Walkable-Workable-Livable

In the eighteenth century the French salon established itself as one of the most influential institutions in Europe. It was a place as well where women exerted considerable influence over the politics and the culture of the period.

Published November 11, 2007 by KC Earthnotes 
By walteraw

In the eighteenth century the French salon established itself as one of the most influential institutions in Europe. It was a place as well where women exerted considerable influence over the politics and the culture of the period.

In addition to being places of intrigue and secret rendezvous, the salon was also where a few brilliant minds could meet others with the same brilliance.

The eighteenth century set in motion many of the ideas and the foundations that are part of our lives today, not only in the West but also throughout the world, for better and, according to a few, for worse. Where are the "brilliant" conversations taking place today?

We may have to give some credit to George Bush's administration, one of the half-dozen most corrupt, incompetent and incurious in U.S. history, for reviving and nurturing the "think locally" movement and conceivably setting in motion the "new" salon for 21st century America. This came to mind as I read about the recent meeting in Seattle of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The overarching theme of the conference seemed to be about developing and nurturing sustainability. How do we build cities that work, create new jobs and nurture innovation?

While it is easier said than done, it is in cities where we can demonstrate the effectiveness of hybrid buses for example, work toward more efficient heating and cooling systems for public buildings, or even demonstrate how to cultivate an urban bicycle world.

Yet, the central question still comes down to how to convince voters that investing in change is worthwhile. How do we talk about stopping sprawl to suburbanites, environmentalists, and inner-city residents? Will "protecting" polar bears resonate with people catching the morning downtown bus to work?

Charles Leadbeater, author of Remixing Cities and a speaker on innovation strategies, talks often about "open-source and consumer driven innovation." In its simplest form it's about bottom-up, which is the beginning of motivating people and neighborhoods to make change.

According to Van Jones, Co-Founder and President of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, California, it's not about "outreaching to" the community in order to get them to agree to your agenda, but building relationships where everyone's views are included in a serious way.

In Portland, Oregon,where I'vd spent a fair amount of time, the city was talking about bike lanes more than 30 years ago. Initially it had more to do with public health as well as the environment, but over the years it ended up becoming a bicycle economy, driven by individuals that more often than not just liked bikes.

The last estimate that I saw said there are more than 100 bike-related businesses in Portland at the present time.

Again, according to Charles Leadbeater, it's about creating conditions for, "cumulative, collaborative combinations of people across sectors." It is about diverse groups of people getting together and letting the brilliance take place.

For an interesting presentation by Leadbeater made two years ago, visit Collaborative Creativity