"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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Future Ready Cities

Location: Nationwide

Website: futureready.dell.com

For many decades, creating a future-ready local economy meant attracting industry. With industry came jobs, people to fill the jobs, and even more jobs from suppliers who supported the lifestyle of the people who came. It was a virtuous circle. Through their economic development efforts, cities reduced the traditional economic frictions of business: those of time, of distance, access to capital and information. To attract industry, they improved their ports, established railroads, built highways and schools, and created financial incentives for growth. And, historically, that worked very, very well.

But in recent years, technology has begun to eliminate or greatly reduce most of those economic frictions. Information is ubiquitous. Virtual infrastructure is as important as physical infrastructure. And access to capital has grown exponentially through democratization and the network effect. Rather than jobs drawing people, today, people draw jobs. But as always, there are winners and losers. Some metro areas are growing rapidly and creating audacious opportunities for members of their communities. While others struggle to march in place. So what strategies should cities adopt to grow and thrive in the future?

Recently Dell and Harvard University posed this question to several dozen experts at the 2015 Strategic Innovation Summit: Enabling Economies for the Future: Enabling Economies for the Future. Economists, educators, local elected officials and administrators, tech infrastructure builders, entrepreneurs and chief innovation officers convened to identify the factors that make cities best poised to thrive in our increasingly frictionless economy.

The consensus at the summit was that communities should focus on three key enablers: 1) attracting and nurturing human capital 2) fostering collaborative, growth-oriented commercial environments; and 3) building an enabling foundation of technology, telecom and physical infrastructure. In a frictionless economy, human capital is critical. Rather than jobs drawing people, today, people draw jobs. Workers care more about what they work on and who they work with than whom they work for, causing companies to pursue talent than the other way around. People arrive for the lifestyle offered by the community. They are attracted by continuous opportunities to learn from others, to collaborate together and to experience culture in all its diversity.

From this fertile talent pool emerge the innovators who will ultimately transform industries and create significant opportunities for economic growth. Future-ready cities understand the need to create a collaborative business environment, supporting not only established firms, with their employees and growing numbers of independent contributors, but growth-oriented entrepreneurs as well. We now know that entrepreneurs drive 50% of GDP and 75% of new jobs. And summit participants suggested that cities put particular focus on nurturing “gazelles”, high-growth companies that have an outsize impact on regional economic growth. Creating public-private partnerships with shared risks and rewards is one important tool that future ready economies can use to spur innovation. The infrastructure that serves citizens has to be robust.

Beyond just transportation, communities must also have the mobile networks, broadband connections and open data platforms that allow value creators to work on their own terms and businesses to provide public services with limited public funds. Coming out of the summit at Harvard, Dell partnered with IHS Economics, an industry-leading macroeconomics firm, to build an economic model for evaluating the future-readiness of cities. The Dell Future Ready Economies Model measures the performance of leading metro areas against the three pillars of human capital, commerce and infrastructure. The model has allowed Dell to identify the Top 25 Future Ready Economies in the U.S. and let public and private sector community leaders compare their own strengths to those of other Future-Ready Economies. (Spoiler alert. The San Jose metro area, home of the Silicon Valley, was ranked number one.)

The 25 cities on the list are well-distributed across the U.S., suggesting that success is no longer just about location, but rather a strong embrace of the factors that enable cities to become future ready.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Million Trees NYC

Location: New York, NY


MillionTreesNYC, one of the 132 PlaNYC initiatives, is a citywide, public-private program with an ambitious goal: to plant and care for one million new trees across the City's five boroughs over the next decade. By planting one million trees, New York City can increase its urban forest—our most valuable environmental asset made up of street trees, park trees, and trees on public, private and commercial land—by an astounding 20%, while achieving the many quality-of-life benefits that come with planting trees. The City of New York will plant 70% of trees in parks and other public spaces. The other 30% will come from private organizations, homeowners, and community organizations.

Trees enrich and improve our environment and dramatically increase the overall quality of life in New York City. Our urban forest totals over 5 million trees and 168 species. It can be found throughout the city along streets, highways, in neighborhood playgrounds, backyards, community gardens, and even along commercial developments. There are 6,000 acres of woodlands in parks alone! The benefits provided by trees are numerous and diverse, making it important to quantify their value to our city and its residents. The primary benefits provided by New York City's urban forest come in three key areas:

Environmental Benefits, Slowing Global Climate Change: Urban trees help offset climate change by capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide in their tissue, reducing energy used by buildings, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel based power plants. Our City’s trees store about 1.35 million tons of carbon valued at $24.9 million. In addition, our trees remove over 42,000 tons of carbon each year. Recently, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development cited a study by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) which advocates planting trees and increasing topsoil as preferable methods of combating global climate change. Since soil and trees effectively store carbon dioxide and other pollutants, ecosystems have been proven to play an essential role in climate mitigation.

Water Quality Protection: Urban trees capture rainfall on their leaves and branches and take up water, acting as natural stormwater capture and retention devices. Street trees intercept 890.6 million gallons of stormwater annually, or 1,525 gallons per tree on average. The total value of this benefit to New York City is over $35 million each year.

Improved Air Quality: Trees remove dust and other pollutants from the air. In fact, one tree can remove 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually, the equivalent of 11,000 miles of car emissions. Our trees remove about 2,200 tons of air pollution per year, valued at $10 million annually.

Lower Summer Air Temperature: According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, urban forests reduce urban temperatures significantly by shading buildings and concrete and returning humidity to the air through evaporative cooling.

Natural Resource Conservation: By using trees to modify temperatures, the amount of fossil fuels used for cooling and heating by homeowners and businesses is reduced. Our City’s street trees provide $27 million a year in energy savings.

