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30 Jan 13

"How To Create Engaging Public Spaces
By Cat Johnson
01.30.13, 7:12am Comments (0)
   

Creative Commons photo by mikebaird

The idea behind creating a public space is not just to build a nice-looking addition to a town, but to create a space that people actually use. A plaza with no one in it is just an empty space. Creating a space that successfully engages people is an artform and a science that relies on the input of the community, the testing of ideas, sharp observation and detailed planning.

A few years ago, the Project for Public Spaces looked at 40 years of research and published the report, Eleven Principles for Turning Public Spaces into Civic Places. Recently, On The Commons republished the key points from the report, rekindling the conversation. Below is an overview of the 11 principles.

1. The Community is the Expert
The space is for the community. Community members should be involved with the planning from the beginning.

2. You are creating a place, not just a design
Aesthetics aside, the space has to be useable above all.

3. You can’t do it alone
No one can create a successful space without input from other people and organizations.

4. They always say, “It can’t be done.”
Naysayers are gonna naysay and bureaucracy is a slow-moving machine. Stay the course.

5. You can see a lot just by observing
Watching people use a space can reveal a lot about what they use, want and need.

6. Develop a vision
What is the intended use for the space, as it applies to the community? This should be clear from the start.

7. Form supports function
The form of the space should follow and strengthen the vision for its use.

8. Triangulate
Position like things near each other and near well-matched, surrounding businesses: kid-friendly stuff near kid-friendly businesses, transportation points efficiently placed, food vendors in logical places etc. Doing so increases engagement and interaction.

9. Start with the petunias
Start small. Great ideas often get lost in planning. Small steps can help determine future plans and signal the community that their space is important.

10. Money is not the issue
Small-scale projects that involve the community can be more engaging than large-scale projects that have a top-down feel to them.

11. You are never finished
A great public space grows and changes with the community and its needs. An open approach to management of the space ensures that the people who use it continue to determine how it is used."

11 Jan 13

"Welcome to our collection of books related to the Commons, hand-picked for you by the School of Commoning!"

10 Aug 12

"Yesterday, the global coworking movement celebrated it's seventh official birthday. Less than a decade after coworking pioneer Brad Neuberg first coined the term, the concept has been duplicated, re-imagined, and expanded by creative innovators all over the world.

Since that fateful day, what started as an eight-desk, shared workspace has grown into 1,779 spaces in dozens of countries, with new communities being launched every day. It wasn't necessarily Neuberg's model of coworking that spread around the world. Rather, in the true spirit of openness and collaboration--which are foundational principals of the movement--it was the opensource concept of working independently, yet together, that sparked a global revolt against business as usual."

10 Aug 12

"In Omaha, co-working spaces advertise on the street to those looking for a place to join others as they work outside of the established system of jobs and employment. Entrepreneurs like a place with a density and proximity of entrepreneurial communities. In some locations, entrepreneurs literally bump into each other in the street. In other locations, the event scene provides multiple opportunities to meet and network with other entrepreneurs. 
 
A sense of affiliation is important. Places where starting a business is the norm create a strong sense of community, identity, and purpose. And, entrepreneurs are very aware that it takes generations who succeed and fail, and who reinvest in their local ecosystem to build the appropriate culture. "

02 Aug 12

"Coworking spaces are a really cool option for a lot of workers that, for whatever reason, don't really fit in to a traditional office space. These workers can be startup CEOs, telecommuters, small business owners, and especially creatives in search of collaboration.

With free coffee and Internet, workspaces, and built-in community, coworking spaces provide a great place to get things done without feeling the isolation of working at home, or trying to overcome the frenetic nature of working in a coffee shop. Some coworking spaces really take things a bit higher, going way beyond the desk and outlet. Here are 20 U.S. coworking communities that offer gorgeously designed spaces in historic buildings, community events, and even office mascots."

