Cities that were once suffering from stagnation and decline are being revived by civic innovators – people who work collaboratively to create new places and experiences that strengthen their environment. Barren land in Miami becomes a 10km linear park for cycling and walking. Young people form new communities through non-competitive team sports in Detroit. A lost part of Philadelphia becomes the home of a summer festival attracting 70,000 people.
Civic innovators come in many forms, whether they’re public leaders, community developers, or hybrid groups such as the Mural Arts program in Philadelphia, but they are united in a shared empathy and a belief in ‘complementary advantage’ over ‘competitive advantage’. Often working with what is already there, these innovators turn overlooked urban resources into places of ‘public love’, breathing new life into their areas.
But with this innovation must come a deeper social contract – an obligation to preserve the diversity that makes these cities appealing in the first place. Influxes of new people to underprivileged areas must not push out those who’ve lived there for much longer. A future of innovation and change that does not include longtime residents will only create a sense of exclusion and resentment, and a community that does not function. Civic innovators need to show that they are tackling significant challenges around education, investment and employment, in order to create a robust economic base in their cities that does not leave anyone behind.
Here is a blog about a talk Leadbeater gave in Philadelphia:
For a video of a talk on More Together, please see: