Three Reasons Why People Don’t Participate In, Start or Grow Projects.

In my last post I sung the praises and promise of Participatory City, a UK-based model for strengthening communities by “mainstreaming practical participation.” It’s one of the most exciting and innovative initiatives I’ve seen.  I also discussed one striking statistic from Participatory City’s research: 60% of people are willing to work together to improve their neighborhood, but only 3% ever…

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The Best Community Building Model You’ve Never Heard Of

What if you could dream up some great community-building idea, like a community kitchen or a clothing exchange, and walk into a place in your neighborhood that would provide trained staff and funding to help you get it off the ground?  If this sounds too good to be true, it’s time to pinch yourself. I want to tell you about…

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No Really – Where’s the Love???

Last month I had published an Op-Ed piece in the Seattle Times, “Where’s the Love (and $$) for Seattle’s Neighborhoods,” which focused on the tragic decline of Seattle’s Neighborhood Matching Fund. My Op-Ed instigated a series of conversations with City Council members, aids to City Council members, City department staff, neighborhood community organizers, and more. Here are some insights from…

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Where’s the love (and $) for Seattle neighborhoods?

Note: This piece originally appeared in the Seattle Times on June 25th, 2021. As a city of innovation, Seattle has given much to the world — grunge music, jumbo jets and Chuckits!, for example. But one of its most powerful innovations is both unheralded and endangered — the Neighborhood Matching Fund.  The matching fund is a city grant program that…

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Ladybug Confessions and the Conditions for Good Behavior

Wallybug Divided

A few months ago I opened up the Seattle Times to see an amazing aerial photograph of “The Wallybug.” The Wallybug, a large street painting of a ladybug in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, was my first real community organizing and placemaking project, completed right after I finished graduate school on the street where I lived. The Wallybug was also the first…

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Hitting Reverse on the Great Othering

Social trust is the dark matter of our Democracy.  Social trust is what allows us to get along and work towards a “greater good” with people who are different from us. It helps turn our differences and diversity into strengths. Without social trust, we become tribal and disconnected from one another, concerned only with our self-interests or the interests of…

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Why do only the White Folks show up? Diversity and Inclusion in Community Engagement.

“It was one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the City. The Steering Committee was four older white women…” “It was one of the most diverse elementary schools in the state. The people who showed up for the first community meeting were almost entirely white…” Sound familiar? With conversations about racism and diversity rising to the forefront of America’s consciousness…

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Sugar and Silver Linings: Covid & Community Part II

COVID-19 has forced us all to change our lives. For many this has meant regrouping closer to home, family, and those closest to us, gathering around digital and real fires. At times the Covid experience feels like a reversion back to nomadic life: wandering in small groups through a dangerous world, tending our flocks. Gone are the visits to “third…

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