Monday, November 18, 2013

Live Theater-The Red Virgin

Normally, I use this space to discuss innovation, and the ideas and opportunities that innovation can bring to the physical and cultural spaces that encompass our lives. And to a degree, entertainment, and arts, have an impact in that arena. But, I am certainly no expert, not even an enthusiast for theater, so anything I post here, is with the understanding that I am a complete dilettante in terms of live performance. In truth, I love live performance, the immediacy and necessary improvisation of live performance is so much more compelling to me, than movies and television. Even though any live performance is rehearsed, and certainly any theater production is scripted and produced, live theater leaves open every performance and performer to the change that something changes every time.

I attended a performance of The Red Virgin, which is a premiere play, based upon the events surrounding the Paris Commune of 1871, and in particular, following the story of Louise Michel, the titular character of the play. This is not so much the innovative part of this story, although, the story has, to my knowledge, never been portrayed, or referenced in any theater production. What was quite innovative to me, was the scale of the story, relative to the scale of the company, budget and locale with which the company sought to perform. Worthy, in large part, because it showed to me, that live theater can be a part of any community. Art, seen as the expression of creativity, is vital to a healthy expression of the self, and by extension, allows for a community to express that health through interaction and communication. Art achieves it's greatest elements, when it is shared from person to person, not held away in the dark corners of some collectors ego, and held so high, that only the elite can enjoy it. It isn't the story, but, the performance that captivates my thoughts with The Red Virgin.

To begin, you need a space, for everything needs a space, and the space should fit the actions. Yet, when I arrived to observe the story or the Paris Commune, I was immediately struck by the fact that there was no stage. In fact, there was only a room, perhaps the size of a large living room, with a beautiful fireplace, characteristic of Julia Morgans work in Berkeley. A huge fireplace, centrally placed and perfectly proportioned. And then, some chairs, in fact two rows of chairs surrounding the central space. No scenery, and indeed, there would be no scenery in the entire play. Some stage lights, but, nothing more than one might see in the most basic of high school stage settings. What was I in for? A few props, a table and chair, a drum, a bottle or two and a accordion on top of the piano.

The players, my friend Anna Ishida, and five other actors would perform a play, with a scope as large as Paris, relating the story of a political upheaval that had repercussions that carried through many decades, and questions that are still as valid as today, on a stage that amounted to a space about 20 feet wide and 30 feet long. When I speak of intimacy in theater, it gets no more intimate than to have the performers at eye level, performing in arms reach, a broad story with nothing more than their performance to carry them. Great costumes, great lighting and sound, and a great story. But, performed in a box, a beautiful (thanks again Julia) but stark box. Truly, any space, an abandoned store front, a closed restaurant or coffee shop, a warehouse, could easily have been this place. It gives me pause, as it makes live theater less precious, it removed the barriers of grand space, impossible budget, and excess resources. It truly challenged what innovative theater could be, bridging forward to the idea that art can be anywhere, and bridging back, to the street performances of another time.

And to the acting, how does one act, when all one has is voice, and movement, and little else. It is often said that theater is acted large and broad, film is acted small and close. That the camera does not want the overview, and that the theater does not welcome the detail. But, what of live theater, within inches of the performer. No electronics, no distance, no camera to lie, no tape to edit. You are playing to your audience, and they are on the stage. I don't really understand what it means to perform, or act, but, I do understand the difference between the grand and the intimate, how a design for a great park differs so markedly from the design for a private garden. Yet, here was a grand play, performed in as intimate a setting as if I was sitting within the cast itself.

And yet it worked, it worked so wonderfully well. I was immersed, not in the way that I might think I was a part of the story, for surely, I was just a voyeur to the performers. But, to the audience as well, we were all one. The story, the place, the performers and the audience, all one, in one beautiful box. It was revelatory, in the idea that high art, the art of the live performance, of the story tellers, could exist in any space, as long as the welcome was there. I truly believe that this was one of the most interesting experiences of entertainment I have ever encountered.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Changemaker Central at Arizona State University

I have just returned from a four state road trip, that included a quick jaunt down to Arizona State University, a little side trip for my nephew. Yes, he is starting the search for a college and ASU is high on his list of places to attend. While he was chatting up the information desk, I saw this door, and it promised an interesting experience.

