Overview: How We Can Convince Citizens To Invest In The Future Using A Simple 3-Step And Four Themes

#1: Test Single Improvements
#2: Synthesize Multiple Benefits
#3: Spread Success Widely

Let's get back to basics: CCC's goal is to help you explain to citizens the changes that must be made in your community so it (and the region) can prosper in the new economy.

This "Guide" contributes by highlighting those organizations who make those changes work so you can more easily apply them and improve your community. This "Guide" explains the development of these innovations as a deliberate, scientific and replicable process. This process is known to reduce the risks of changes and increase your chances of success. More to the point, this "Guide" employs the scientific method so you can overcome the ignorance of "NIMBYism" and the larger citizenry's anxiety so they will approve -- and pay for -- change.

Offered in the spirit of Sustainable Susan (who sits on our Editorial Committee), our scientific “3-Step” first describes those innovators who test ideas, such as mixed use development. In Step 2, we detail three synthesizers who make those developments work better by multiplying mixed use benefits by, say, advocating a more compact community. In Step 3, the synthesizers work with councils of government to spread the benefits and results.

This scientific 3-Step replicated applied to every community will solve the multiple crises now upon us. Or, you can try all the murky methods of politics. But if you want logic on your side and want a long term strategy for squaring with citizens, this scientific method promises to help us overcome the random failure created by 300+ communities suffering the expense of re-inventing their own wheels.

In describing this process, four themes become apparent. We sketch each and then describe it in their separate Introduction which you can read by clicking five paragraphs below.

First theme: our transition from "livable" communities (which is today's consensus) to "sustainable" ones depends on proving how sustainability offers multiple benefits that contribute to economic growth and fiscal balance.

Second theme: ideas that work in one community must be adapted for another community if it is to be competitive in the new economy. This "reinventing the wheel" creates more work for the region's 250+ municipalities to change their laws so adaptations can be made. However on the plus side, the adaptations are simpler once you accept that they are essential and you use our 3-Step as your guide.

Third theme: the regional groups described in Step 2 and, eventually, Step 3 accelerate the process of changing how communities work together.

Fourth Theme: Sustainability can do more with less. Sustainability is evolving into a regional system whose components, if integrated, will generate multiple benefits, do more with less and, thus, can earn broader support.

Each of these four themes are described more in words and schematics if you click here.

 

 

 

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Table of Contents And
Schedule of Additions

Overview: How We Can Convince Citizens To Invest In The Future Using A Simple 3-Step
And Four Themes

   Completed August 2010

Step 1:
Idea People And Entrepreneurs
Lead The Way With Innovations


1) The Urban Land Institute, Chicago region. Posted in April 2011.

Other reviews of Step 1 organizations will post as time permits. (If the group's logo is present below, click on it and the review will pop-up.)

2) American Planning Association, N. Illinois
3) The Center For Neighborhood Technology
4) Openlands and Chicago Wilderness
5) Active Transportation Alliance
6) U rban Institutes at UIC and U of C
7) Bloggers and independent websites

Step 2:
Nonprofits Who Take Innovations And Synthesize Multiple Benefits So They Are More Easily Adapted To Other Communities
    These 3 Summaries posted in November 2010.
1) The Metropolitan Planning Council
2) The Chicago Architecture Foundation
3) The 2016 Olympic Bid

Step 3:
Regional Agencies And
Sub-Regional Councils Of Government
Make The Changes Widespread
 Reviews will post as these agencies start increasing their regional perspective.

Your Turn.

We don’t expect our reviews to please everyone. Rather, the reviews are intended to develop “sustainability” as a fiscal and economic development policy.

This will be work. So, please help by giving us feedback on how to describe the organizations transforming Chicagoland into a prosperous, sustainable region.

Send all correspondence to: Guide@ccc-chicagolandcitizenscentral.org.

Overview of Step 1: Ideas Need Entrepreneurs Of All Types

 

A good idea has value in the real world only if an entrepreneur makes it work.

