The term creative placemaking has been used in cultural affairs, planning, public policy, and philanthropy during the past several years. It is not a common term although it is becoming more widely used. It refers to the use of art and cultural projects as organizing perspectives through which the restoration and reanimation of communities can be planned and implemented. Above all, a creative place engages people in ways that lead to the social and economic re-positioning of a community.
Over the years I have published articles and book chapters on a very wide array of subjects including development finance, housing policy, and creativity. My latest publication was on community development financial institutions, which I authored for the Opportunity Finance Network.
Slow job growth, declining home values, a diminishing tax base, and concentrated poverty are but a few of the growing obstacles for well-established but struggling cities. Challenged by decades of globalization, technological change, and dramatic demographic shifts away from the urban core, these former industrial powerhouses, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest, have been eclipsed by burgeoning American cities with a viable niche in the new economy.
How are American cities faring now that the nation is climbing out of the worst recession since the Great Depression? I was asked to give a brief lunchtime talk on this topic at the Penn Institute for Urban Research at the University of Pennsylvania (penniur.upenn.edu). I am a member of the Penn IUR Scholars and a big fan of the Institute. It runs terrific programs and sponsors cross-disciplinary research while creating an environment where research and practice productively co-locate. The talk was informal but I thought I would write up my notes and post them here.
Public policies aimed at reducing poverty are sometimes divided into two approaches: people or place based strategies.
People based strategies treat individuals in abstraction from a community context. They offer benefits or investments that travel directly through the household or labor market. Place based strategies are geographically situated, targeting the revitalization of specific places.
In my consulting work with organizations a frequent concern is change management. Consultants are generally brought in to solve a problem and the solution is often related to how it is that an organization deals with change. I generally tell management something like the following:
The past few years have not been an easy time to be optimistic. The 2008 recession, unacceptable levels of unemployment, and a generally slow recovery have kept us all pretty humble. And that is how it should be. Good prognosticators have gotten a lot of big things wrong recently.