"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.

Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has"

Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
(used with permission)

"If you don't like the news .... go out and make some of your own !!"

Wes "Scoop" Nisker, Newscaster


Government is a slow and tedious process. While it often includes citizen and neighborhood involvement, non-governmental, private organizations have created movements and interesting groups which can create positive change in our cities and towns.

I am fascinated by the way groups are created and how they influence public decision making. This blog merely recognizes them and forwards the description of these groups from their own websites.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Opportunity Finance Network

Location: Nationwide

Website: www.opportunityfinance.net

Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) is a national network of community development financial institutions (CDFIs) investing in opportunities that benefit low-income, low-wealth, and other disadvantaged communities across America.

OFN Members are performance-oriented, responsible investors that finance community businesses, sparking job growth in the areas that need it most, and delivering both sound financial returns and real changes for people and communities.

Our Network has originated more than $23.2 billion in financing in urban, rural, and Native communities through 2009. With cumulative net charge-off rates of less than 1.4%, we have demonstrated our ability to lend prudently and productively in unconventional markets often overlooked by conventional financial institutions.

Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) are private financial institutions that are 100 percent dedicated to delivering responsible, affordable lending to help low-income, low-wealth, and other disadvantaged people and communities join the economic mainstream.

By financing community businesses—including small businesses, microenterprises, nonprofit organizations, commercial real estate, and affordable housing—they spark job growth and retention in hard-to serve markets across the nation.

CDFIs are profitable but not profit maximizing. They put community first, not the shareholder. They have had great success over the past 30 years, and have a proven track record of making an impact in those areas of America that need it most.

OFN’s mission through 2025 is to lead CDFIs and their partners to ensure that low-income, low-wealth, and other disadvantaged people and communities have access to affordable, responsible financial products and services.

OFN pursues its mission across five key program areas:

Financing: facilitating high-volume, CDFI-based financing systems;

Public Policy: bringing new public and private resources to the CDFI industry;

Knowledge Sharing: transforming the CDFI field with training, research, and analysis for CDFIs, funders, investors, and other key stakeholders;

Strategic Consulting: helping organizations develop the necessary systems to increase growth and performance; and

Strategic Communications: raising the profile of CDFIs and creating a broad base of support for CDFIs and the people and communities they serve.

We are proud of our Network’s record of success:

More than 180 Members strong

$23.2 billion invested through FY 2009, financing:

60,261 businesses

635,528 housing units

6,465 community facility projects

$7.4 billion in total assets

Low-risk, with a net charge-off rate of 1.6% in FY 2009

At work in urban, rural, and Native communities in all 50 states.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

BMW Guggenheim Lab

Location: International

Websie: www.bmwguggenheim.org

The BMW Guggenheim Lab is a mobile laboratory traveling to nine major cities worldwide over six years. Led by international, interdisciplinary teams of emerging talents in the areas of urbanism, architecture, art, design, science, technology, education, and sustainability, the Lab addresses issues of contemporary urban life through programs and public discourse. Its goal is the exploration of new ideas, experimentation, and ultimately the creation of forward-thinking solutions for city life.

Over the Lab’s six-year migration, there will be three distinct mobile structures and thematic cycles. Each structure will be designed by a different architect, and each will travel to three cities around the globe. The theme of the Lab’s first two-year cycle is Confronting Comfort—exploring notions of individual and collective comfort and the urgent need for environmental and social responsibility.

The BMW Guggenheim Lab launched in New York, running from August 3 to October 16, 2011. It is currently in Berlin, where it will be open through July 29, 2012, before moving on to Mumbai in late 2012. Cycle 1 will conclude with an exhibition presented at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2013. Two additional two-year cycles will follow, each with a new mobile structure and theme, concluding in the fall of 2016.

Part urban think tank, part community center and public gathering space, the Lab is conceived to inspire public discourse in cities around the world and through the BMW Guggenheim Lab website and online social communities.

The public is invited to attend and to participate in free programs and experiments at the Lab. In addition, the BMW Guggenheim Lab website and social communities provide opportunities for participants around the world to engage with and to contribute to the ideas and experiments generated by the Lab.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

On The Commons

Location: Nationwide

Website: www.onthecommons.org

On the Commons (OTC) is a commons movement strategy center founded in 2001. Our purpose is to activate the emergence of a commons-based society by:

Building and bringing visibility to the commons movement.

Initiating and catalyzing commons work that focuses on commons-based solutions.

Developing and encouraging commons leadership.

