to address the greatest climate threat to face the modern world will — at least for the time being — be cut short. But during Barack Obama’s second term, the EPA began the work of figuring out what serious US efforts to address climate change would look like. In the face of an intransigent Congress, Obama ordered the agency to take the lead, and under Administrator Gina McCarthy it did, drawing up plans to, among other things, raise the number of miles per gallon gas vehicles were required to achieve and to cut pollution from US power plants.

    Both of those initiatives will be tossed out by the Trump administration. While they were on the books, they were enough of an indication of America’s commitment to dealing with the climate crisis that other large polluting nations — notably China — came to the negotiating table in good faith. That lead to the Paris Agreement, a pact that the US looks likely to either pull out of or ignore, but that the world appears likely to continue to uphold without us.

    David Steindl-Rast

    The differences between fully institutionalized poorness such as that established by prisons or prison-like conditions are often countered by the cultural experience of modest, joyful lifestyles of poorness. Another difference is how being poor is defined by subsistence. It implies a dependency on the acquisition of necessities: water, food, shelter, and security. However, does meeting these minimal requirements translate into the opportunity to achieve emotional and environmental intelligence?

    The means to an emotionally sound, intellectual community is a subject worthy of development but oddly thwarted by anti-subsistent demands that say meeting basic needs cannot generate the opportunity for self-actualization unless one becomes a Benedictine monk with an institutional history dating to 529 A.D. Maslow’s hierarchy is well known. Yet, these benefits appear to be overwhelmed by a completely unknown (or poorly understood) set of disruptive factors that support various social pathologies that prevent a more broadly based public achievement.

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is cae80-subsistent-1.png

    References to research on this subject that extract the contributions of architectural space to the causes associated with this issue are needed. One of the “bridges” extends from architecture that serves the monastic life. David Steindl-Rast is part of the Benedictine tradition. He has unique insight drawn from a lifetime. He finds the freedom from fear is a good place to start by recognizing it as a choice, not a condition, but only if we stop, listen, and go to the references of the surrounding space. A fifteen-minute TED talk on the idea of gratefulness offers an appealing introduction to the problem.

    Federal Agents

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 7252a-dotsinarow.png
    Project Question: What is the strategic relationship that links each of these cabinet positions.

    Established in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, the Cabinet’s role is to advise the President on any subject he may require relating to each member’s respective office duties.  Diehard political scientists examine the Archives on the agencies for comparison.  

    The Cabinet includes the Vice President and the heads of 15 executive departments; the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Attorney General.  Here is a slightly larger list to explore.  Connect the dots.

    Denise Meadows

    The Club of Rome and the Smithsonian Institution’s Consortium for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet hosted a one-day symposium on March 1, 2012, celebrating the 40th anniversary of Limits to Growth.


    The first report to the Club of Rome was published in 1972, and sadly the book was followed with vilification. By 2012, the scenarios offered proved correct, and two truths have become evident. First, there will be a managed solution by putting a price on GHGs and creating new energy solutions. Second, this is a bet made with one assumption.

    There will be a series of catastrophic resolutions with severe social, economic, and environmental “chaos costs” in the world to create needed change. Whether it is small or big business or national or local politics that provides the urgent action needed is of little consequence because it is too late to achieve sustainable development for five main reasons.

    • Public discourse has difficulty with subtle, conditional messages.
    • Growth advocates change the justification for their paradigm rather than changing the paradigm itself.
    • The global system is now far above its carrying capacity.
    • We act as if technological change can substitute for social change.
    • The time horizon of our current system is too short.
    Dennis Meadows

    The term resilience is more common than sustainable for these reasons. The actions called for fit into what business and governance believe they can implement in their self-interest. Dennis Meadows’ investment in getting us to accept “resilience first,” like “fix it first,” gets our ducks in order.

    The estimates for a stabilized and sustainable world called for about 3% of the world’s GDP. Resilience will cost more than that, but now there is no choice.  Resilience is a metaphorical “wall” that organizations such as Global Footprint and the Club of Rome define as the overshoot problem.