25 Jul 12

For the Westport, Conn. library, the next step in its evolution was the creation of a maker space, open to all library patrons, located in the middle of the library. Encouraged by the success of a mini maker faire which attracted over 2,000 participants, library staff put into action a plan to embed a maker space in the library. Currently featuring maker-in-residence Joseph Schott, the space has big plans for desktop fabrication, open source hardware projects and whatever other ideas local makers may want to pursue.

Located among the stacks of books, the maker space, which is in its first month, is already home to an ambitious 3-D printing project. Along with library patrons, Schott is designing, fabricating and building two airplanes that will be displayed in the library above the maker space. Using the 3-D printer to fabricate the materials needed for the airplanes, makers are also using the space to fabricate some of the tools being used in the space. One patron recently printed a wrench.

08 Jul 12

That's why coworking spaces, especially in rural areas, are so important. Yes, as Goetz found, self-employment can revitalize and empower local economies. But who empowers and supports the self-employed? The global coworking community, that's who.

Goetz says to encourage growth, leaders should help the self-employed by organizing networking meetings and alerting them to exporting opportunities. "Economic development groups also can assist entrepreneurs with credit and grant applications," he explains.

14 May 12

Repair Cafes Counter Consumerism with Fixer Movement
By Kelly McCartney
05.14.12, 6:41am Comments (0)
   
All too many of us are ever-eager to upgrade to the latest and greatest whatever. Whether they be computers, washing machines, or clothes, if something goes wrong or next next arrives, we're on to the next purchase.

Part of it, too, is that we don't actually know how to repair our stuff. And our world is set up so it's dramatically easier to cut and run than sit and fix. And so our landfills overflow with slightly damaged goods...a less-than-convenient truth that threatens our economic and environmental health.

This maybe changing. In The Netherlands, mom and former journalist Martine Postma stumbled onto an idea that tacks the word "repair" onto the familiar green mantra, "reduce, re-use, recycle". The result is community-based Repair Cafes where folks come together to fix their broken items. What started as a few neighbors in Amsterdam helping each other out has, two years later, become a much bigger deal with 30 groups springing up around the country.


Young girls mend items at a Repair Cafe, proving that anyone and everyone can participate. Photo credit: Repair Cafe. 

To support the regular gatherings, the Repair Cafe Foundation was established and has raised around $525,000 from the Dutch government, foundations, and individual donors. That sum covers the Foundation's staffing, marketing, and a mobile Repair Cafe. As Postma surmised, “Sustainability discussions are often about ideals, about what could be. After a certain number of workshops on how to grow your own mushrooms, people get tired. This is very hands on, very concrete. It’s about doing something together, in the here and now.”

Cradle-to-cradle architect William McDonough, whose work also inspired Postma, observed, “What happened with planned obsolescence is that it became mindless — just throw it away and don’t think about it. The value of the Repair Cafe is that people are going back into a relationship with the material things around them.”

13 May 12

A new brand of DIY self-sufficiency is spreading across The Netherlands. Skilled craftswomen, mechanics, seamstresses, and handypersons are banding together to resist disposable consumer culture. It is the rise of the Repair Cafe, a place where neighbors get together to extend the life of their material belongings. “Fixers” mend clothes, restore furniture, rehabilitate electrical appliances, and enjoy each other’s company while industriously toiling away. The first cafe was founded by Martine Postma in Amsterdam in October of 2009. Today, there are 20 fully operational Repair Cafes, and 50 more in the planning stages.