This appeared to be a part of the student union, and my hopes that this might be a hub for co-working, or innovation, were not misguided. It turns out, that this is an organization that is supported by ASU, not as a curriculum, but, as an affiliated program that students can become a part of. Intiated by the organization Ashoka U, this program has become student operated and if focused on the principals of "Inspire, catalyze, sustain and high impact entrepreneurial thinking".

In the case of Changemakers, there is the space, and then there is the focus, although it is open to all students, to become a part of the organization and mission, students are required to have an interest and plan for how they intend to change the world.

Open working zone

As with many co-working environments, there are areas for group, collaborative and individual work spaces, many of which can be configured for various uses and interactions. While talking with the person who was at the desk that day, I asked how the "cafeteria" work areas were received, and she noted that they were quite popular, as they offered the ability to both work and collaborate in a desk area. She noted that this is not intended to be a library, that the point was for people to interact, to support each other in all of the projects being incubated at this location. In keeping with Ashoka, this office is tied into an entire national network of other college campuses with similar organizations. This is not a library, clearly.

Active Whiteboard

There was this area, and a second, with electronic controls and large video monitors. This one was for more active presentations, which would be local. There was a second area, more "conference-y" in feel, that also offered the large screen, but, video conferencing as well.

Reach out and touch, well, video

And then, there is the old way, which is to provide some couches, old tech whiteboards, fun colored markers and to encourage the play of ideas, and the creation of relationships as these students begin to feel out their message and path to making an impact on the world.

It sound ridiculous, and it sounds grand, to think that students who are still in the process of getting their degrees, might think that they are going to go out there and change the world. But, what of those that succeed, and if there is a way to create an intellectual environment, where changing the world is not separate, not some 'whacko communist' ideal, but, a real, honest and doable construct, who better to dream up those pathways, than students who have yet to come to understand what can, and cannot be done. The heart of creating an innovation ecosystem lies in the ability to catalyze and enable the young people, who will inherit this planet and all of it's cultural, social, and environmental limitations and potentials, into action, to make their own future.

I can't help but wonder, what if we started with the high school kids, what if we challenged them to become leaders, and not recordings of some Wiki-esque world. What is San Leandro found a way to create activists, philosophers, makers, and leaders, from it's own children.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Innovation Culture, and what in the hell is a Chief Innovation Officer

Innovation, currently the 'buzziest' of buzz words has come to San Leandro, and it leaves a lot of people wondering what is this all about. Innovation has managed to even become main stream, with the word bandied about on national news shows and gaining momentum as a catchy phrase in government. But, what is innovation, not the dictionary word, but, what does it mean when people speak of 'innovation ecosystems' or 'innovation lifestyle'. For a city like San Leandro, that has not been a leader in the recent trends of technology or lifestyle, how does a focus on innovation manifest itself in our community. And just what is a Chief Innovation Officer, and why would we need, or even want one.

Some of this comes down to changes in the technology of our lives, the ability to communicate seamlessly and instantly, to institute broad efforts across vast spaces and to compress time in that manner. In terms of it's effect on culture, it has modified how we, as individuals and as groups are empowered, a single person can engage multiple entities, throughout the day, and as long as the technology holds up, that communication can occur over vast distances. People are more mobile than ever before, often working miles from the rest of their team, in some cases, with the team spread across continents. In my field, this manifested itself in the fact that some architects have an effective 24 hours office cycle, passing the same project across the globe, with fresh eyes picking up the work every few hours. Design and engineering seamlessly changing every minute of the day, what once took months was reduced to weeks.