    This assessment only began one generation ago, and the ability to get traction on change or the least purchase of the metaphor requires a new growth paradigm instead of a limit. A dramatic term for drawing a line around a place could describe the whole earth or a small town.  Nevertheless, once done, it becomes possible to construct an earnest per capita analysis inside that line to form the urban sphere. Per capita analysis is an excellent measure for comparing the needs and behavior of individuals, groups, and societies that create demands on natural resources. We learn to develop in extraordinary new ways from our personal social, economic, and cultural places. As a friend says on this, you can “parse that to the bank.”

    Limits To Growth

    Chart Sources: Meadows, D.H., Meadows, D.L., Randers, J. and Behrens III, W.W.(1972) (Linda Eckstein)

    How does density fit in?

    • Density reduces the cost of essential resource delivery
      • water, food, energy, and material goods
      • resource transit from places to place
    • Pollution and toxic waste functions
      • are reduced per capita and
      • high volumes are contained for advanced treatment.
    • Density reduces “chaos costs” and increases resilience
      • it integrates renewable energy structures/systems
      • sustains natural habitats and can stop open space fragmentation.

    ?

    People

    Kundera describes ways people want to be recognized.

    In the Unbearable Lightness of Being he put it this way:

    • The first longs for “the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes”;
    • The second needs “many known eyes.”
    • The third demands the eyes of “the person they love”;
    • The fourth is most rare and composed of people “who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present.”

    All are recognized in the dense urban world. The world is full of information and data, big and small on every subject and place imaginable, but its meaning is in people. Have a look. Make a recommendation.

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    Bucky Fuller

    Fuller World Game

    The World Game Report (1969) shows Buckminster Fuller before a map he designed to eliminate distortion and represent an accurate global scale. A half-century has passed, and the demands in this little report remain. It called for a world reporting process that would be accessible to the ordinary person, and it offered this extraordinary promise if this was done, “all of the humanity can be brought to economic success within one-quarter of a century – thus eliminating the fundamental raison d’être of war.”

    RLC

    Designed for “intelligent amateurs,” the game sought a logistically reorganized use of the world’s resources. He introduced a progressive wave metaphor where each wave would create a layer of improved performance per unit of invested time and energy. Knowing how every component functions within the global schedule has continuously improved, perhaps beyond Fuller’s expectation, but not his vision. Global economists since Thomas Malthus and Adam Smith have defined human relations as “trade.”

    The wonderful thing about Fuller is how he knew to offer a view that creates change through design using “scale” to produce balance and proportion. Applied to a map, a nation, a city, or a neighborhood, the scale offers a direct route success. There is much more on Bucky by the Buckminster Fuller Institute.

    Jane Jacobs

    Jane Jacobs’ first reference to density called out the mixed-use character of Boston’s North End and its infamous reputation, and yet in many ways, it had the power to un-slum itself. The failure of urban reform, urban planning, and architecture of her time, on the other hand, was in how they failed to expose racism fully and openly. To the everlasting credit to her insight, she accepted this point in her last book (2004).

    RLC – OCCUPY

    Jane Jacobs Medal
    First Awarded in 2007 to Barry Benepe & Omar Freilla

    “…the death or the stagnated moribundity of formerly unassailable and vigorous cultures is caused not by an assault from outside but by an assault from within, that is, by internal rot in the form of fatal cultural turnings not recognized as wrong turnings when they occur or soon enough afterward to be correctable. The time during which corrections can be made runs out because of cultural forgetfulness.” Dark Days Ahead

    Jacobs saw self-renewing practices in urban districts occurred due to a sense of containment that sustained connections to the city as a whole and the quality of diversity that served many purposes. The urban structures of these districts would be full of corners and small useful places. Structures would vary in age and size across these districts with “hard-working streets” from “specialty store to animated alley.”

    With these main elements, dense concentrations can form a living city in successful regeneration and constant repair of a failure. This was a duality captured by the title of her first book, “Death and Life of Great American Cities.” Chapter Eleven, entitled “The need for concentrations,” closes the argument.

