Competitive Communities
Building Communities for Tomorrow's Economy
Project Based Learning in a virtual “Third Place”

Sunday, July 06, 2008  

Web2.0 in PBL High School is a blog by Dean Groom. He is building a “Third Place” classroom with Web2.0 technology. Dean describes the importance of a ‘constructavist’ approach to learning as “a set of theories about learning which fall somewhere between cognitive and humanistic views”.

In describing his purpose for this blog Dean makes the following comment:

“There are some differences in constructavist approaches to learning, most commonly described as ‘Inquiry’, ‘Problem’ and ‘Project’ based learning. There are obviously similarities and some cross overs, but in this blog I am looking primarily at Project Based Learning (New Technology Foundation, based on the Buck Institute Model), and Web2.0 - the read/write web.”

You can read more of his explanation here.

He has also posted a video of Clay Shirky talking about his book, “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations”, here.

Among other informative entries is a review of a presentation by Konrad Glogowski on the importance of “third places” that “are ‘anchors’ of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction.”

posted by Kim | 2:12 PM
Connecting Communities with Schools

Saturday, June 28, 2008  

Finding new ways to improve the quality and efficiency of communities is a challenge. Rethinking the relationships between schools, neighborhoods, municipalities and regions is an opportunity to design new models of schools as centers of communities. These new models of schools can become trusted places where civic capacity is raised, facilities are designed for the 21st century learner and the surrounding community is served in innovative ways. This philosophy is a move away from school consolidation toward smaller scaled facilities that are integrally connected to their neighborhoods and where access by walking and bicycling is part of the planning model.

A 2006 report, Model Policies in Support of High Performance School Buildings for all Children, by BEST (Building Educational Success Together) looks at some of the policy changes needed to allow innovation such as shared planning and funding of new models of community schools. The following are excerpts from the report:

“The BEST partners developed a four-part policy agenda:

1. Increase the coordination of school district and municipal planning and ensure there is public participation in the planning process;
2. Create and support schools as centers of community that offer school-based supports to children to eliminate barriers to success and serve the broader community;
3. Improve facilities management, including maintenance and capital improvement programs; and
4. Secure adequate and equitable facilities funding.”

Schools are needed to anchor changing and stable communities…there are policy and practice barriers to shared use of public schools with non-school entities.”

“The concept of schools as centers of community includes: (a) extensive and innovative community use of the public school facility; (b) schools where community partnerships support high quality education, and contribute to life-long learning; (c) co-location with local government agencies and/or community organizations resulting in creative program service delivery and more efficient utilization of public land and buildings; and (d) opportunities for new and/or additional sources of funds for financing building improvements and program delivery.”

“…establish a process to support joint development between school districts and other public entities such as libraries, parks, senior centers, health clinics and public charter schools, for examples; that supports the planning, design and construction or modification of buildings for the ongoing shared use of public school facilities with other public government entities.”

“Through joint planning efforts the school district and the municipal entity can develop a project to utilize land and funds more efficiently. There are savings to be realized for both entities when there is shared use of a facility and site. These possible savings include site acquisition, design fees, construction or renovation costs, operating expenses, and maintenance costs.”

“…new schools, where necessary, should be built in existing and expanding communities. In dense urban areas, a new or renovated school can mean new life for a neighborhood.”

Consolidation of small schools is a major threat in rural areas. Consolidation often means that smaller schools or schools located near small populations will be abandoned in favor of larger schools located on large previously undeveloped parcels. In many cases, these schools are far from existing communities. This adversely affects both the community that lost the original school and the students who are required to commute to school.”