05 May 12

In a globally connected world, isolation is a choice. If you want to face the turbulence ahead by yourself, go ahead. But that's probably not your best option.
You always have the opportunity to connect. The choice doesn’t disappear. 
To build networks, close triangles. You know George and you know Nancy, but they do not know each other. Introduce them with a short e-mail. 
Closing triangles is a powerful routine to strengthen a community or region. If you closed five triangles a month, you would close 60 a year. If a 100 people in your community followed your lead, you would have 6,000 new connections in a year. 
Open, loosely connected networks can be guided strategically. That’s how open source software development works. 
Strategic Doing is a simple discipline to form complex collaborations, manage them toward measurable outcomes, and adjust along the way.
Strategic Doing generates “link and leverage” collaborations across organizational and political boundaries.
With Strategic Doing, we follow simple rules to link, leverage and align our assets, so we can do far more with what we have. 
Strategic Doing teaches you how to build complex collaborations quickly and keep them on track with measurable outcomes.
Traditional approaches to strategy -- strategic planning -- can be made more agile by combining these approaches with Strategic Doing. We are not living in an “either/or” world anymore.  If you are stuck, try “both/and”. 
Strategic planning has difficulty keeping up with the pace of change we face. We need to do our strategic thinking differently. 
In a complex world, our strategy is emergent. We learn and shape our strategy as we do. 
With collaboration, the soft stuff is the hard stuff. We need simple rules to deal with the hard stuff.
Strategic Doing takes time to develop. It involves building new, collective habits of thinking and doing. Remember how hard it is for you to form a new habit. Now multiply that by dozens of people. 
The core skill of authentic connection is the ability to listen. Strategic Doing starts by listening to each other and learning what assets we have to share. 
Opportunities are defined by shared value. Through collaboration, we can create something that individually we cannot create on our own. It’s the 1 + 1 =3 (or 5 or 10). 
Most people underestimate the challenge of collaboration. It’s an on-going commitment to transparency, authenticity, deep thinking and action. 
Collaboration is more than exchanging e-mails. It's more than facial recognition. 
Fear undercuts our capacity to connect. The reality is that we are driving down a foggy road at 60 miles an hour looking for the next curve. No one can predict what lies ahead. Fear is a reasonable emotion under our circumstances, but it doesn’t help us much.
The purpose of talking about our fears is to shrink them to a manageable size. Then we can move ahead. 
Soreheads pull things apart. It's relatively easy to do. Not much brainpower is required. 
Regional development poses the most complex collaboration challenges we face in our economy. Consider the difficulties. We are addressing highly complex challenges in an open network. Nobody can tell anyone else what to do. We normally do not have a strong history of working together. Standard rules fair dealing do not necessarily apply. We may not know whom to trust. Our skill levels vary, and we each carry some emotional baggage that influences what we see and hear. Is it any wonder that regions have difficulty coming together?
Sustainability, adaptation and resilience are closely connected ideas. By building trusted networks in our regions, we are expanding our collective capacity to adjust to the next big shock that’s coming. 
The core question of civic leadership is simple: What kind of place do we want to leave for our children and grandchildren?
Strengthening our linkages among us is our best approach to deal with uncertainty. It's not a new idea. That's why we buy insurance.
Strategic Doing guides conversations. It is not "top down" or "bottom up", because we are dealing with networks, and there are no tops or bottoms to a network. We are combining open participation with leadership guidance. 
For too long, we have treated civility as an adornment to our democracy. Far from it. If we do not follow some basic rules of civility, we cannot do the complex thinking together that our democracy commands.
Strategy answers two questions: Where are we going? and How will we get there? Strategic Doing answers these 2 questions by breaking them apart into even simpler steps. 
When people start to think regionally, they often worry too much about protecting their boundaries. Regional strategies don't work if too many people fall into this trap. Regional strategies work best when we connect our core strengths across organizational and political lines.
Build your region out from a core of “a willing network”. Worry less about boundaries. As you strengthen the cores of your region -- and connect them -- your boundaries will expand. 
