Three Everyday Ways to Inspire Urban Change

Chuck Wolfe suggests three, perhaps non-traditional ideas for how to inspire acceptance of change in our cities through accessible experiences.
Charles Wolfe / Source

Writing in The Huffington Post, Chuck Wolfe provides three suggestions for advancing civic dialogue about evolving cities.  

He begins with an evocative photo of the Nice, France tramway--a city-center transit line which has helped to transform a former automobile-oriented downtown, arguing:

Immersion in the real look and feel (and sometimes sound and smell) of a more compact and sustainable local experience can feed arguments for change, justify expenditures or tell how to cast a strategic election vote. Personal involvement is the most powerful and verifiable way to champion the city cause, over and above mere acceptance of empirical data, article prose and illustrations.

But how best, he asks, to inspire others' personal preferences for cities when an in-person visit to an inspirational place is not possible? How do we translate in real terms the popular arguments in favor of urban density and moderated use of the automobile?

Based on his prior writing, advocacy and research experience, Wolfe suggests and illustrates three methods to bring innovative messages home in a meaningful way:

  • By example, in order to create personal meaning from an abstract goal.
  • By gestalt, and the value of a surprise event that recalls something well-known.
  • By local reinvention, including firsthand observation that is closer to home, where local action can supplement big ideas through demonstrable implementation.
Wolfe concludes:

While photographs, artwork, numbers and the written word are accessible to most, in my view, limited access to real-time experience of place is a challenge to urbanist sermons and rankings.  I find that successful advocacy and implementation is more about facilitating real and personal commitment in others than in proselytizing about the abstract, and for that, we need more accessible experiences.

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