Over the past eleven years, we have initiated successful co-creative projects and innovative strategies for protecting our essential commons, such as water, food, farmland, and seeds; showcased commons-based solutions on a local and national level; and inspired commons activists to make a difference in their communities and the world.

We believe it is possible to remember, imagine, and create a society that goes beyond the constructs and confines of individual ownership. To work on the commons is to work to enliven the deep and ancient memory we all hold of egalitarian and reciprocal relationship, of belonging, of authentic community, and of love, wonder, and respect for the natural world.

Our purpose is to foster the emergence of a new narrative, worldview, and a set of practices that promote a more commons-based society and grows from a set of deeply held beliefs about creating change:

To grasp the promise of a different kind of future, people want their imaginations fueled by visions of something beyond a market-based society.

To create a commons-based society, people need more than exposure to new ideas: they need tangible ways of experiencing, practicing, and living out these bright possibilities.

To ensure the survival of community and our common assets, we must create new customs, understandings, systems, and structures.

Animating efforts based on renewed forms of collaboration, and connecting these efforts, is essential to catalyzing a commons-based movement for change.

On the Commons strives to match the way we work with our worldview and vision for a commons-based society. We feel that building genuine, egalitarian collaboration requires that we shed competitive, hierarchical, and enclosed ways of operating and challenge ourselves to approach our relationships with each other, as well as our work in the world, as reflective of a deep commons practice. To this end, we are a network-based, hybrid organization. We have a leadership team in the field, a small board of directors, and co-directors that manage our general operations. We resource our work in a variety of ways including foundation grants, sustaining donors, consulting, and fee for service work.

Our efforts to build an organization and organizing approach that is aligned with our worldview is not only vital to On the Commons. We also see a commons-based structure and approach as vital to the future of social change work.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Project for Public Spaces

Location: Nationwide

Website: www.pps.org

Project for Public Spaces (PPS) is a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. Our pioneering Placemaking approach helps citizens transform their public spaces into vital places that highlight local assets, spur rejuvenation and serve common needs.

PPS was founded in 1975 to expand on the work of William (Holly) Whyte, the author of The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Since then, we have completed projects in over 2500 communities in 40 countries and all 50 US states. Partnering with public and private organizations, federal, state and municipal agencies, business improvement districts, neighborhood associations and other civic groups, we improve communities by fostering successful public spaces.

In addition to leading projects in our nine program areas, PPS also trains more than 10,000 people every year and reaches countless more through our websites and publications. PPS has become an internationally recognized center for resources, tools and inspiration about Placemaking.

Through research, conferences, and strategic partnerships, PPS promotes Placemaking as a transformative agenda to address some of the most pressing issues of our time. Our newest collaboration is with the National Center for Bicycling & Walking (NCBW) which became a resident program of PPS in 2011. NCBW is guided by the conviction that a balanced transportation system makes for healthier individuals and communities.

In its broadest application, Placemaking is a catalyst for building healthy, sustainable and economically viable cities.

Ecology of Absence

Location: St. Louis, MO

Websie: www.preservationresearch.com

"And so if perforce we must study disease let us study it systematically. I cannot indicate to you the precise nature of that constitutional social disturbance of which our architecture is symptomatic; but little by little I will reveal to you the hidden causes and make clear and palpable to you the aspects and nature of the malady."

- Louis H. Sullivan, Kindergarten Chats

Ecology of Absence is a chronicle of architectural events in the St. Louis region that started as a companion to the website of the same name. The major theme of the blog is historic architecture and the primary goal is to build awareness of that architecture and the forces — social, economic, aesthetic, ecological — that create, threaten and sustain it. The editorial approach is to “strike the roots” and look beyond threatened buildings at the larger forces that create, change and often destroy the built environment of the city. Public policy is a key part of the analysis. Consequently, the blog focuses on changes in the built environment that come about as St. Louis attempts to stem the deindustrialization, depopulation, shrinking public services and loss of architectural fabric that define the modern American urban condition. There is occasional coverage of other cities and adjacent areas in Missouri and Illinois.

Michael R. Allen started Ecology of Absence as a website in August 2003 and has been its primary editor and author ever since. The blog was launched in 2004 and in 2007 all publication moved to the blog. Claire Nowak-Boyd co-edited Ecology of Absence from June 2004 through September 2007. In 2010, the Preservation Research Office assumed ownership of Ecology of Absence.

Ecology of Absence welcomes guest articles. Articles will be published if relevant to the blog’s focus, well-researched and well-written. Photographic and video submissions are also welcome. Submissions should be sent to michael@preservationresearch.com.