The Simple Theory Providing a Path Out of This Mess

Path

How do we reverse our troubling slide into tribalism and polarization? How do we create a society where people of different backgrounds and beliefs are tolerant and accepting of one another? How can we convene communities to work together to tackle their shared challenges without devolving into Us vs Them conflict?  To find the answers we must dive deep into…

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How to Engage Communities in an Age of Tribalism

Dog Owners. Park Lovers. Conspiracy Theorists. Community engagement typically involves the participation of many types and groups of people. This is both a wonderful opportunity and a source of potential conflict.  To navigate the complex intersection of human behavior and community engagement, it’s helpful to think like a social psychologist.  Social psychologists often frame people’s behavior in terms of their…

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How to Make Community Engagement Better

Way back in the 1970’s, the design and planning professions responded to growing environmental concerns by cross-pollinating with the fields of ecology and biology, birthing the sustainable design movement. Today, those of us who work with communities face a similar moment. The social context of our practice is changing dramatically underneath our feet. Our society is experiencing a seismic shift…

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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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Three Solutions to our Social Breakdown. One with promise.

How do we create social cohesion but still maintain the strength of our diversity? How do we break down the barriers of tribal partisan identity that are dividing our country? What does mass depolarization look like? There are smart people from many disciplines grappling with these questions. Over the past year I’ve been scouring their writings and talks, looking for…

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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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On the Origins of our Engagement Expectations

Once upon a time people designed and made their own places. Cities, towns, and villages were organic manifestations of local culture, knowledge, and materials. Whether the warrens of European streets, the villages of indigenous peoples or the public squares of colonial American towns, such people-built places are now celebrated for their authenticity and charm. Now decisions about the built environment…

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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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