Citizens are city makers


I am learning about what I am writing while I am writing. While I sit here, I shape what I write and in return my writing is shaping me and what I write next. Its the same endless loop, on a grander scale, at work in our cities too.

Last week, as I wrapped up my exploration of Chapter 8 – The City Making Exchange last week, I sent off my latest newsletter, The Nest City News, declaring that you are a city maker. The 4 principles and 6 practices for city making that emerged on the Nest City Blog last week found a new home and audience. And the words “you are a city maker” stood out loud and clear, for readers and for me too.  How I think of this chapter has simplified to these words: you are a city maker.

As I head into my exploration of Chapter 9 – Enduring Civic Practice, I realize that my working title for this chapter needs to adjust too. If you are a city maker, then any discussion of civic practice is truly about this: be the best citizen you can be.

Everyone of us have a hand in the creation and recreation of our cities. The posts that follow offer some ideas and practices to help you be the best citizen you can be – for your self and your city. To start, off the top of your head,

What do you do to be the best citizen you can be? 


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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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The plot for Part 3


nestworks 4 cogs

In Part 3 – Nestworks, the three circles of destination, journey and emergence introduced in Part 2 are integrated, resulting in three cog-like features of city nestworks: city making, civic practice, and the city emerging. At the heart of the city’s nestworks is a sweet spot at the center – the city impulse that is explored in Part 1 – City Patterns:

City Emergence Dynamic by hand

Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence describes the city organizing dynamic:

Destination venn

Part 3 – Nestworks looks at the how the circles interact with each other:

nestworks closeup


Chapter 8 – The City Making Exchange is about getting where we want to go. How can we know if we are making the cities we want and need? By choosing to build cities purposefully, a necessary transaction emerges: we need to know if we are getting what we are seeking. This chapter explores the feedback loops and mechanisms to notice if we get what we want.

Chapter 9 – Enduring Civic Practice explores how citizenship affects our ability to create cities that serve citizens well. How we ‘show up’ has an impact on the well being of ourselves and our city. Our practices create the conditions for us to each offer the diversity of work needed for the city to be able to met the needs of its inhabitants. There is a deeper knowing in us in our work and life – what will it take to find it?

Chapter 10 – The Emerging City asks how our collective practice creates cities that serve citizens. Humanity has a great desire to live life beyond mere survival.We desire, deeply, to thrive and this is why we build cities. As past civilizations have fallen, so too will ours without making the necessary connection between our economic life and our social and physical habitats. We can choose to create the conditions to thrive in ways we have yet to contemplate by searching for processes that allow us to aim for a destination – even if we do now know exactly what it is.

Chapter 11 – Nest City wraps up this endeavour – for now. The sweet spot in the nestworks is scalar – it is found in individuals, families, neighbourhoods, cities, regions, continents, etc. It is elusive, but it is the place that knits our journey with a destination and the surprise of things that emerge. It is where we notice the kind of city we wish to create and the practices that are needed to move in that direction. It is about noticing what we need to thrive and organizing ourselves to create cities that will support us on our evolutionary journey.


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Nest City is organized into three parts, each with a collection of chapters. Here are some plot helpers:

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Nest City’s third part


As I begin blogging parts of Nest City’s third part, I realize that I am at a point in writing where I feel the least comfortable with the terrain I am about to cover.

The ‘front end’ of my work, Part One – City Patterns was the most clear. It builds a broad foundation for my argument, that cities build evolutionary capacity. I introduce foundational impulse patterns that explain why cities exist, how they are created and the underlying values that evolve within and with us as our cities grow and develop. The content I was going to explore was clear and it was a matter of making it clear – a most useful blogging exercise.

As I embarked on Part Two – Organizing for Emergence, which explores the organizing patterns of humans as we create and live in cities, I had a frame that needed to be fleshed out. We organize to reach a destination, we experience uncertainty along the way, and the future that comes to pass is something unexpected at every turn. This is how the nest works: destination, journey and emergence. Compared to Part One, I content ‘ready’ to write and explore in blog posts; it was messy and disorganized. I didn’t know exactly how it would turn out.

Part Three – Nest City embodies the ’emergence’ piece of the dynamic explored in Part Two. I have a destination in mind (the frame for Part Three), I am on a journey publicly learning here with you while I write, and I have no idea exactly how this will turn out.

The direction I am moving in, however, is integration of destination, journey and emergence. I see a “nestwork”, a cog-like relationship of these three organizing patterns, and a sweet spot, that will shed light on how to co-create cities that serve us well. That is what I will be sharing as I explore, publicly, Part Three – Nest City.

My next post will recap the chapters of Part Two – Organizing for Emergence.

The following post will lay out the shape of Part Three’s four chapters.  


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This post marks the beginning of Part Three – Nest City. 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’s second part


Nest City is in three parts.  Part 1 looks at new ways to see patterns a cities that take into account the city’s complexity.  Part 2 proposes ways to organize ourselves to see those patterns and use them.  Part 3 articulates how to integrate the organizing patterns to co-create cities that serve us well.

Part One – City Patterns is behind us.  (Until I add more!)  It articulates the evolutionary relationship between humans and our habitat – our cities.  We have a distinct impulse to build cities, organize them and thrive in them.

Part Two – Organizing for Emergence is next.  It will explore our organizing patterns: we organize to reach a destination, we experience uncertainty along the way, and the future that comes to pass is something unexpected at every turn.  I will show you how the nest works: destination, journey and emergence.

Part Three – Nest City, will integrate these elements of destination, journey and emergence.  I will show you a second level of ‘nestworks’ that articulates how our city making and civic practice relate to the city that is emerging.  And of course a sweet spot where it all comes together.

Here’s another way to look at Nest City and  how it is organized: John O’Donohue’s blessing below.

The first five lines capture Part One.  As linear as we think the creation of cities is, it is always unfolding.  There may be patterns in cities, but they are emerging.  We do  not know exactly what they will be like.

Part Two is captured with the text beginning with the words, ‘Often we only know it is time to change’, through to the line, ‘Into the unknown that beckons us;’.  We often know it is time to change but we can not put our fingers on what needs to change.  We feel uneasy but we are not sure why.  We lose track of our destination and may be adrift, yet there is always something unknown that beckons us.

Part Three acknowledges, as the rest of the blessing does, that we are called to offer great trust in the unknown.  We know, quite deeply in our very souls, that we can move beyond the confinements we confine ourselves with, and unleash our soul’s desire.

I wonder what our collective souls’ desire.  I wonder what the city’s soul desires.