The entrepreneur can be a land developer who is adapting Conservation Design techniques to reduce suburban flooding.

Or the entrepreneur can be a developer who wants to build more units near a transit stop, but needs to prove its multiple benefits: reduce his land costs per unit, make the town’s infrastructure less expensive per capita and raise neighbors’ property values.

Or the entrepreneur also can be a researcher of social problems who develops programs to prove their solutions are practical.

Step 1 tells the stories of the ideas and leaders who make problem- solving easier. These entrepreneurs take the risk and sometimes yield the benefits, either for themselves or society or, if sustainability is achieved, both communities and entrepreneurs gain in balance.

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Introduction: Why Entrepreneurs Who Test Single Innovations Lead The Way

A key social value of these entrepreneurs and organizations is they shorten the problem-solving process for others. And it usually is a long process that involves municipalities changing ingrained laws, bankers lending for new development methods and other sometimes-scarce ingredients. To improve this process, we offer these four simplified principles.

1) Solve one problem.

2) Pick the low-hanging fruit.

3) Highlight the benefit.

4) Partner with the synthesizer to get multiple benefits in Step #2.

Click for details.

 


Having proposed above the 4 principles to evolve sustainability, let’s quickly introduce the organizations that support the principles.

1) The Urban Land Institute is one of the most influential forces in defining sustainability because ULI cooperatively shares new methods within the real estate industry. ULI-Chicago’s services to members and the public are described in the article if you click on the logo.

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2) The Chicago Metro section of the American Planners Association is the main conduit for sustainable development practices to planners in both the public and private sectors. This article on APA’s role will post in March.

3) The Center for Neighborhood Technology is the prototypical “think-tank do- tank.” CNT may well be the nation’s top urban innovator. Chicagoland is its main laboratory for exploring sustainable energy and development practices. Post in May.

4) Openlands is a regional advocate at the forefront of converting open space into a better asset for sustainable water management that minimizes flooding and increases water infiltration. To be posted in July.

5) The Active Transportation Alliance ambitiously fills a strategic niche of integrating bikes, walking and transit so they constitute half of all trips made in Chicagoland by 2030. To be posted in September.

6) These urban institutes analyze data, test their hypothesis in the real world and, then, disseminate the results to local agencies. Associated with universities, these do-tanks work on a range of social issues. This chapter of the “Guide” will review four institutes whose strategic contributions are accelerating the transition to sustainability. To be posted in November.

7) Finally, we review several bloggers and websites. While almost none of these actually test their opinions in the real world, they serve an important role by helping us piece together sustainability into an environmental, economic and fiscal whole. To be posted in early 2012.

Because most innovations are undermined by antiquated systems, we also will describe how the above entrepreneurs link with regional synthesizers in Step 2 who, in turn, combine related innovations to combine the multiple benefits needed to overcome obstacles.

 

Step 2: Nonprofits Who Take Innovations And Synthesize Multiple Benefits So They Are More Easily Adapted To Other Communities

 

Overview. While the idea entrepreneurs can test a prototype to prove an idea’s feasibility, larger civic organizations with greater reach and resources will prove its viability. Civic groups prove viability with a few local policy successes and, then, adapt them to a few other areas so there is enough progress to win, eventually, mainstream acceptance regionally. While the Metropolitan Planning Council plays the lead role for Chicagoland, we review two other groups that contribute key ingredients.

Introduction: Why we need synthesizers. For example, the idea people at The Center for Neighborhood Technology have shown that households with alternatives to the automobile spend an average of 8% less of total annual income compared to households in auto-dependent neighborhoods.

This is an important finding of late 20th Century settlement patterns and begs for comprehensive remedies that offer multiple benefits. For starters, these savings are substantial and allow a struggling household to build net worth over time. This finding could elevate transportation alternatives into, perhaps, the key issue in rebuilding the middle class. This finding also should be great news for towns who have on-going budget struggles and cannot make future investments. The most likely new source of investment and tax revenue will come as these households save more as a result of taking transit. And the remedies interconnect more.

