draft of CTC overview

August 7, 2009

Comments welcome.

Over the months we have seen that the economy is hurting people at all levels of income and wealth.  In the beginning when continuing the conversation started to meet we were looking mostly for ways of coping with the downturn, but as time has gone on we have seen more clearly the need to create new initiatives that span across the spectrum of those who are in need.

On the one and we see the need to bring together managers and technical people who have lost their jobs in a high Tech Industries.  We have imagined bringing together groups of say 10 in teams that choose their leader.  The purpose of the teams are to get jobs for their members on the one hand but also to be on the lookout for opportunities for new businesses that could be created.  We imagine that the leaders of the teams can also be a team that would work together with some good coaching to deepen their understanding of the nature of the economy and its opportunities.

At the other end we have seen that the massive unemployment – perhaps 200,000 people or more in silicon valley – require the creation of many new opportunities way beyond that of the high tech sector.

But many of those jobs were support jobs to technology companies.  Since those jobs are not coming back it looks to us like we need to think of using the unemployed managerial talent to create businesses that by blending new technologies, especially green, and using job training and green technology subsidies can create full spectrum companies that could meet needs in poor communities, for example retrofitting homes with new technologies for energy savings.

We have also imagined using loaned land and migrants with agricultural skills to grow vegetables that could be sold in small markets in poor neighborhoods.

Obviously we are beginning to see the emergence of a system of new economic opportunities that require coordination own from the high technology side, using for example solar panels and water purification, to the low technology side of migrant and inner city workers that could benefit by training in new practical skills.

We see that coordination within and between these initiatives require a fair amount of management.  While among the unemployed managers  there are exquisite skills this still requires very effective management to bring them together into effective enterprises.

From this perspective we see the need for government agencies in the form of towns or counties and  nonprofits with perspectives larger than that of single domains are capable of operating a cross organizations and natural capacity to help create the conditions for managing these initiatives.

This help can take two obvious forms.  One is in the form of spaces for planning meetings and trainings, and the second is with managerial time to help bring people together and coordinate them.

Our hope is that the costs of these two would be more than counterbalanced by the effectiveness of the programs in creating new jobs and new businesses that would take people off of unemployment and back on the tax rolls.

The governmental agencies and nonprofits that take the view that this economy will rebound will not find this an attractive path.

But those who understand that we are more in to “reset” than “rebound”, that we need new creativity in circumstances that are not only difficult, but dangerous, will find this an attractive approach. The key is not so much to return the community to where it was, but out of extreme necessity to create what actually could be a healthier community, where people are healthier and better educated, incomes are better distributed, crime is less, and the quality of life for everyone in the community is experienced as better than it otherwise would be.

By NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF

THE country has fallen on hard times, but those of us who love cities know
we have been living in the dark ages for a while now. We know that turning
things around will take more than just pouring money into shovel-ready
projects, regardless of how they might boost the economy. Windmills won’t do
it either. We long for a bold urban vision.

With their crowded neighborhoods and web of public services, cities are not
only invaluable cultural incubators; they are also vastly more efficient
than suburbs. But for years they have been neglected, and in many cases
forcibly harmed, by policies that favored sprawl over density and conformity
over difference.

Such policies have caused many of our urban centers to devolve into generic
theme parks and others, like Detroit, to decay into ghost towns. They have
also sparked the rise of ecologically unsustainable gated communities and
reinforced economic disparities by building walls between racial, ethnic and
class groups.

Correcting this imbalance will require a radical adjustment in how we think
of cities and government’s role in them. At times it will mean destruction
rather than repair. And it demands listening to people who have spent the
last decade imagining and in many cases planning for more sustainable,
livable and socially just cities.

The changes needed may seem extravagant, but they are not impossible. Many
of those who see the current economic crisis as a chance to rebuild the
country’s infrastructure have pointed to previous major government public
works projects, like Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Projects Administration
in the 1930s and 1940s and Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1956 National Interstate
and Defense Highways Act, as a reminder of what this country was once
capable of.

Although the W.P.A. is mostly associated with rural dams and roadways,
there’s hardly a city in America where it didn’t leave its mark, from
riverfront parks to schools and housing projects.

Eisenhower’s investment in highways was equally audacious, but its effect on
cities has not always been positive; in many ways the Highways Act set the
stage for decades during which suburban interests trumped urban ones.
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