“School districts struggle with the books versus bricks tension in all but the most affluent communities. The result of this is often that maintenance is deferred until there is a crisis—no heat, roof collapse, unsafe conditions—or in many schools, a quiet decline that eventually reduces parental and teacher satisfaction with the school, sending parents and staff to other schools or communities to live and work.”

posted by Kim | 7:32 PM
Linking and Leveraging – Schools, Communities and Local Governments

Sunday, June 22, 2008  

Collaboration between engaged citizens, school districts and local governments will improve the quality of our communities. The location, size and use of public schools have tremendous impacts on communities. These impacts include: the economy, the environment and public health, traffic congestion, community cohesion, social equity, quality of education, and school and local government finance. In most communities this collaboration does not exist due to “lack of trust, politics, time constraints, lack of communication and lack of commitment”. The results are evident and not sustainable.

A 2008 report from the Smart Growth Network, Local Governments and Schools – A Community Oriented Approach, written by Megan Sharp, an assistant project manager in ICMA’s Livable Communities Team provides compelling information about the benefits of smaller community schools.

The following are excerpts and information from the report:

“Since the 1950s, average school size (measured by enrollment capacity) has grown and school facilities have become increasingly distant from the neighborhoods they serve. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that from 1930 to 2001, public school enrollment in the U.S. nearly doubled, from 26 to 48 million, yet the number of public school buildings decreased 60 percent in the same period, from 247,000 to 93,000. These statistics indicate a shift from an average of 105 students per school building to 516 students, across all grades. As average school size has grown, schools have also been built farther from where people actually live. This trend is related not only to the growth in average enrollment size, but also to a variety of policies and practices… that encourage large site sizes and discourage renovation or expansion of existing schools.”

“State and local policies—as well as how local governments and school districts interact with each other—influence decisions about where and how school facilities are built, maintained, and used. The land use and facility planning efforts of local governments and school districts have become increasingly separated in most communities. Their lack of coordination may contribute to the trend toward larger, more distant schools and associated economic, environmental, and social impacts.”

Between 1969 and 2001 the percentage of elementary students walking or biking to school dropped from 48% to less than 15%. Those students arriving by private vehicles increased from 12% to 50% during the same time frame. Those arriving by bus dropped from 38% to 32%.

“The decline in walking and biking to and from school poses two problems: increased vehicle travel and decreased student physical activity. The former, like all congestion, contributes to air and water pollution and carbon emissions that impact climate change. And the latter is thought to be a major contributor to the rapid rise in youth obesity rates.”

This report provides recommendations and case studies from communities that have begun collaborating and moving to community oriented schools. Connecting smaller schools to the communities that surround them is smart and is one of the ingredients for communities to achieve greater prosperity.

posted by Kim | 5:14 PM
Resource: San Diego' s index of regional innovation

Saturday, August 25, 2007  

San Diego Connect, a leading edge entrepreneur support organization, has released a new "index of regional innovation". The index measures how many startups have launched in the previous quarter. The index also looks at fluctuations in key technology clusters.

You can learn more about the index here. You can view a presentation on the index here.

posted by Ed Morrison | 6:51 PM
Artists and urban regeneration  

Both Detroit and Toledo are focused on improving the opportunities for artists as a leading edge to urban regeneration.

The Executive Director of the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit, outlines the role that artists can play in urban revitalization:

"People explore cities through the arts and what others are doing creatively. Then they start to look around and think, hey, I could live here." Learn more about what's happening in Detroit here.

In Toledo, the mayor is promoting a downtown arts district. As he noted when he introduced his plan, "Art is not only about improving the ambience of the city... he is also about economic development." Learn what Toledo is doing here.

posted by Ed Morrison | 6:24 PM
Finding Walkable Communities  

Competitive Communities understand the importance of living in walkable neighborhoods. Walkable is one of the characteristics of “smart growth”, “traditional neighborhood design”, “new urbanism”, “transit oriented development” and other similar concepts used to describe more sustainable growth. If you are curious about how walkable your neighborhood is check out
Walk Score , a rating system for walkability. Type in your address if you live in the U.S., Canada or the U.K. and a map will appear showing you what is nearby and a score from 0 to 100. Anything less than 50 is not considered walkable. This site is the inspiration of Sightline Institute , a think tank based in Seattle with a mission to bring about sustainability.