The first distance we have to travel to build regional collaboration is not very far. It's the distance between our ears. 
Exploring our assets begins a collaboration. We need to find opportunities for mutual benefit. These opportunities arise when we take our shared assets and connect them in new and different ways.
Enduring collaborations are forged by the hard work of defining measurable outcomes and then moving these outcomes into action with simple steps, simple commitments. 
Visions can work to align and guide an organization. Yet, they do not work all that well in open, loosely connected networks, where no one can tell anyone else what to do. People in our networks are practical. They need clear outcomes if they are going to commit their time and resources. Vision statements often do not provide that clarity.
Within a network, translating a vision or an opportunity into an outcome involves deep thinking about what success should look like. We're trying to describe a complex, multidimensional reality somewhere in the future. It's not easy.  
To move people in a network, they need to see pragmatic, measurable outcomes in their own mind's eye. It's only then that they trust the words enough to decide whether they will take action.
Strategic Doing is a process of fast cycle experimentation to figure out what works.
We need to transform our regional economies to meet the new realities of global competition and environmental sustainability. On top of that, our economy is aging, and that trend creates its own set of challenges.
These challenges are unprecedented in our lifetime. If we rely on the same old patterns of thinking and doing, we are driving into the future looking in the rearview mirror.
Our private foundations represent one of the major competitive assets of our economy. Yet, they have been curiously ineffective in their investment strategies for regional development. It's ironic, but foundations may not be our fastest learners. 
The federal government has been hobbled by silo thinking, a legacy of our industrial economy. Among federal agencies, the level of sophisticated collaboration is slow to develop. This is odd. Collaboration at the federal level should be quick to form. After all, federal workers only have to walk across the street to meet. In our regions, civic leaders often have to drive for hours.
Officials in the federal government often come to our regions with good intentions. Typically, they drop a load of tools on the table, expecting us to collaborate. What they don't understand is that their tools are not up to the task. Think of it this way. We are working on electronic transmissions, and they are handing us rusty pliers. It's nobody's fault. Most federal programs were designed 30, 40 or 50 years ago, and they were not designed to work together. Today, we need different policies, not old policies wrapped loosely together. 
Strategies in complex, evolving regional economies emerge as we translate ideas in action and learn what works. Strategic Doing produces agile strategies that enable us to “run to daylight”. 
We each have networks we can mobilize. These networks vary in size, but let's assume an average of 50 people in a personal network. That means when we come together in a small group, we can  have an impact far greater than what we see. We are really designing strategies for a network 50 times the size of the people in the room.
Regional development practitioners have a lot in common with molecular biologists. We're both trying to define complex networks we cannot see.
We are moving away from the economy in which business and civic organizations operated hierarchically.  These hierarchies work well to manage stable routines in stable times. But hierarchies do not learn or adjust quickly. They cannot keep up with the rate of change we face today.
A new economy based on networks is emerging. Our children and grandchildren will inherit this economy. How much of our left-over junk are they going to have to deal with?
Embarking on the journey of Strategic Doing does not mean starting over. Strategic Doing takes a region's current strategic thinking and moves it to the next level. How? By translating ideas into action quickly so we can learn what works.
We can measure the capacity of our network to do complex work by the number of trusted relationships in the network.
In the network world, metrics play a different role. Traditionally, metrics focused on control. Are our subordinates following our plan? In the network world, metrics play a new role. They speed our learning. In fact, we cannot learn much without them.
In the industrial world, to develop speed you go fast. In the network world, to develop speed, you need to go slowly at first to accelerate later. Intentionally building trusting relationships takes time. As a trusted network develops, you end up going faster than you ever thought possible.

