Sharing book bits


Nest City Graphic

Notice what you notice. These wise words of my friend Michael Keller fuel the spirit of the Nest City Blog. Since April 10, 2009, 358 posts have appeared here, starting with a wee piece on what I learned about teamwork and leadership on the soccer field – when I swoop in and help my teammate I may be harming my team’s ability to perform. It is often better to give your mates room to do their thing.

That means I have to trust them.

All these posts later, this thought pervades much of what has emerged as the Nest City book: as we each pursue our passions in our city, in our paid or volunteer work, we are improve the city. It is a selfless act to do the work you want to do because, in doing so, we recreate and regenerate our cities so they serve us better in return. It requires that we trust everyone around us – that their particular work is helping the whole in ways we do not know.

Nest City is almost finished. It began as a slow release, and now that it is tangible for me, while I my hunt for a publisher, I choose to share it with you. It makes no sense for me to keep it to myself.

If you’d like to receive these wee bits of book, starting April 13, 2015, please subscribe to my newsletter – Nest City News.  Look for a box on the right that looks like this:

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It’s all going to start on April 13, 2015.



Choose to renew patterns


Does the new year really begin today, a time ripe with opportunity to set new patterns?

While it’s no where near January 1, a new year starts today when a familiar pattern, or a new or renewed pattern, sets in. In my family and my city, kids go back to school today. How traffic moves changes. How families organize themselves changes. People are back at work from summer holidays. The reality of fall is setting in.

I feel liberated by the structure that comes in the fall, when I feel a surge of energy to hunker down and get to work after a summer pattern where work and relaxation seem to drift into one another. As the structure returns, so does the quiet I long for to write. Here is what’s wanting to be written:

  1. A complete draft manuscript of Nest City by December 15, 2013.
  2. Nest City blog posts every Monday and Thursday.
  3. Nest City News publications the first and third Monday of the month.

To pull off the above, I have to choose how to spend my time and energy within the structure in which I operate. I have to renew my commitment to my work, family, neighbourhood, city and planet. In my work life, I have to renew my commitment to my writing projects, to my clients and the day-to-day needs of running a business. I have to renew my commitments to my self and my Highest Self.

Here’s one of my choices about where I will be spending my energy over the next three months: a book circle exploring Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer’s new book: Leading from the Emerging Future. Eight colleagues and I have committed to read the book, journal our personal journey along the way, and meet after we have read each chapter to explore what we are individually and collectively learning. That will lead to a happy new year, with emerging patterns in life and work.

Happy new year! May the returning patterns refresh you. May your new patterns revive you.

What new patterns are emerging in you?


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This post is part of Chapter 9 – Be the Best Citizen You Can Be. Here are some plot helpers of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities, the book I am sharing here while I search for a publisher:

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Know structural purpose


In the May 15, 2013 edition of Nest City News, I wrote about knowing the purpose for the structures we create for ourselves. If for nothing other than the most practical of reasons, if we don’t know what a structure is for, it won’t do what we want it to.

We have a two-way relationship with the structures we create for ourselves. Just as we create them to serve us, they create us as well. Last month, when I went back to hike the West Coast Trail on the western edge of Canada’s Vancouver Island, I noticed key structures placed on the trail to assist our travel over difficult terrain. Ladders help hikers climb ascent and descend the valleys. Cable cars and bridges help hikers cross waterways. Boardwalks help hikers traverse boggy areas. Yet due to disrepair, the boardwalks have strayed from their original purpose:

Scott by deteriorating boardwalk

This boardwalk, put in place to aid travel, is now a hazard. It is slippery and uneven. It is ready to harm the traveller, but what can we do with structures like this?

I noticed five patterns in hikers’ behaviour on the trail:
  1. Walk on it. Not noticing the danger, we risk harm and carry on. This can be conscious and unconscious.
  2. Walk on it carefully, making careful choices about how to use the structure to our benefit while minimizing risk of injury.
  3. Walk beside it, making a new and safer path. Sometimes this means trudging through the mud and meeting the real obstacle face-to-face.
  4. Throw it aside, removing the danger for self and other. It’s pieces might also be useful serving other purposes.
  5. Walk on it to destroy it to a point where there is no structure left – and no hazard. Simply aid in its slow destruction. The risk is injury along the way.

All five patterns have a role to play in our relationships with the structures we live with every day. Each is appropriate in its own way, in its own context.

As I reflect on this specific trail, and our rescue off the trail two years ago after a boardwalk fall and broken leg, the first pattern was not our practice. And in the push to complete the hike we walked on boardwalks carefully and beside them – we did not throw any aside to make the path safer for others behind us. I have to admit we were caught in the momentum of the moment and our immediate task.
Everyday we are in relationship with structure. Structure can take the form of the protocols of family life, the policies in our workplaces, the design of our cities or the laws that govern our expectations of each other as we live increasingly together in cities.

In just the right balance, there is enough chaos to evoke collective wisdom, and enough order to discover wise action. Choosing the right kind – and amount – of structure is a BIG decision that has everything to do with knowing purpose.

Helpful questions to ask of any structure:

  1. What purpose needs to be served by the structure?
  2. What is the minimal structure needed to serve that purpose?

AND specific to any existing structure:

  1. What purpose needs to be served by the structure now?
  2. Does the structure, as it has changed over time, serve today’s purpose? (If no, go to the questions above.)


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This post is part of Chapter 8 – The City Making Exchange. Here are some plot helpers of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities, the book I am sharing here while I search for a publisher:

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“Nest City News”


Monday, February 25, 2013 marks the launch of Nest City News, my monthly email publication for city explorers hungry for cities that serve all inhabitants well. Our collective work takes place in many places and at many scales. We work with individuals, families, organizations, for government and business and not-for-profits. We share a keen desire to create cities that serve us well – and a keen desire to be the citizens our city needs.

On April 24, 2012 I began a slow release of the book I am working on, Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities. I have received significant support for this work and have decided to launch Nest City News as another way to support people in my growing “nestwork” that are working for better cities. I will share content with subscribers before I share it with regular website users. There will also be content only for subscribers, not share with regular website visitors. Here is what you can expect to receive:

  1. Insight into how cities work
  2. Ideas on how to organize cities
  3. Practices that enable Nest City work
  4. Stories from subscribers
  5. Upcoming events

I see a transaction here: I give the above, and I receive many things in return from you when you subscribe. I receive an opportunity to share what I see with you. You choose to be my audience. If you find value in what you read in Nest City News, you may find yourself exploring my website, my blog. You may choose to tell me what you find of value in my work or what would make it better. Your feedback is welcome! What you are giving me is a critical relationship with my audience that will strengthen my work.

The primary outcome I am seeking in our relationship is that we support each other in the work we do to improve our cities. How that will take place precisely has yet to emerge.

Will you subscribe?

This monthly publication will appear in subscribers’ email inbox the second Monday of each month.  To subscribe, look for this form on the right side of your screen, enter your name and email address, then click submit.

Subscribe to Nest City News

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