This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Viva Local Economy Revolution!!

This blog has delved into a number of different concerns impacting community empowerment and economic development that don't fit the standard mold, systems thinking, complexity, radical community engagement and disruptive innovation.  It has done so by connecting with and benefitting from the experience and insights from a range of thinkers in different fields. One person of note based on the number of times she has been cited in this blog is Della Rucker.

Della Rucker, of Wise Economy and @dellarucker has been, as has been said before, an important resource for this blog and a source of many of the concepts developed here.  She provides a unique perspective having credentials in both planning (AICP) and economic development (CEcD) that she has applied to economic revitalization and constructive public engagement, concerns that are often found in conflict with each other. 

Della has now written a book The Local Economy Revolution: What’s Changed and How You Can Help.  I purchased the Kindle version and recently finish reading it. Not too surprisingly, considering how inline I often find her thinking is with mine, I enjoyed reading the book.  Anybody talking about revolution in the local economy is going to appeal to someone advocating for new community paradigms.  So it is easy to recommend the book, that though would not really be doing the book justice.

Della takes the ideas contained in the book beyond its covers in particularly meaningful ways.  What I mean by this is that she connects with a recent history that we all share, she understands the affect it has on communities and the people living in them, not only on institutions and related professionals.  She does so in a personal, accessible fashion that can connect with everyday citizens aiming to make their communities more robust at the same time condensing complex ideas while not oversimplifying, as was observed recently by Wayne Senville, editor of PlannersWeb.  

So she has both the professional credentials and the ability to connect with the regular man or woman on the street needed to create a bridge from where we are today to where we need to be in the future.  The challenge is that bridges to the future always need to be built going uphill. 

It is her ability to span between populism of community desires linked with fiscal and economic constraints facing those made responsible for economic development that makes her a viable contributor to new community paradigms. 

It is one thing to show that you understand the problems facing people, it is another to show that you understand the people themselves.  It is one thing to demonstrate you understand how to achieve economic success, it is another to demonstrate that you know the affect of failure. Della has lived up close, personally and professionally through the changes we created for ourselves over the last few decades which have brought us to our current fork in the road and has learned those lessons deeply enough that she can speak truth to the imposed challenges that must be faced.

Dellas writing style strikes me as being conversational in tone making her critiques more like advice from a neighbor.  She demonstrates that she understands what individuals from different sectors of economic development, politicians, public sector management, professionals, specialists, advocates and constituents are going through trying to cope with the complex, often termed wicked issues, we are all facing regardless of what side of the table we are sitting on.  She doesnt take a pundits perspective on issues making a laundry list of mistakes made by others but instead considers them as missteps made in common and that must be addressed collectively. I never got a hint of blaming anyone more than anyone else, more of we are all need to get up and across the same chasm.

Perhaps more importantly, Della also serves as an example that can be followed by anyone concerned about the health and wellbeing of our communities. The roots of The Local Economy Revolution: What’s Changed and How You Can Help not only run deep, Della has also provided the means of extending beyond the cover of the book into the future.

So instead, Im going to point you to this books web site: There, youll find a growing and changing collection of articles, papers and other information that will help you build the toolbox that your community needs.
                                                                                                             Della Rucker

The very act of creating her book is an example of how we can start creating a better future. The book is made up, in large part, from her writings, such as her blog, and online conversations, as in LinkedIn. I had already been exposed to most of the ideas expressed in the book through Dellas earlier writing, particularly in her Wise Economy blog or had participated in some of the discussions. 

It is helpful though to have them organized together in a holistic and comprehensive manner.  I am still endeavoring to do that with many of the ideas that I have been pursuing. It is not easy as the journey can have false turns, lead to dead ends and one can have doubts about the path being taken.  Writing a blog might be the most viable method of scaling the precipice because one can take short bursts that add on to each other.  It is especially helpful when someone creates a pathway for you to build upon even if they may not consider the effort as noteworthy.  Della did that for me with her Wise Economy Manifesto

So I wrote a thing called the Wise Economy Manifesto, and in it I tried to encapsulate everything I was thinking. Which is usually a really bad idea. And while I thought at the time that the Manifesto part had a cool ring to it, now it strikes me as a little pompous. But like most of what we put on the internet, its out there, and its my own baby, goofy as it may look.
                                                                                                                         Della Rucker

Trying to encapsulate everything that you are thinking is not necessarily a bad idea, just a very difficult one to do well, particularly in the first attempt.  One reason is that we, using complicated oriented means of management, have silod these ideas, and the people who have to make them real, for too long. One primary goal of the New Community Paradigms blog is to create pathways along those unrealized connections.  The blog post, from August of 2012, Seeing Economy and Community as Ecosystem; Another Way of Shifting the Paradigm was the start of the journey in finding connections with Dellas ideas. Those basic ideas are still to be found in her new book.

Communities are human ecosystems. 
That which makes you unique makes you valuable. 
We have to focus on cultivating our native economic species.
Beware the magic pill. 
Crowdsourced wisdom is the best way to find a real solution. 
We who have the job of helping communities work better have to be brave.

Della tells us in the forward to her book The Local Economy Revolution: What’s Changed and How You Can Help  that 'change sucks'.  A succinct if perhaps obvious observation of the duhvariety, it is still a required observation considering the level of change that is going to be needed. Della focuses primarily on getting communities to see that changes, often difficult changes, are needed to enable our communities to create a viable quality of life and she doesnt do it in a way that makes everyone run for the hills. 

I view the current situation with communities and economic development as being more dire as it is not only a matter of complex difficulty in the best of circumstances but is also constrained by opposition from those who seek to hold on to the old way of doing things because it serves to maintain their already established and even entrenched power.  I do place blame more squarely on the shoulders of politicians though see that all of us needed in building the bridge to the future.

This more dismal perspective, however, can be put aside for now.  Before one can have a revolution to overturn entrenched institutions one needs a large enough force to lead into the future. It is never enough to just talk about being against something on this side in endeavoring to create a bridge to a new future.

Most such attempts in creating a new future start on the far side of the chasm providing some vision of a shiny city on a hill, too often with no real means of crossing the span and, more often than not, no real grounded connection with this side of the chasm. This is where Della excels by taking what could be multiple complex concepts and making them not only more comprehensive, understandable and approachable but also initially, potentially addressable.  It will get more complex and difficult but Della provides a good foothold to begin the ascent.

My biggest worry is that not enough of the right people are going to read the book and those are people who see the need for new community paradigms to be created, the people who comprise the community.  It will be great if local politicians and administrators read the book and even better if they do something about it but in too many cases they will merely flatter it and then ignore it.  This is my general review of Della's book, but as I wrote above, in future posts the ideas in the book should be examined closer to truly pay tribute to her effort and to continue building that bridge to the future.

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