Place-Belonging is the Medicine We Need for our Social Ailments

Do you feel you belong where you live? According to a recent study, 60% of Americans strongly agree to feeling belonging in America, but only 35% strongly agree to feeling belonging in their communities.  Let me repeat that: Two out of three of us don’t feel like we belong where we live.  That’s shocking, but perhaps not that surprising. This…

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How to Build Back Better from the Bottom Up

Communal batch cooking, collaborative childcare, repair cafes, street festivals, teen trade schools, small business incubation, community gardens. Such low-threshold and low-commitment opportunities draw people into participating in civic life without requiring copious time or energy. They provide opportunities to connect with new people and build a sense of belonging. And they contribute to a network of mutual benefit supporting those…

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Nine Reasons Why Community Projects Fail

Have you ever seen a community-driven project fail to get off the ground, or fall apart in progress? Sadly, this is often the fate of many well-intentioned community efforts. Why do these projects fail? It’s a daunting list. Participatory City, the community-building model I’ve been writing about for the last couple of posts, has assembled a powerfully concise and insightful…

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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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