If you need convincing that walkable communities are important for a better future read the following excerpts from the Walk Score web site:

Walkable neighborhoods offer surprising benefits to our health, the environment, and our communities:

Better health: A study in Washington State found that the average resident of a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood weighs 7 pounds less than someone who lives in a sprawling neighborhood. Residents of walkable neighborhoods drive less and suffer fewer car accidents, a leading cause of death between the ages of 15 - 45.
Reduction in greenhouse gas: Cars are a leading cause of global warming. Your feet are zero pollution transportation machines.
More transportation options: Compact neighborhoods tend to have higher population density, which leads to more public transportation options and bicycle infrastructure. Not only is taking the bus cheaper than driving, but riding a bus is ten times safer than driving a car!
Increased social capital: Walking increases social capital by promoting face-to-face interaction with your neighbors. Studies have shown that for each 10 minutes a person spends in a daily car commute, time spent in community activities falls by 10 percent.
Stronger local businesses: Dense, walkable neighborhoods provide local businesses with the foot traffic they need to thrive. It's easier for pedestrians to shop at many stores on one trip, since they don't need to drive between destinations.”

Walkable communities tend to have the following characteristics:

A center: Walkable neighborhoods have a discernable center, whether it's a shopping district, a main street, or a public space.
Density: The neighborhood is dense enough for local businesses to flourish and for public transportation to be cost effective.
Mixed income, mixed use: Housing is provided for everyone who works in the neighborhood: young and old, singles and families, rich and poor. Businesses and residences are located near each other.
Parks and public space: There are plenty of public places to gather and play.
Accessibility: The neighborhood is accessible to everyone and has wheelchair access, plenty of benches with shade, sidewalks on all streets, etc.
Well-connected, speed controlled streets: Streets form a connected grid that improves traffic by providing many routes to any destination. Streets are narrow to control speed, and shaded by trees to protect pedestrians.
Pedestrian-centric design: Buildings are placed close to the street to cater to foot traffic, with parking lots relegated to the back.
Close schools and workplaces: Schools and workplaces are close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.”

Sightline has also developed a progress index, The Cascadia Scorecard that uses seven indicator trends to measure progress toward sustainability: Health, Economy, Population, Energy, Sprawl, Forests and Pollution.

If you are interested in shaping a walkable community in your neighborhood you can find additional information at Walkable Communities, Inc.

If you are interested in walkable neighborhood design examples check out MHSM neighborhood plans here.

posted by Kim | 4:22 PM
“Regional Competitiveness” – The Evolving Era of ED

Sunday, March 04, 2007  

A May 2005 report, A Review of the Federal Role in Regional Economic Development by Mark Drabenstott of the Center for the Study of Rural America, presents an insightful look at the role of government in Economic Development. This study shares some ED history and explains how the federal government is organized to support economic development.

“The current federal hand in economic development is not easy to characterize. Programs have grown up in nearly every corner of government over the past 50 years or more. Nine federal departments and another four agencies all get involved in one form of economic development or another. This effort is largely unfocused—there is no overriding goal focusing the effort. In that sense, it is far easier to list the 180 programs involved in economic development than to describe the policy driving them. However, what can be said is that many of the programs assume that regional economic development is largely homogeneous across the nation, and is driven by an industrial economic engine.”

Drivers of regional economic development have evolved over time. The 50’s thru the early 80’s were the age of industrial recruiting, deregulation in the 80’s brought on cost competition, and accelerated globalization of markets in the 90’s led us to a currently developing age of Regional Competitiveness. The main drivers of this current trend are innovation and entrepreneurship. Human capital and higher education are critical assets in our current understanding of this new era. The following are additional excerpts from the study:

…”critical distinction between today and the earlier eras is that economic development is no longer a matter of one economic development strategy applied to all regions—what some might call a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Industrial recruitment was universal. Indeed, the remnants of this strategy still run far and wide. Competing on cost was a similarly far-flung approach. Regional competitiveness, by contrast, is highly idiosyncratic. Every region has a different set of economic assets, a unique capacity to innovate, its own crop of entrepreneurs, and its own opportunities in global markets.”