    Density is a framework that supports high levels of diversity and resists the predisposition toward social regimentation.  This was 1961. A half-century later, it is possible to recognize the complexity of promoting new forms of social density in an urban form. Jacobs recognized her city as a place that could provide for everyone. It could do so because it creates opportunities to be creative large or small.  Yet, in the nation’s capital in 1963, these words were spoken by Martin Luther King, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Much has changed in reducing sensitivities to the quality of social change driven by urban diversity. Still, much of the Jacobs’s argument for creative urban development tools that support social justice remains a poorly developed part of the city.

    The Rockefeller Foundation offers the medal.  To nominate a New York urban visionary, participants are encouraged to send an email describing the nominees’ accomplishments and how they relate to Jane Jacobs’s work and legacy. Nominations are considered on a rolling basis. janejacobs@rockfound.org

    Frank Lloyd Wright

    MoMA, New York, Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal


    The American city of the 1920s and 1930s was European with less form. Frank Lloyd Wright presented the possibility of a new identity. His Broadacre City design presented a consumer-driven form. His Mile High (image right) produced sufficient contrast to start the dense vs. dispersed urban design debate of the 1950s that continues to this day. Wright put this forth plainly as a real choice.

    RLC

    The decision to choose density as the principal caldron for the growth of the mind and body of humanity is the right one, but the image of life enclosed by brick and steel remained bleak compared to the deep DNA-like resonance of a bucolic forest and the pastoral life. The American Mid-Twentieth century post-WWII urbanism overwhelmingly favored the car. The urban policy specifically sought to spread the population out and away from the concentrated terror of nuclear war. The people were to be armed.

    Only the writings of Jane Jacobs and a few others, such as Rachael Carson, dutifully prepared stinging critiques of the century’s growth liturgies. Since then, urban development policy has barely managed to praise and support the hapless pedestrian seeking an active public realm.

    A century of dystopian and utopian vision produced a few examples of successful density thanks to Jacobs, but looking for ways to ward off despair and establish the wealth of lifestyles that minimized consumption has yet to yield a solution

    Frank Lloyd Wright, Mile High, Chicago. 19560

    Source of image via MoMA and the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University

    Diversity/Density

    SPHERE 2

    Twentieth-century urban and technological development events represent immense power. Yet, whether they are judged superficial, highly significant, or isolated and irrelevant, all share the common ground of small self-interest groups nested into their environments with various needs, interests, and concerns. Diversity is good for density.

    The city makers and builders might control great wealth for scanning vast expansion opportunities. On the other hand, the makers could implement simple actions such as confronting crime abuses with more sophistication than a neighborhood watch. The deep and complex range of these events are measures of the urban place and experience. They are like the frequencies used to describe the technology of communication. Whether the event source is the long reach of a real estate investment trust or a modest urban infill project, the impact, whether top-down or up from the bottom, is less relevant than the diversity of methods applied by these actors and thereafter the regulators of events in response.


    Envision a set of human occurrences in single-family homes on half an acre, tree-filled lots and compare that activity to what might occur in rows of multiple-story apartment buildings resting on commercial service and retail establishments, a school, and a couple of train stations.


    Accounts of the action contained in urban spaces allow us to define unique spheres of influence. For example, a market analyst or urban demographer might apply the gravity model (wiki) to examine the economics of the actions and events within these places. Still, the actual forces involved are not dissimilar to that between the earth, our moon, and the solar system in which we are contained. The wonder of the billions of small moments involved in this system is that now it is possible to imagine taking stock of all of them, and there are many examples.

    The so-called “smart-city” already lives in the imaginative eyes of those who are now trying to build them, and they might call upon an IBM data system called “Watson” to examine options, and so on. The need to build “a safe camp” or ‘a good city’ or “a flourishing earth” is a process that succeeds best when the action is community-motivated and understood as such. Individual self-interest behaviors are well known, and extraordinary work on interpersonal communication and behavior continues to advance. This makes the main problem very clear, but it is no longer a camp or a city. It is the earth. It is not something we can build like a camp or a city, or is it?