But, the question becomes: what will motivate local government to facilitate these household savings?

Answering this question requires a new synthesis proving sustainable communities are more viable than sprawl. Something akin to this holistic -- and long -- question must be answered: can municipalities weighed down with decades of outdated, interlocked ordinances unravel these complications to increase compactness so increased ridership makes transit more viable so households save so, perhaps, slightly higher taxes can be levied to make local services and infrastructure sustainable?

In brief, what organization can help municipalities help households to save? Looked at on this micro-level (which is what creates profit or savings), fiscal balance is a key benefit of sustainable policies. In fact, fiscal balance really emerges as the chief selling point of sustainability’s synthesis. In short, fiscal balance convinces the people who will write the laws that a regimen of sustainability is necessary.

Chicagoland’s comprehensive synthesizer is the Metropolitan Planning Council. As the previous decade’s key advocate of the physical attributes of livable communities and smart growth, MPC more recently has been shifting to shape the agenda for economically sustainable development patterns. This review devotes special attention to MPC’s collaborator, Metropolis 2020.

The second profile looks at the Chicago Architecture Foundation. CAF serves as the region’s (and nation’s) leader in generating public education so we understand the importance of designing the built environment for sustainable outcomes.

The final profile is Chicago’s Bid to host the 2016 Olympics. When cutting through all the Bid’s controversy and disappointment, I see the Bid as our most concrete and comprehensive proposal balancing the economic, environmental and fiscal nature of sustainability. The Bid offers many lessons for the transition decade we just entered in which this abstraction of “sustainability” will start to be made real.

It is important to note that women shaped and led all three of these efforts. Hence, the picture of Sustainable Susan presides over this achievement.

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This schematic shows how 3 nonprofits serve as the synthesizers that tie in multiple benefits so
innovations
can more easily be adopted and become mainstream.

1) Metropolitan Planning Council: Growing Chicagoland Sustainability.

Few organizations can achieve this superior feat of constant purpose: to influence the evolution of the welfare state regionally over seven decades. Even fewer today can change the flow of our region’s development as we enter a new collaboration between commerce and government.

MPC has served as our 20th Century beacon for regionalism and, now, is leading us into a 21st Century sustainability....click and read more...

 

2) The Chicago Architecture Foundation: How Design Starts Sustainability.

Started by preservationists in 1966 and known until the end of the 20th Century for its docents proudly -- even lovingly -- giving tours of Chicago’s architectural gems, CAF today has set an added course as innovators in educating the public to interact with the 21st Century’s built environment.

In its new emphasis, CAF’s skills in explaining architecture’s visual appeal now also suggest how buildings -- and their supporting infrastructure-- contribute to our economic and social goals.

The old maxim that “you can’t tell a book by its cover” now applies to buildings as well.

Adding to its core curriculum of describing architectural styles, CAF played a key role in popularizing how each building’s energy efficiency was important in reducing carbon emissions. CAF’s success indicates the leverage of its impact.

CAF started its role as synthesizer around 2003.... click and read more...

 

3) Chicago 2016: Sustainability’s First Practical Synthesis.

While we may have lost our Bid to host the Olympics, the proposal changed our metropolis. This article describes how our thinking started to change; preparing us for breakthroughs in solving incessant problems. Here’s how the aftermath, actually, looks good.

Overview: The Smarts of Sustainability. As Chicago’s Bid developed, it was clear financial backing from our governments was totally inadequate; putting us at a competitive disadvantage. Worse, China spent lavishly on the Beijing Games; vastly raising expectations from Bidders and creating a doubly tough act for us to follow.