“The theory that a region’s growth depends on exploiting its indigenous assets is the critical foundation to regional competitiveness…how regions grow has developed in three distinct strands of economic research. Some economists are focusing on the importance of clusters, suggesting that a concentration of similar firms creates synergies that can fuel growth. Others describe a new economic geography, in which local amenities are critical determinants in creating a pool of skills and capital that can spawn new ideas and businesses and grow a region’s economy. Still others focus more on entrepreneurs and innovation, arguing that fresh technologies and the right climate can lead to a rich seedbed of businesses, spurring economic gains. While each strand has merit in its own right, together they form a strong consensus that regional competitiveness is becoming the accepted model for regional economic growth.”

This research supports the competitive communities model of brainpower, quality place and innovation. Uncovering assets that bring entrepreneurs and higher education to the table of creative collaboration will lead to unique regional ED strategies.

Our current work includes a regional ED strategy built on the music history of the Louisiana Hayride and its neighborhood, where the cultures of south and west collided with the blending of country, blues, gospel and jazz leading to rock-a-billy. The Foundation for Arts Music & Entertainment (FAME) is working with a regional higher education consortium of 12 institutions (CERT) to implement a regional ED plan network of rural and urban communities branded as the “Magic Circle”. To learn more you can download the plan, Shreveport’s Historic Music Village .

posted by Kim | 1:50 PM
The Urban Age of the 21st Century:Economic Prosperity? Environmental Sustainability? Social Inclusivity?

Saturday, December 09, 2006  

The competitive communities model and open economic networks are innovative strategies to advance an urban agenda for the 21st century. Collaboration and issue connections lead to more comprehensive approaches to building communities – actions that are more broadly supported and more sustainable. MHSM is currently working on a specific area redevelopment plan initiative to organize community discussion and action around – housing, education, meaningful work, safety, health, leadership and culture. “People tend to move in the direction of their conversations.” Focusing these conversations on a specific area of the inner city, beginning first with the neighborhood and expanding to the broader community, could be a beginning of change to advance an entire city toward the 21st century agenda presented by Bruce Katz in November. The idea for this plan organization comes from the work of a non-profit organization, SBCR, that incorporates these 7 elements as part of a village structure model with mutually enhancing relationships as the foundation and basis for meaningful dialogue.

The following excerpts are from a speech given by Bruce Katz, An Urban Agenda for an Urban Age, presentation prepared by Bruce Katz, Andy Altman, and Julie Wagner for the Urban Age Conference in Berlin, Germany on November 10, 2006. The challenges presented are consistent with the work of our firm and network of partners.

…”we call for an Urban Agenda that matches the pace and intensity of the Urban Age. This Urban Agenda will embrace the goals of competitive, sustainable, and inclusive cities and, equally important, commit to pursuing and delivering these objectives in tandem. That will require wholesale change in how people— practitioners, policymakers, and researchers—do their business. It will necessitate programs and policies that drive integrative, multi-dimensional thinking and action. It will extol the role of the physical, emphasizing the importance of building cities that are adaptive and resilient and advance broader objectives. It will reinvent urban politics to advance the new urban paradigm. And it will require multinational corporations to be grounded in “place” and become strong partners for change.

Make no mistake, the stakes are high: the path of development in many cities around the world is simply not sustainable socially or environmentally or politically – nor, ultimately, economically.

Not only is our world increasingly urban, this urbanity is increasing at a scale…at a speed…fuelled by mobility and diversity… arranged in a complexity…and tied together with a level of connectivity…never before seen or experienced.

So, where do we go from here? How do we design and implement an Urban Agenda that matches the pace and intensity of the Urban Age?

The goals of the Urban Agenda—competitive cities, sustainable cities, inclusive cities—are not at issue. The trinity of economy, environment and equity is substantively warranted, morally imperative and widely accepted.