The other thing that drives innovation is people, and what their expectations are from the life they live. I am one of the last of the Baby Boomers, the people who came of age in the late 1960's and early 1970's, who would change the social fabric by which society lived. Our parents believed in working hard, staying in place and building a future, many of my generation believed in a much more mobile society, more free in how their lives would be lead. This generation would ultimately become the generation that would recreate the 80 hour work week and spawn a technological revolution. Into this, walked the Gen-X and Millenials, the children of the technology revolution, and with them came a second cultural revolution, not social in it's inception, but, technological, in that they are far more connected, but, far more instant in how they view life. The old rules do not work with their new reality. And thus change.

And this is where innovation lifestyle comes to the fore, people with new definitions of family, work and experience. Who are seeking to leverage technology that was barely imagined in the time of their parents. Their ideals of what life is, or what work is, shaped by technology that has changed every aspect of our lives. And they are finding that the codes, and laws and traditional ways of governance are in the way. Cities are finding that to engage these new workforce ideals, they must become more agile, more open, or they will fall behind. Our cities are, by nature, cumbersome beasts, fed by caution and burdened by bureaucracy. Uniquely unsuited to thrive in a fast moving cultural change. And so, the Chief Innovation Officer.

San Francisco has one, San Leandro too, and many other cities are moving in this direction. A person, or small group, the special forces of the city government. A great CIO has a grasp of all of the equation, an understanding that the entire City must respond, at many levels, to the change that is occurring in the work force. A city such as San Leandro, where I live, has many disparate parts, and a lot of pluses, but, until recently, no clear path to using all of those pieces in a unified game plan to create opportunity and to understand what the City can and should become. In the case of San Leandro, a city that has neglected or mismanaged much of it's assets, this comes in the form of understanding that the change must be broad, across many parts of the cities culture. The work places, the social living places and the commercial spaces must all change, to keep the City vital.

If the City of San Leandro is to attract the businesses that will lead the next economy, then there must be places where the types of people who are going to create that economy can find food, housing, recreation, social interaction and safety, and that will be driven by the ability to focus on making innovating San Leandro and how it both is seen, and how it sees itself. Recent visits, triggered by our CIO, Deborah Acosta, has brought some of the leaders of the new guard into the City and to a person, these people have noted that San Leandro has 'the great bones' to be a center of growth. We can be the place that the next great business ideas incubate and grow organically. This is what innovation culture will ultimately be about, growing our own economy, not trying to attach our City's fate to some other economic engine.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

San Leandro Food Trucks

On Tuesday evening, San Leandro hosted it's first food truck event, sponsored by Food Truck Mafia, and located in the heart of downtown San Leandro. Although this site is eventually slated for use as a development, this location and this event, were to serve as the initial test of the idea that San Leandro could host an even such as this, and would set up future weekly visits of 8 to 10 food trucks to the downtown area. The obvious hope of an event such as this, beyond the excitement of the food, is that it offers a glimpse into the potential for a wider variety of food businesses in San Leandro, and if successful, illustrates that there is a demographic of people willing to support a broad selection of food options.

Present at this first event were trucks featuring a variety of foods, from sushi to burgers, hot dogs to ricotta lemon donuts and a lot of anything else you might want. I fear that I may have tasted something from every truck on site, something of a weakness, when I am presented with too many easy options. I hit the scene a little after 5:30 and this is what met me.

whoa, too many people

A solid crowd, to be sure, and it was good to see, despite my loathing of crowds, I wanted to see that
San Leandro would support this event, as I believe that when you create excitement in an urban core, with events such as this, you start to create an enduring sense of life in the space. One of the common complaints I hear, is that there are no good places to eat in San Leandro, and that people in this area do not want/support good food. While far from fine dining, food trucks are not cheap, and while this was novel for this location, many of the people I chatted with were familiar with at least a couple of these trucks, and were excited to be able to buy from them close to home. My interest, beyond what people thought, was how long would the crowd last. At 8:00 p.m. the crowd looked like this...