    Nearly eight billion people form the earth community. Comparatively, small groups know the spatial implication of this. Yet, while each is capable of great accomplishment, they prove to be painfully ineffective in solving ‘whole earth’ problems. Yet, we also know the most successful responses to changing conditions, both social and natural, are buried in these small actions.


    What are the connective tissues that would make a whole earth strategy workable?


    In our minds-eye, a few practical examples in three segments are crawling into view that might become whole earth networks aimed at human dignity. The armature for building this vision is built on the grid, the second segment deals with the nature of consumption within the grid, and the third examines the urban brand or vision so formed.

    The Infinite Grid

    Ring on Grid

    Alongside the expected order of the urban grid stands its shadow. Grids demonstrate an infinite matrix, a system for moving forever outward over the landscape. But, equally, the complexity of the movement developed for the use of all grids brings forth the novelty essential to what Alfred North Whitehead describes as the “what else” question.

    We require knowing what is possible now. Science and engineering disciplines inject the grid with service components like mass transportation, steel construction, and the elevator. The grid provides unlimited electric power within all spaces, and with it, the presumption of certainty such as living is about thinking up new ways to live. The unique human capacity for campfire innovation is effective and responds to challenge well. Then suddenly, the urban question changed from how can we “make cities better” to “can we stop cities” and we all know why.

    From basic urban reform to anti-sprawl, today’s global conditions are born of grid technologies that have begun to threaten life and community, but it still holds the novelty we seek. The same way the stars were once seen as sparks from the fire, the city’s vision as unending expansion will also change. Yet, we face one single great problem. Will the unlimited potential of the sphere bring balance and containment to the infinite grid?

    Containing Consumption

    food city

    Materialism is associated with human well-being toward the negative. It tends to reduce positive-social behavior on interpersonal levels. We also see materialism as a major contributor to ecologically destructive actions defined globally as “overshoots” and “footprints.” Worsening educational and social outcomes occur when focusing on the supremacy of personal preference and pleasure over other values. Finally, excessive materialistic behavior is associated with unmanageable debt, often linked to a broader range of pathologies. While these are negative outcomes, the economic arguments dismiss these criticisms as unfortunate behavior while denying the cancerous downside of growth. Containment will require a new kind of intelligent abundance.

    The economic growth of nations and the foundation of most revenue schemes depend greatly on the two forms of physical consumption. The overall economic condition is clear; it will drive spending to high levels by encouraging the purchase of “materials,” but that includes all required to provide or buy an “experience,” and therein lays the novelty we seek. As spending shifts away from physical products toward acquiring personal experience, it offers a unique step toward sustainability. It could build a society with the capacity to recognize the power of introspection and limits.

    The Creative Asset

    point

    Cities have a brand heritage often leveraged as history along with a set of cool stories that firmly establish their urban product. One of the most important or useful of these narrative brands is the ability to cross-cultural borders with food, social norms, sensibilities, clothing, patterns, color, and experiences you might not acquire otherwise. However, when ‘professional urbanists’ seek to change an existing condition thought of as bad to something good, they have not successfully targeted their target audiences for the lack of one ability — to shift perspective.

    Narrowing the professional focus to a single project or program is a step toward failure unless it can be consistently, if now relentlessly infused, with a new view up from the bottom, or from alongside, the top, or via a simple pan inward across the entire creative landscape. The capacity for superlative focus in response to a violent storm or fire is well known.  It is a power to be tapped in new ways as its purpose is to force an element of lateral “death and life” Jacobian creativity in every action (after Jane Jacobs, 1969).

    For another example, the creative application of an oblique strategy is one of the best ways to shift views and see new opportunities.  Please take a moment to explore. Then, post it in the comment section below if it works—a personal reference via BBC podcast here (30 minutes).


    The oblique strategy phrase that started the three indulgent and digressive paragraphs below was: “Make a “blank” valuable by putting it in an exquisite frame.”


    Due to the above reference to Jane Jacobs, I will put a regional development policy idea aimed at increasing non-auto access to places in an exquisite frame. As a result, various multi-use districts would gain advanced levels of market strength given three new frames of regional urban development policy.