Cities are complex and interdependent. As such, they require multi-dimensional, integrated and holistic interventions.

This century’s Urban Agenda needs to be about delivery as much as aspiration.

Economic Development
Environmental Protection
,sources: The World Bank; Various

It is an agenda that must empower people, with more integrated and transformative programs and policies, through a heightened awareness of the physical “place”, with a realignment of politics, and an infusion of new partners.

We first need to focus on the people who deliver the Urban Agenda. Imagine networks of city builders who cut across disciplines, programs, practices, and professions. These city builders will perfect new ways of “reading” cities, and deploy new metrics and measures to diagnose city assets and ailments and gauge city progress. They will be fluent in multiple city “languages”—architecture, demographics, engineering, economics, and sociology—and be cognizant of theory and practice. Modern society has deified specialists and technicians who diagnose and strive to fix discrete problems, say traffic congestion or slum housing.

If cities are to succeed, we must build a generation of generalists who see the connections between challenges and work to devise and implement policies that advance multiple objectives simultaneously.

If cities are the organizing units of the new global order, then a broad range of policies and practices at the city, national and supra-national levels need to be overhauled, re-ordered, and integrated around new spatial realities and paradigms.

We need to break down the barriers between specialized and self-referential disciplines, professions, and bureaucracies.

We need to link learnings and share innovations across networks of urban researchers, practitioners, and policymakers, across the developing and developed worlds.

We need to build cities that are prosperous, sustainable and inclusive.”

posted by Kim | 6:27 AM
Implementing Smarter Growth

Saturday, February 18, 2006  

The Quality Place component of Competitive Communities is aimed at understanding and building value in uniqueness. We are developing Quality Place Measures to establish current position, assess impact / direction of community growth values and assist in charting a course for the future. It is not a device to rank communities against one another. It is simply a measure and value direction scale for charting place characteristics. There are nine categories of measure. Contact us to learn more.

Marketable ideas about growth have passed from one community to another without an understanding of the consequences and without tools to manage good and bad impacts. The result is often a rather uninteresting sameness that adversely impacts unique character that distinguishes a community. The Competitive Communities framework can serve as a simple tool for organizing dialogue about community actions and outcomes as well as beginning to connect quality place strategies with brainpower and innovation strategies.

There are a number of organizations working to increase the body of knowledge about quality place and provide tools to assist communities in growing smarter and in becoming more sustainable. Many of these guidelines are the result of research on negative consequences of growth patterns that are proving unsustainable. More sustainable approaches have now become marketable. These new characteristics are often reminiscent of older inner neighborhoods that have, over time, lost value and show symptoms of disinvestments while prosperity has moved outward. These new / old ideas about planning community are a good fit for inner neighborhoods that have suffered neglect.

However, the new principals are often used to retool outward growth strategies that continue to not fully address the broader issues of competitive communities and regions. It remains easier and more profitable to develop in a green field. Although it is a better growth pattern than low-density sprawl, these efforts could be more aptly branded “new suburbanism”.

If you would like to know about principals of growing smarter the Smart Growth Network and the International City/ County Management Association (ICMA) have produced two documents to assist communities in implementing better growth policies:

·Getting to Smart Growth: 100 policies for implementation

·Getting to Smart Growth II

These two documents provide examples that demonstrate applications of smart growth principals:

1. Mix land uses
2. Take advantage of compact building design
3. Create a range of housing opportunities and choices
4. Create walkable communities
5. Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place
6. Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas
7. Strengthen and direct development toward existing communities
8. Provide a variety of transportation choices
9. Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost-effective
10. Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration

Download a presentation; Making Land Development Regulations Work for Smart Growth , that includes links to resource organizations. Smart Growth America has also re-released a 2004 publication; Smart Growth is Smart Business, Boosting the Bottom Line and Community Prosperity . Smart Growth America has a number of other resource publications that will be helpful in becoming a smarter community.

posted by Kim | 6:28 AM