14 Mar 12

The following introduction sketches the problem that this panel tried to address:

How we work is changing. But where we work isn’t. Over the last ten years a new way of working has emerged, along with some people who live it every day. They’re available 24/7. They network endlessly, and then plug their skills into others’ in surprising combinations. They choose when and how they do what they do, on their terms. They don’t want job security – they want career fluidity. We call them free radicals. And they’re creating the future of work. But when they look for a place to do all that, the options are weirdly outdated: office, home, or on the go – say, a café. Those are actually poor choices. Offices mean fixed cost and daily routine. Home is isolated and full of distractions. And cafés get old after the second latté.

06 Mar 12

To address this disconnect in Canada, an alliance of coworking spaces called Coworking Toronto recently launched a unique new program called Passport. 

Passport will serve as a a discovery tool for those who are new to or interested in coworking. The program allows professionals to try out several different spaces under one Passport, and maybe even find a space to settle in for a membership. The Passport entitles the visitor to one free day at all participating spaces listed on the Passport, paid in advance, and is welcome to try and/all of the participating spaces.

Access to the Passport program costs $75, and participating spaces include Camaraderie; the Centre for Social Innovation – Annex; the Centre for Social Innovation – Spadina; Coworkative; Foundery; Hackernest; and Park & Co.

18 Jan 12

Today we announced 1871, a center for digital entrepreneurs to instantly plug into a vibrant community of peers, mentors, partners, and investors. 1871 will be home to hundreds of entrepreneurs, developers, and designers who are building the next generation of successful digital technology companies in Chicago.

For me, this is one of the most significant and exciting initiatives I have ever been involved in.  It holds great potential for the city we love and thousands of future entrepreneurs. 1871 is a not-for-profit effort totally dedicated to the growth of the digital tech startup community. We stand on the shoulders of all the civic organizations and collaborative spaces that have seeded and helped grow the entrepreneurial community in Chicago over the last decade

14 Jan 12

For a week, from January 16 - 22, indie workers around the world are getting together for Worldwide Jellyweek. A Jelly is the perfect litmus test for freelancers, mobile workers, and startups figuring out whether they’ll enjoy working in collaborative work environments (check out this "Guide to Casual Coworking" for tips on working at a Jelly). But if you’re already hooked on the idea, and want something more structured, the natural next step is to road test a local coworking space.

While coworking spaces share the same tenets of community, collaboration, openness, sustainability and accessibility as Jellies, they offer the casual coworker more options.

When deciding on a coworking space, shopping around can be tough. Choosing a coworking space is essentially a “Goldilocks Dilemma”— you won’t really know a space is perfect and just right for you until you try it. And even then it may sometimes take a few trials before you find the space that’s perfect for you.

Consider your work style, personality, and work requirements. Will you need private spaces and conference rooms to hold meetings? Do you prefer to be around people working in the same industry? Do you need your own dedicated desk or do you plan occasional drop-ins only? Do you require state-of-the-art lighting or 24-hour access? Do you work better in small or big groups? How tolerant are you of noise?

14 Dec 11

The MakerBot Thing-O-Matic® 3D Printer kit you assemble to create the latest in cutting edge personal manufacturing technology. Includes the new StepStruder® MK7 Complete Upgrade!

27 Oct 11

Identify the needs of rural entrepreneurs...and find a way to meet them

A short commute, reliable internet, coffee, print technologies, proximity to local eateries and services, affordable work space, access to a diverse community of professionals, opportunities for continuing education, adn child care were all mentioned as things that attracted rural entrepreneurs to coworking communties. 

22 Aug 11

Black Star existed on paper well before the brewery was established as a brick-and-mortar location. After spending several months organizing bylaws and brewpub’s management structure, the business incorporated in April 2006. It officially opened on September 21, 2010 after raising nearly $600,000 in initial capital from their membership, with an average investment of $3,000. The funds were raised through $150 membership shares and $500 investment shares. Understandably, the process took a lot of time and required many beer socials to set up goodwill and build a presence in the community. [Note for aspiring entrepreneurs: if you want to raise money, give beer away for free, serving patrons in sippy cups. Concurrently, sell cups for $5. This is where the money is made.]

23 Mar 11

In the following interview, Michel Bauwens of the P2P Foundation and Shareable publisher Neal Gorenflo speak with Shareable cities columnist Jay Walljasper about his new book, All That We Share, fostering new lifestyles based on sharing, building more equitable and sustainable cities, and much more.

10 Feb 11

Swap.com is a leader in the sharing economy with its industry-leading online and offline Swap marketplace. The company is based in Boston and has big plans to become the “eBay of Swap.” Swap.com not only enables sharing through swapping… they live it through their shared office strategy. Here, Jeff Bennett, the Swap.com CEO, explains his views on office sharing.

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