When talking about any kind of economic and community development, the conversation very quickly turns to two major factors: where and how much money? It’s as natural as when greeting someone you instantly ask “how are you?”
Sadly though, these questions in economic development aren’t generally meant out of concern or care in the macro – it’s out of two schools of thought a little more micro:
These two concepts dominate many conversations about community development, and though it is hard to tell someone that is often the cause of much gridlock and reduces creativity.. welp, there they are, both just sitting out there like two cartoon characters beating themselves up with those overgrown mallets on the head.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the reasoning.
You DO want to see growth in a city, but I want it to be on what I WANT here, not what the larger community might NEED (WIIFM).
You DO want to clean up the streets of the “homeless and the riff-raff” but I just don’t WANT to have that shelter or rehab center in my neighborhood… and I definitely don’t WANT to have to pay more for it (NIMBY).
It is so natural to pull these two cards, that sometimes I think we almost feel compelled to start with WIIFM and NIMBY quotes – you know, just to get the ball rolling.
I talked about this before and suggested that we all must reassess what it means to discuss public policy. The “public” in public policy is the key part here. There is no one-size-fits-all to many of our challenges that we face. And too often because of this, our policy discussions tend to trend into the idea of “my way or I hate it” feelings versus “consensus.” We can’t design a system that will support and be liked by everyone… they just don’t exist. Yet, our debates seem to want to keep that expectation alive, and it stems creativity.. and most importantly LISTENING.
Full disclosure. I’m of a couple of ethnic backgrounds that gave me two wonderful personality traits: (1) I LOVE to argue and debate; and (2) I REALLY LOVE to win said arguments and will continue them until I do (believe me, my WAY-BETTER-HALF fiancee will back me up on this one). So I might not be the best person to be suggesting out loud that everyone needs to get over their individual feeling, suck it up, and realize that the reality is you can’t win them all and move on!
On the contrary, I’m suggesting EXACTLY that – but with one caveat.
Once consensus is made, then we shift gears into creative way to bring that policy to life… together.
Community development is like BBQ: best cooked slow and low. But in that time of development, there’s a ton of space for creativity and adjustment. A little paprika here, a dash of onion powder there. A sprinkle of town hall comments here. An extra spoonful of group creative time there… like more time for an “Idea Break.”
THAT’S where community development can mature. When we move into creative design of the policy into practice.
And yes, that might mean it won’t have much in it for YOU. And truthfully, it might be in YOUR back yard.
But that’s the building blocks of community. Sometimes you get an extra helping of that sweet sweet BBQ on the plate. Some other times you get that cartoon mallet to the head (but don’t worry, it’s a cartoon one, they in fact don’t hurt at all). It’s amazing what we can all solve once we all realize we’re on the same side, just coming at the challenge from different angles, persuasions, and slants. We just want a great community, that’s all.
So next time a public policy debate pops up in your local paper or your Facebook news feed, I challenge you to put the mallet down, don’t worry about your own personal interest and back yard for one brief moment, and ask yourself “how can I contribute some good home ingredients to this special sauce.” Leave the WIIFM and NIMBY to the guys at Cartoon Network to figure out.