Still going strong

What of the food? Well, I am something of a food enthusiast, and I have a strong background in terms of cooking and eating. This is not elevated food, and to be sure, you can get more filling food for less money. So what is the 'thing' about what one of my neighbors referred to as 'fancy roach coaches', why have these trucks come to be so popular, and driven so much enthusiasm for a product that is neither a bargain, nor exceptional. They are a phenomenon, and something that I have yet to hear any solid ideas about, and that would include several contributions I have made to other articles about them. It is something of an oddity, many of these trucks are staffed with cook with real kitchen chops, some are producing exceptional street food, and in most cases, the food is quite creative, if sometimes kitschy. And yet, for a Tuesday night (death night in the restaurant trade), this really created buzz. Of course, going forward, over the next few weeks, will that be maintained, that is the real question.

In one way, I believe these trucks, and these types of events, appeal very heavily to the young Gen-X and Millennials, the plethora of options, the intense crowds and sense of being in the moment, I believe have a great attraction to people who have grown up in a time when technology and culture reward mobility and choice making. And to some degree, the idea that you can have it all. Looking at the crowd, there were many people with young children, and strollers, many families. In a very large sense, it appeals to people who are used to being 'on the move'. In much the same way that many of the great young minds who are becoming the new guard of our economy, people who are in love with the idea of a variety of experiences, cultures, places and times, see in these events the type of experience they seek. Not to sit down at one table for a leisurely dinner evening, but, to interact, touch and return, or move to the next group. In feeds on itself, making connections, eating fun food, turning the idea of dinner into it's own clubby feel, a shared moment. In the end, this is what our downtown needs to start providing, those moments that tie us to our City.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Community and Food

In my continuing interest about community vitalization, the idea of an innovation community and a focus on making San Leandro a center of what one might term 'New Economy' progress, the idea of where people who are drawn to our fair city will eat. There is often this sense that San Leandro is a desert (desert, not dessert) of good food options, and I will happily join in on these statements. But, with the coming of our first good truck event in just a day or so (San Leandro hosts Food Truck Mafia hits San Leandro tomorrow evening) I got to thinking about food resources in San Leandro. And I realized, there are some solid options in San Leandro, that we over look.

First off, my favorite haunt in the City, the Zocalo Coffeehouse, which my friends Tim and Mitch have run now for over 11 years, which will now be carried forward by Sara and Dan. While we will be temporarily be losing our home of great local coffee, the locally roasted beans will stay in San Leandro. I think a great city has to have it's own roasters, and Sara will continue to fill this niche. In the past, Sara and Mitch have brought us some great beans, the Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea and a few other standouts, which I hope will once again become options once the roaster in located in it's new home.

There is also another old business, the Santos Spice Company, that provides both bulk and smaller consumer sizes of Indian, Pakistani and other exotic spices, that I think often get overlooked due to their being off the beaten path. So many of the people I regularly communicate with bemoan that they must buy their bulk spices from mail order, and here we are, with exotic spices of high quality, right in the center of our city.

Drake's Barrel House, another place that I think often gets over looked as coming from San Leandro, a city that has supported and been at the center of the home brewing movement in the United States. Drake's makes some of the best IPA in the country, and it has rapidly become a staple in finer beer establishments around California. Beyond that, we have Brewmaster and Williams Brewing, two home brewing shops in one city. Once again, I think we have some great resources here, and this is something that can be built upon.

I think these businesses, and many others, form a basis, for which future food industry can begin to see that San Leandro has the potential to be a food center for the innovators of the New Economy. One of the things that has come to the fore, is that there is a significant interest in San Leandro, as a potential demonstration city for urban farming and small farm product marketing. Now, this is where a city could reach out and start to create opportunities in a "new-old" model of food creation. With it's central location, tradition of agriculture, availability of open land and open buildings, a marketplace of locally grown, urban farmed and small farm curated agriculture products could become a hallmark of food economy for the Bay Area. In many cases, the key to creation and innovation is space, and the ability to link space, technology and people in such a way, that creativity is fostered. We may be the best city in the Bay Area to move forward on these ideas.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Problem of Living Space

As anyone who has followed my past blogging will note, there has been a change in some of my posts, away from food and towards an interest in community. In truth, this is not really a change in direction, of my interests or passions, so much as my finally putting into words, my lifelong passion for the built environment that humans live in. For me, community is not just a place where I live, but, an over-arching construct of my professional and personal lives. I exist in a constant state of observation of the built environment, and for modern man, that means, the places and spaces where community is created and where it lives.