Wildlife Habitat: New York City’s urban forest provides habitat - including food and shelter for many species of birds, insects, and other wildlife, as well as environmental education resources for New Yorkers of all ages. A recent Op-Ed piece in the New York Times outlines many of the environmental benefits of trees, including the role of riparian tree planting in fertilizing plankton populations which in turn feeds the local fish population. The effect of such riparian plantings in Japan have been studied by a recipient of the United Nations Forest Heroes Award.

High Return of Investment: Over the years the City has invested millions in its urban forest. Trees provide $5.60 in benefits for every dollar spent on tree planting and care.

Increased Property Values: A significant link exists between the value of a property and its proximity to parks, greenbelts, and other green spaces. Smart Money magazine indicated that consumers value a landscaped home up to 11.3 percent higher than its base price. Street trees provide $52 million each year in increased property values. A recent article in the New York Observer illustrates an increase in property values for buildings in proximity to parks and large street tree species, especially the Callery Pear, Honeylocust, and Pin Oak.

Community and Business District Appeal: The greening of business districts increases community pride and positive perception of an area, drawing customers to the businesses.

Improved Health: There is growing evidence that trees help reduce air pollutants that can trigger asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Green spaces also encourage physical activity - a healthy habit for any New Yorker.

Crime Prevention: Tree canopy is associated with a decrease in neighborhood crime. Strategically planted trees as well as community stewardship of the urban forest correlated with lower crime rates according to several studies performed in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, and other cities.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Creative Cities Network

Location: International

Website: en.unesco.org/creative-cities/home

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was created in 2004 to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development. The 116 cities which currently make up this network work together towards a common objective: placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level.

By joining the Network, cities commit to sharing their best practices and developing partnerships involving the public and private sectors as well as civil society in order to: strengthen the creation, production, distribution and dissemination of cultural activities, goods and services; develop hubs of creativity and innovation and broaden opportunities for creators and professionals in the cultural sector; improve access to and participation in cultural life, in particular for marginalized or vulnerable groups and individuals; fully integrate culture and creativity into sustainable development plans.

The Network covers seven creative fields: Crafts and Folk Arts, Media Arts, Film, Design, Gastronomy, Literature and Music. The Creative Cities Network is a privileged partner of UNESCO, not only as a platform for reflection on the role of creativity as a lever for sustainable development but also as a breeding ground of action and innovation, notably for the implementation of the post-2015 Development Agenda.

Cape Action for People and the Environment (CAPE)

Location: Cape Town, South Africa

Website: capeaction.org.za

Cape Action for People and the Environment (CAPE) is a 20 year partnership of government and civil society aimed at conserving and restoring the biodiversity of the Cape Floristic Region and the adjacent marine environment, while delivering significant benefits to the people of the region.

The rationale of the CAPE partnership is to create linkages between government, the private sector and civil society so that we all work together with a common strategy, avoiding duplication, addressing gaps and uniting to leverage resources and to tackle agreed common priorities in terms of a shared vision. During the first phase of implementation (2001 – 2010), the CAPE programme enabled donor funding to be channelled into new areas of work and exciting new approaches to conservation including landscape initiatives, conservation stewardship, business and biodiversity, fine-scale planning, catchment management, conservation education and strengthening institutions.

During 2011, the programme undertook a review of the CAPE strategy which resulted in a revised strategy being formulated for the period 2011 - 2020. The CAPE programme is co-ordinated through the CAPE Coordination Unit which is hosted by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and its Fynbos Programme. The CAPE Co-ordination Unit (CCU) is located at the Centre for Biodiversity Conservation, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Welcome Table

Location: New Orleans, LA

Website: nola.gov/city/welcome-table

The Welcome Table New Orleans is an initiative of the Mayor’s Office focused on race, reconciliation and community.The Welcome Table will bring diverse groups of New Orleanians together to share experiences, share stories, build relationships, listen & learn from each other and finally create and execute projects that will build a better, stronger city.

Welcome Table Groups (diverse groups of no more than 25 people) will come together to work through a facilitated process of discussion, relationship building and action. By meeting in safe, civil, secure, structured and facilitated spaces, Welcome Table Groups will be able to work through each phase to build greater understanding of each other and critical issues facing our city. Groups will meet in various locations throughout four parts of the city: Central City, St. Roch, Algiers and Little Woods. However, any resident of New Orleans will be eligible to participate. Projects that develop from each Welcome Table Group will not be required to take place in the neighborhood in which they are conceived.

All residents of the city of New Orleans are invited to sign up for a potential spot in a Welcome Table Group.

Since his time as Lt. Governor, Mayor Landrieu has had a keen interest in racial reconciliation and community building. In 2004, Mayor Landrieu learned of the work of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation (based at the University of Mississippi). At the time, The Winter Institute had been working exclusively on reconciliation efforts in Mississippi. With Louisiana and Mississippi sharing similar histories with race related conflicts, then Lt. Governor Landrieu began conversations with the Winter Institute to share their proven model with Louisiana. Those conversations slowed when Hurricane Katrina hit, but when Mayor Landrieu assumed office in 2010 the opportunity to engage in racial reconciliation efforts rose to the forefront again.

The Winter Institute
was chosen as the City’s partner because of their proven model  of success in Mississippi and the shared alignment of values with the Landrieu Administration, that is, bringing diverse groups of people together who seek common ground.

After a process of focus groups, test retreats and meetings, the City of New Orleans received a $1.2 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to implement a multi-year process to support a  racial reconciliation initiative in the city. The Winter Institute, which uses its own funding to do its work, will provide training and technical support. The Urban League of Greater New Orleans, also a partner in this work, will also provide technical assistance and serve as the initiative’s fiscal agent.