I heard this a few times last week: citizens do not want every neighbourhood to be the same; developers do not want every neighbourhood to be the same; city hall employees do not want every neighbourhood to be thesame. Seems everyone thinks that is what we have, and the finger pointing for the reasons why is dramatic.
Recall the four Integral City voices, each with their distinct perspectives and roles as we organize our cities: civic managers, civic builders and developers, citizens and civil society. The civic managers run our public institutions: city hall, schools, health services, etc. The civic builders and developers physically build our cities. Both of these voices make explicit what we need as citizens: they put our intelligence in action by creating organizations that deliver programs, services and physical structures, all of which is to serve citizens. Civil society is the cultural voice of the city.
Each voice plays a valid role in how we organize ourselves. All four are needed. While each voice has myriad perspectives within it, I hear a smattering of citizens, developers and city hall employees all say the same thing: rules have a place, but the wrong rules stifle our ability to create the neighbourhoods we want.
Remember Spiral Dynamics? Our value systems, emanating from each of us, our organizations, our neighbourhoods, our cities, nations and planet, are forever in flux in response to our changing life conditions. It seems there is alignment of values among some portions of the Integral City voices in a call for a recalibration of the ‘rules’ that shape our neighbourhoods, a recalibration of the BLUE vMeme.
Let me be clear – not everyone sees or desires this alignment, but that does not make it less relevant. There are citizens looking for ways to make existing neighbourhoods more interesting and they find that City Hall’s rules get in the way. Developers and builders are looking or ways to build new neighbourhoods, or build new homes in existing neighbourhoods, that respond to the desires of citizens. There are folks working in civil society that wish to better serve the city, and they struggle with this. There are even City Hall employees that are looking for flexibility. Do all these folks share the same intention? We don’t know if they do.
This is the essential work for us in cities if we wish to create cities that serve us well: to clearly see what is we wish to achieve, our destination. When we know what we wish to achieve, then we will know what rules are necessary.
Rules articulate standards and practices necessary to achieve an outcome. Rules only make sense with a purpose in mind. The growing demand for a change in rules indicates a need to declare a new destination. The contrast appears to be a change from rules for certainty to rules for support.
What we want from rules says a lot about us. This is the clash I see in my city: the need for rules to prescribe our future vs. the need for rules to support our emerging, unknown future.
At last week’s workshop with The Natural Step Canada, Awesome Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable City, the Integral City voices together articulated neighbourhoods for which there is no recipe. There are no rules that will give us, with certainty, what we are aiming for.
Rules are needed, however. They play a critical role in guiding what we create, flexing with the changing conditions.
Are the rules in your world aligned with that they aim to do?
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This post forms part of Chapter 4 – An Uneasy Journey, of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities.
Nest City is organized into three parts, each with a collection of chapters. Click here for an overview of the three parts of Nest City. Click here for an overview of Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence, chapters 4-7.