And in truth, where it lives is a problem for many. I am not talking poverty, homelessness or similar issues. But, how does a community provide for those, who are either starting out in life, find themselves down sizing, or are simply in need of a space to live, while working out other details of their lives. This proposes a very real problem, for many people, who are trying to find that career, or who are creating some of the new models of commerce or technology, the familiar models of apartments and houses simply do not work. The costs being too high, or the locations of the houses not being close enough to work, requiring even more assets for a car or commute. For some, the solution if Co-Living.

Far from the old model of simply Cooperative Housing, this new model encourages a live-work space that seeks to create an enriched space, in which business, intellect and creative response to problems is encouraged. One of the first, and certainly the most notable effort, is the "intentional community" of the Rainbow Mansion in Cupertino, California. This is something of a mind bending community, but, one that represents a "Alpha" model of what might be achieved in any community that is seeking to create and encourage innovation and grass-roots growth and community sustainability. Far from the co-ops of our 1960's youth, or from the ideas of fear, that it is just a bunch of people who can't get out of their own way, these houses function as incubators for the next generation of entrepreneurs and thinkers.

This is one way, that highly motivated and creative people can start to find ways to live in the communities that they ultimately want to see flourish, on their way to changing the world. For San Leandro, it might be a solution to losing our young mind trust, who often migrate to Oakland or San Francisco, looking for stimulation and experiences that they do not yet perceive to exist at home. Let's begin to think about creating spaces where home in San Leandro, means a dynamic, intellectually challenging and truly diverse experience. A salon for the innovation economy community.

Innovation and Workforce

Last night, I had the opportunity to hear Shannon Spanhake; the Deputy Innovation Officer for the City and County of San Francisco speak about what the City is doing, to create economic opportunities within their City. At the center of what she is doing, is working on innovation ecosystems to create job opportunities, create a better government/citizen experience and to improve the urban infrastructure of San Francisco. During her talk, she spoke about Living Innovation Zones, which address the fact that many of the codes and codices that we have adopted over the years, in the City planning and municipal management areas of cities are antithetical to innovation. The concept of LIZs, is that in specific zones of the City, these types of codes that can be a limitation to innovation and the associated risks of doing things that have not been done before, are either modified, or even removed, from the path of people who might have great ideas, but, not great capital.

Why would a community seek to removed these codes, which obviously have been placed to protect the fabric and structure of the City, just to enable people, who often have more ideas than capital, when we all tend to want to see our cities encouraging capital centric development. Isn't it appropriate for a City to seek economic development from those who have money, than from those who need it?

Not really. One of the hallmarks of large corporations, is that they are rarely good corporate citizens anymore. They are the driving force of the economy in that they seek to create wealth in a variety of channels, and many of us benefit from that. However, increasingly the case is, that research, development and design are not seen as avenues for profit within that structure. Further, these companies do not foster community sustainability. A truly sustainable community is founded in the ability to live, work and play within the community itself, and one facet of that is to develop economic stability as well as economic opportunity within the community. Shannon is doing this in San Francisco using tools such as Open Government, creation of Living Innovation Zones, finding new ways for government to act, or for people to interact with government.

As always, I find these dinners that I attend, as a guest of The Hub, and UIX Global, as well as the Berkeley Economic Development Agency to be stimulating and challenging to what I think I know about community and city. Much of what Shannon spoke about was pertinent to San Leandro, many of the challenges we face are different, in that we do not enjoy the visibility or reputation of San Francisco. However, we have our own opportunities and our own built in limitations, that ideas such as a LIZ, such as co-living and Open Government could begin to address.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Zocalo Coffeehouse is Closing

Zocalo Coffeehouse is dead. Long live Zocalo Coffeehouse!

