Urban Fold

Why Are "Best Practices" So Hard to Copy?

Though studies of "best practices" are meant to produce a path to success, they're invariably hard to follow. What we like best about cities - their unique character and systems - is exactly what limits the reach of best practices, says Mike Pagano.

"If only the failing, struggling, decaying cities would have the courage and political will to enact the same set of policies that the dynamic, creative, fast-growth, magnet cities had enacted, everyone would be better," says Pagano. Or so common thinking goes. 

"Cities, urban regions, suburban communities and rural towns have only one thing in common and following a Pied Piper is not one of them. Besides being composed of human beings, cities are unique." In addition to their unique geographies, demographics, and economies, cities operate in what Pagano and his colleague Chris Hoene call a "fiscal policy space". 

"Although there is a lot we can understand about undifferentiated cities by examining the actions of other cities (as the classic studies of Atlanta by Floyd Hunter in the 1950s and Clarence Stone in the 1990s, New Haven by Robert Dahl in the 1960s, and Middletown by the Linds in the 1930s demonstrate), not everything -- and it might be more accurate to say, very little -- can be replicated by another city or town," he argues.

Full Story: Why Do Cities Struggle to Replicate Best Practices?

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