Left to manufacture new devices, Chicago’s Bid assembled its assets strategically to update the Olympic movement with sustainable practices. Proposing innovations that would achieve multiple benefits at less cost, the Windy City’s Bid would one-up the competition by “greening” the Games cost-effectively while also redeveloping communities. With a most impressive Bid and the final pitch being made by a President with spectacular international popularity, many observers thought Chicago looked like the sure winner. While the curious politics of international alliances surprised many, our Bid probably changed the world and certainly changed how we solve problems. ...click and read more...

 

Editorial Conclusion of Step 2: Synthesize The Multiple Benefits.

These many references to our Editorial Committee member, Sustainable Susan, may strike you as odd or corny… (extremely so, if you listen to my wife… and she may even be correct.) But, permit me to explain the obvious: Sustainable Susan is a fiction and her job is to tell a story. And like a useful purpose of fiction, her story challenges the powers-that-be to change how they operate.

Susan tells this specific story: that the people (mostly men) running our state and local governments collectively are not doing their job because they avoid the tough decisions that lead to solutions. But, her story gets positive when she explains who local leaders can listen to for advice.

Chicagoland’s competitive disadvantages are most obvious in how we move people around for daily tasks. Our system becomes more and more expensive and does less and less to alleviate traffic congestion and air pollution. Worse, the system resists innovation. It seems like it is conducting its employees’ business more than making better ways to serve the public.

Note that these system failures are multiple: too expensive to taxpayers, too ineffective to resolve problems, too un-economical to give users value.

Logic tells us that multiple failures must be countered with solutions that promise multiple benefits. Obviously a proposal that only has a single benefit, such as reducing congestion, is not a lasting solution unless it also is economical. Multiple benefits overcome the inertia of transit monopolies and the skepticism of taxpayers and the resistance of that huge market of potential riders who must quit their automobile addiction and become regular riders if the system is to help family’s economic growth again.

In short, multiple benefits get us out of our costly rut.

Who brings together those multiple benefits into a neat, understandable, replicable package? Step 2 explains who serves the public this way: it is those synthesizers who are putting together a comprehensive regional order for the new Century.

Step 3 will be explored in 2012. This is when Susan’s story gets interesting. For we will see how regional agencies such as CMAP and sub-regional councils of government need to change how they conduct the peoples’ business.

But to repeat the program for 2011, we will look at how good ideas get tested in micro-developments and their results (which often mostly yield single benefits) become more attractive as multiple benefits as get added in Step 2.

The question inevitably arises: “Why did we describe Step 2 before Step 1?” We did so to make this point: that solving the region’s transit and land use problems is an iterative process. An initial experiment or research discovery yields a prototype. But it requires proven multiple benefits before the prototype is adopted by enough local governments and builders to become a positive practice.

Brokering the adoption of new practices is what synthesizers do. They show and tell how an environmental benefit (such as transit) can become a micro-economic one for each household and can contribute to local fiscal balance. But if those multiple benefits are not proven yet, the idea people and developers must work on them. Thus, the iterative process we describe below in which the arrow takes us back to Step 1.

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So, we see in the revised graphic immediately above that progress is not linear. We do have setbacks that push us back the drawing board, so to speak, to find the multiple benefit; to tie one improvement to the initial one.

To get philosophical for a paragraph…. Setbacks are an opportunity for improvement. We have a setback right now with the lack of civility in our federal institutions; probably fed by the electorate’s confusion bred by campaigns with far more money than sense. We face similar voter confusion and lack of civility in Illinois; made worse by its imminent bankruptcy. And to speak truth to democratic power, it does not help that citizens expect services to be paid for by other people (usually their children.)

For a Big Picture summary sentence: we need some radical rethinking of how we deliver services if Chicagoland expects to be a major player in the ever-more competitive global economy.

And you know what? I’m willing to bet that Sustainable Susan knows how to deliver better services more economically. So if we don’t get better answers from the guys running today’s show, the Editorial Committee says: “Give the job to Sustainable Susan.” To borrow the African-American accolade, we give her a collective “You go, girl!”