The short story, and perhaps all that many will care to read, is that Zocalo Coffeehouse is closing. A victim, not of the economy, or of some imagined loss of interest in coffee in America, but, simply because they have lost their lease. After 11 years, a vital and thriving business in San Leandro is closing. Mitch and Tim, the owners have opted to move on, rather than go through the expense of opening up a new spot. And that is the end of the sad news. The good part of this, is that Sara, the longtime roaster for Zocalo has purchased the business, and once relocated, hopefully close to my home, there will be a new Zocalo Coffeehouse.

And this is important.

The long story is often where the truth lies, and for Zocalo, and for me, and my interests in seeing San Leandro become a community that will fulfill it's potential, Zocalo was far more than just a coffeehouse. I came to Zocalo after it had been opened for a year, I had just moved to San Leandro, a city that was not even on my "long" list of cities I wanted to live in, after realizing that I could not afford to locate to Berkeley or Oakland, that I detested Walnut Creek and San Ramon and that Richmond and El Cerrito, my home towns simply were too far from work. Here I met Mitch and Tim Holmes, and found two friends, and advocates for my new home town, who had chosen this town to put down roots and raise a family. These are two of the most unlikely of San Leandro denizens I could imagine, having far more in common with my friends from Berkeley or Oakland, than here. But, Zocalo was their baby back then, with the mission statement as clear as could be.

"Coffeehouses have a long tradition of being gathering places. They’ve been the home to many a revolutionary, with caffeinated spirits rallying themselves and their compatriots to a cause. In fact, throughout history coffeehouses have been banned by oppressive regimes for their fostering of free thought and discussion.

We hope to inspire friendships, conversations, and even, perhaps, some learning; a place where the customers, my neighbors, can talk freely, within walking distance of their homes."

 And, indeed, this was where my mornings, and many of my connections in San Leandro were formed. I live on a great street, but, the neighborhood, I learned about at Zocalo, and it represents a lot of my experiences in this town. As a person who is fascinated with the built environment, and how we, both as individuals, and as a society live within our environment, San Leandro exists as an enigma, and Zocalo was the oddity at the heart of this enigma. I found that the town lacked an identity, even the commercial areas lacked definition. Literally, everything I understood about City Building and Community, seemed to be under-achieving. It quickly became obvious, that outside of the band of neighborhoods that I moved in to, there was little to recommend this town. And then there was Zocalo, house roasting coffee, baristas wearing, well, whatever they wanted, no uniforms, no corporate everything logos, no canned lifestyle.

As I sat in the shop over the years, I came to realize that for Tim, the shop was more about what he could do to effect change, in what he considers to be his families home town. The coffee was a means to an end, and the end, was to change the small part of the world he wanted to make his home. I have some to consider Mitch and Tim to be close friends, and during that time, my understanding of Tim evolved. He was about innovation, about sustainability, not in the 'au courant;' fashion of "green everything" but, in the deeper way, that a community needs to grow, needs to explore, it is the understanding that community, city and culture are all ecosystems, Inescapably tied to each other, as plants are to water and sun. Zocalo was Tim's first shot, and his base of operations, in trying to change San Leandro into a vital sustainable community. And for me, here I found great coffee, good friends and optimism that in the end, where I could afford to live, was also where I would want to live.

And now, ten years later, this zocalo, this community place, is closing, just as the City is entertaining a culture of innovation and creativity, as the City is leading the country in connectivity, the coffeehouse that I have come to see as the center of thought, is closing, for now. And I have, somehow, become a part of that change, and that is also, through Zocalo and discussions over coffee. Even as I look at the demise, at least for a few months, of my beloved morning frou-frou latte, I am left with the legacy of Zocalo, which is my hope that San Leandro is going to become a truly sustainable City, with a heart of innovation and intellect.

And I know, that Sara and Dan, the new owners, will serve great coffee, I also know, that Zocalo will change, as every place has it's moment in time and that time eventually comes, when it must end. Perhaps the new owner's passion for social justice will lead a new activism in my town, a new legacy much needed. And so...