    • First, I saw employment growth in these beautiful business clusters created by land-use policies that discouraged job dispersion. Then the potential for these sleek competitive regional economy trains emerged.  They were blue.
    • These trains controlled the direction, if not the physical quality of development or the stability of growth, but each cluster and the train riders had enormous power.
    • Next, a portrait of the funding agents for quality urban form found my frame.  My blue transit system (rail, light rail, and bus) connected combinations of government services, knowledge-based employers, and major universities and medical centers, including “entertainment-based” cultural institutions with finely targeted retail offerings.

    The “branding” idea of strong, dense centers connected to other strong, dense centers is an elegant picture.  The next frame captured traditional agricultural areas, watershed protection zones, and other natural resource functions, including older auto-oriented retail centers and other large warehouse and distribution centers reliant on trucking. These outliers (currently dominating my landscape) will gain the opportunity to be financially supported to defend an expanding natural environment through stewardship. Equally, the dense core structure offers an environment where the toxins of human activity are contained and eliminated with zero-waste policies, but I digress.

    Summary: Choose How Your World Works

    That little “oblique” exercise above is a method to take a personal experience (my education, training, career) and think about how the world should work. The concept works equally well in the organizational development of small groups, especially when there is a breakdown.


    This brief essay on frequency and diversity is a simple example of individual thought and ideas. It needs to fit somewhere like a thought bubble among other people to conclude this way.


    Government should pay for the essential stuff like keeping the nation on a permanent war footing or to help corporations and great big banks cover losses, oh, and spying lots of spying to protect old lines in the sand. But, then again, maybe it (that would be we) should pay for health and environmental protection, affordable housing and public transportation, and lots of education and training.

    I know the former is a well-known path to economic distrust and collapse and the other, an intentional step away from madness toward human dignity. Yet, paradoxically, the former policies may be drawn by “rampart survivalists” as the way it has always been and requires us to circle the wagons. The latter may want to “occupy” new economic priorities by causing a re-energized, democratically digitized, public networking process. Both are “small group” formations – the former is a small group of large organizations and the other a large group of small organizations.  The thing on offer in this example is to launch a quest for balance instead of power.

    The former can be overly defined as the one or two-percent groups with great financial power, global corporate structures, and a managed “public good” regime on the balance sheet. The latter is composed of lots of small groups with chaotic, tentative goodness rules because they are working on new theories of financial power and economic change. One is informed by a small group press and media that the few need and read to solve information problems. The latter works to solve the integration problems of small groups, and they read about ways to build new education process networks. These two forces are at work to change the other. With both in play, something exciting might happen in the region of balance.

    Examine the following examples of that large group of small organizations struggling to find new ways to build their small individual stories into a larger and globally efficacious narrative.

    Social Change

    1. The Movement Generation: Justice and Ecology Project. Connect people to their personal and community ecosystems. To create a way forward, this value is held as the guiding all others. This force identifies and eliminates all elements that contribute to ecological collapse and, in doing so, design and implements a biomimetic future. This alternative is known as the new intentional pathway.

    Science and Technology

    1. Ask Nature challenges everyone to reexamine every aspect of how we use nature to make stuff, think and store ideas, and manage waste. It will produce a massive catalog of nature’s solutions to human design challenges.

    Consumption and Well Being

    1. The Good Guide (now dead or dying) wanted to provide people with safe, healthy, green, & ethical product reviews based on scientific ratings of some 250,000 products. The idea remains important, but it will take more the effort made by University of California-Berkeley professor Dara O’Rourke,

    Education and Training

    1. Kahn Academy is a non-profit educational organization created in 2006 by educator Salman Khan to provide “a free, world-class education for anyone.”

    Participants are asked to expand this list in the comment section below to help develop new main headings, indexing, and groups. The main criteria being the information, and in some cases, the services provided are free. Voluntary donations may be requested.

