“The Real Question isn’t whether Policy X or Trend Y will happen. Stuff will happen. The real question is, how do we set our communities up to thrive in a world of Macro Uncertainty.” -D.G. Rucker
I’m a sucker for those big picture, MegaTrends-that-are-going-to-Rock-Your-World, blog-magazine-TEDx thingys that float all over the interwebs these days. I can’t get enough of the Next Big Thing. My Inner Planner is really a Closet Futurist, if you will.
Thing is, the Future is a lot easier to deal with than the Present. I give the likes of George Gilder and Richard Florida and Don Tapscott kudos, but the real work comes in putting the Next Big Thing to work.
Economic development is the heart of urban planning—cities live & die as their economies change & adapt—while the soul of economic development is the unique spirit of each city. Planning & economic development consultant Della Rucker is putting a lot of Big Ideas to work, and she’s letting you peak into her workshop in The Local Economy Revolution: What’s Changed and How You Can Help (Wise Economy Workshop).
Part an extended blog essay, part a TEDx script, Della delivers a kitchen table conversation that’s all about “usability”. Life has changed, the manufacturing economy isn’t coming back and we need to find better ways to get stuff done. She fills the cup with fresh perspectives on some common changes affecting our communities, ideas for better responses for local government and business, then wraps it up with a charge to go do something about it.
What sort of ideas? Some are becoming well-known, like the idea that economic development is about more than jobs. We have to break out of our silos and work the ecosystem. Some are classics (in certain circles, think StrongTowns), a stern warning about the type of Unintended Consequences that turned trendy ideas like Urban Renewal & “the mall” into moonscapes scaring our cities. Some are straight out warnings about the trendy sort of Big Ideas that folks turn to Gilder, Florida, and other “Experts” for: silver bullets in a world full of werewolf economics (my term, not her fault).
In a phrase, Della’s workshop revolution is about systems thinking and making it easier to fail small while finding the best in our own individual everyday situations. What makes your community unique is the only real advantage in the global economy. No development incentive, no romantic architectural guidelines, no fancy sales job, no cost-benefit analysis calculated out to the nth degree is going to change that. The future is a garden, not a machine for living.
Part 1: Welcome to the Sea Change
- Economic Ecosystems
- Unintended Consequences
- Talent Talent Talent
Part 2: So Now What?
- Hang Up the Wrench and Pick Up the Hoe
- Use Your Usability
- The Real Power of Small Business
- Use Incentives Right
Part 3: You Secret Weapon
- Do Your Homework
- Crowdsource Wisdom
- Be Brave
This book offers fresh perspectives to anybody who cares about the place in which they live. As the author admits, this sort of publication isn’t for everybody. A fellow Gen-Xer, her straight-forward, youthful Midwestern style is closer to a Union Hall debate than a refereed journal article. Yes, sometimes the course language is distracting, and the prologue kind of rambles (as do most of my posts). I’ve watched some of her ideas grow on the Wise Economy blog, and some are still maturing, yet really would do no one any good sitting molding in some academic in-box. These are ideas that want to be put to work. Ms Rucker has the academic credentials as well as the real-world experience, and her point is clear: here’s some timely, thought-provoking ideas from the trenches of building real-world communities.
Someday, I’m going to write a book like this; until then, this is a good bargain-priced read.