Zocalo Coffeehouse is dead. Long live Zocalo Coffeehouse!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

An Amazing Week

What an amazing week this was, a chance to engage an entire new community of people and thought, and to connect that to the community in which I live. As a landscape architect, I have always been interested far beyond the simplicity of designing a space, I chose to work in landscape because of the dynamics of working in both the built and natural environments. Ecosystem was a term that I learned early in my creative life. This week, I met leaders of a diverse community, all of whom use the word ecosystem, but, in wholly different ways than mine. I got to stretch my intellectual legs a bit, and it was truly a joy.

Initially, I met with quite a few folks over a lecture and dinner, where many were asking the question of how government, commerce and creativity can interact. See in people from local governments reaching out to understand why creativity and innovation are important in this new economy, and how those concepts will play out in a world where government will soon not be the stimulus of development was very interesting. I share one true trait with many people of 50+ years on this earth, and that is a healthy skepticism of government and what it can achieve, and of how it tends to think. Belying that mythos, there were people there, asking how do we tap into this movement. I was happy to see one of those people was from the city in which I reside.

And far too often, we are lead to believe that these innovators, makers and creators are slackers, 'kids' who have no idea how to make a living, how serious life is, or just how to get a 'real' job. Yet, I spoke with a young man, whose start-up company just went into round three of Venture Capital funding, signed on 6 new employees and created a set of tools that will not only aid the oil industry in being far more efficient in water use, save them a significant amount of time and money, but, will let them to leave behind significantly cleaner water in the environment. I met a young woman who is engaged through a small 15 person firm, to convince corporations that there is both profit and connection in being more innovative in sustainability, that the change isn't to offer a more recyclable can, or use less paper, but, to move companies such as Coca-Cola or AT&T to change their core values and products to enable the market to allow better and more sustainable lives, a better society, through commerce. Innovation and creativity, sustainability and caring as means to better business and better societies. All in one.

I met a man, in his mid-60's who has decided to create a center for innovation and technology, and he is reaching out to the people who are doing just that. The best thing was, that he knew he didn't get it, and he wants to. He hosted a group of over a dozen people, leaders in a diverse group of communities, all focused on creating a different world, to come into his space, and to tell him what he needs to learn. No holds barred, no feelings spared, he asked these folks to tell him what they saw and how he could reach out to them. Over the typical sandwich and cookies lunch and a nice Powerpoint deck, he then turned the floor over and did absolutely nothing to defend or explain himself. The discussion was blunt, direct and honest. Exactly what you would hope every round table in every office would be. And when he was told that he had it all wrong, he seemed genuinely pleased that he had a new and better understanding, stating that "he was at the start, and not the end of the process, that was clear now".

And it all came down to comfort zone, environment and ecosystem, my old friends of design, no redefined by these young minds. The idea that a change in the economic fortunes of failing communities is not about filling a single building, even the success of a single building, comes down to the ecosystem that the building is a part of. And that is what needed to come from this meeting, that a single building, a single actor, a single piece of technology does not make the revolution. If we want to have a more vital community, if this owner wants to fill his single building, he has to address the community around him. Years ago, my firm was tasked to create a wonderful playground, and when we looked at the site, it became apparent that there were no children nearby and no way for them to get there. We questioned the client as to the direction of the project and the place he desired a playground. He felt he could make something nice, and it would become viable. It failed, as it always would fail. It is reckless to ignore the environment in which you wish to create life, as life needs nurturing.

I have believed for some time, that the future of community development and revitalization lays in partnerships of the government and private commerce, to create communities supportive of growth and evolution. Treating community and society as organic beings, that evolve, that require an ecosystem that nurtures growth, that encourages change, that chooses to see the problems, but rather than cling to old concepts and values, seeks to create new concepts and values. I had a good week, because I saw young minds creating and pushing, I saw old minds opening to the possibilities, I saw people communicating and teaching, learning from each other in a positive way and not the constant barrage of fear and conflict that has become the norm of today's world.