    Climate change events and displacement impacts threaten water, land, and food security. These security questions link directly to culture as defined by race and spirituality, wealth and poverty, and so on. A thousand questions rise to decide whether or not a proposed practice such as treating carbon dioxide as a regulated pollutant or whether a financing scheme such as “cap and trade” fits into how your world works when it comes to the cost of food, energy, water, transportation, and housing for people.

    Whether it is the “company store” or cooperative alternative, the question will remain clear. Is there an equitable transition made by this decision that increases human dignity opportunities and reduces the potential for ecological disruption and catastrophic resolution?


    “If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against.  The struggle between “for” and “against” is the mind’s worst disease.”  

    Sent-ts’an, c. 700 C.E.

    Elizabeth Warren

    This Fight is Our Fight

    “We used it all—tax policy, investments in public education, new infrastructure, support for research, rules that protected consumers and investors, antitrust laws—to promote and expand our middle class. The spectacular, shoot-off-the-fireworks fact is that we succeeded. Income growth was widespread, and the people who did most of the work—the 90 percent of America—also got most of the gains.”

    Why fight?  Since the 1980s and the beginning of the “trickle-down economics of the Reagan era, do you know how much of the increase in stock markets and business profits have gone to that 90 percent?  None of it.  That is why Elizabeth Warren says we are in for a fight. In a podcast with NPR (HEAR), she says she has learned a great deal about the Senate’s rules, and she understands the actions required. Her re-election was in 2018.   Buy the book This Fight is Our Fight and help her stay on our side.

    In her book, Persist, Warren writes about six perspectives that have influenced her life and advocacy. As a planner who understands that every complex problem requires a comprehensive response. It is worthwhile to get your handle on “the six.”

    George Monbiot

    Self-fulfilling prophecies are tangible, especially destructive ones. In this sense, the assignment of evolutionary principles to lifetime or generational human behavior is a common mistake. The teachings of evolution involve million years. Human behavior is a product of short-term political actions involving just fifty-thousand years, of which only the last ten thousand are directly relevant.

    In part, George Monbiot refers to this kind of thinking in his most recent book, Out of the Wreckage.  He is looking for people that already agree on one type of wreckage or another and willing to build a political movement built on the ground substantial enough to begin repairs.

    To begin,  the “how did we get here question” examines policies that support extreme competition and individualism. When translated into social and economic strategies, the result is a toxic ideology” that destroys hope and weakens common purpose.  The arguments are self-fulfilling and misrepresent the common ground of humanity.  Monbiot outlines well-established findings in psychology, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology that prove human nature is highly altruistic and cooperative.  Enabling economic goals that organize social and institutional development from the grassroots up fulfills our natural ambition for a better society and a safer world. Monbiot outlines policies that support active rebellions of the mind based on a ‘politics of belonging.’ Thus, the thrill of living in a free and civil society is possible.

    The challenge to organizational efforts such as Indivisible is to invent new ways to re-engage people in political action on environmental collapse, civic breakdown, and discussion regarding the climate of anti-politics.  Fighting unfair policies using current political frameworks is only one of those ways. There are many other choices.

    • How would you and your organization spend money on the growth of human knowledge in which every person participates?
    • How would you and your organization get (or share) these resources?
    • How would you and your organization combine your interest fill in the blank ________ (environment, immigration, health, safety, and so on) with other actors in the search for social change?

    Of course, the “who” is you and the other three (why, where, and when) become apparent when openly connected to a ‘how’ such as the three listed above.

    80 Words on “What Happened” 

    What Happened presents many ways to unpack what and who may have been responsible for the 77,000 votes in just three states that produced the 2016 electoral majority. However, two behaviors are the most troublesome: FBI Director Comey’s announcement a few weeks before the election and multifaceted forms of Russian interference.

    Also, two strategies failed.  First, dancing with big money proved far more problematic than being big money, and second, allowing the vigorous reform movement led by Bernie Sanders to wither.  That is the book in eighty words.

    But you should probably run through the following first:

    Fifty Shades of Green: High Finance, Political Money, and the U.S. Congress
    by Roosevelt Institute on Scribd