Here are ways to begin understanding this work and its value to you.


 Engage and Amplify Ideas, Use These Presentation to Build Coalitions and Energy


The Power of Place     This informational and inspirational talk awakens people to what they often take for granted, the power of place. We engage the audience in thinking about how place is integral to their lives, how unique places will increase in value as the network becomes a larger part of our lives. We set out some opportunities to strengthen what we love about places.

This talk can be geared to address a general audience, a tourism industry audience, planners and architects. We use this talk in circumstances where a community has deep divisions about the future of a place. In this case we recommend also scheduling workshop(s) on Love of Place (see below).

How Great Can We Be?      At a high level, this is an inspirational talk filled with tools which can be used to improve the places where we live. We draw on a number of case studies in a diversity of fields to explain the mechanics of understanding where you want to go and the tools that can be used to get you there. A deeper content thread helps people understand why it is so hard to change a system (many people have tried, failed, given up). This talk reinforces how systems work and how to change them.

Systems thinking is fifty years old as a discipline, and it is imbedded in improvement processes in many businesses, this is a talk about how to bring about better lives in better places and is geared to a general audience, especially civicly inclined audiences.

What We Learned in Katrina that Everyone Can Learn From     We lived in New Orleans, had local media businesses in New Orleans, developed a leisure tourism program for New Orleans when the oil and gas crash threatened to take down the economy (the New Orleans Region lost 10% of its job base, 40,000 jobs in 18 months in the mid 80s). And we lived through the impact of Katrina, the fits and starts of rebuilding, the importance of social capital and love of place. What we have learned has implications for every place and every person and especially for how investment in the components which build better places can lead to building a better world.

Workshops that Build Capacity and Understanding

Use These Workshops to Raise the Bar and Kick Start New Efforts 

If You Were the Chief Place Officer…     For something as important as Place, what would happen if there were a Chief Place Officer (we hope this idea spreads) who was in charge of the wellbeing of Place. In this workshop we look at divides and how to validate deep differences, then how to develop common ground.  We work through the wholistic address of Place areas which once healed would unleash energy for new progress. We create an assets and issues idea map to be shared throughout the community to encourage unified areas of address.

Decision Matrix Development     Often in Places, even those without much diversity but always in those with diversity, there are areas of deeply felt values which are in conflict. While there may be general agreement (protect the rural nature of our countryside) the lack of specificity extends divides into frequent clashes over really important things. In this workshop we engage conversations about the area of conflict. There are always at least two areas of focus (sometimes more). The first is the core values of each group with regard to this issues and the stories they tell to reinforce those values. The second is what they want to see happen overall, and what are the battleground areas and why. With this on the table, we work together with the group to see if a decision matrix can be developed beginning with a vision, and a matrix to weigh components of the decision in the context of the larger vision.

Stories and Place Development      Stories make the place. There is a reason why those developing product “brands” construct a story…it makes the product “real.” Places have real stories, but most often what has been captured so far is about history, particularly the history of a rich person and their accomplishments which frames more about what people reinforced in the past (self-accomplishment, something unique in the built environment in our place). Those who keep the lights on in these institutions recognize the plethora of other stories. It turns out that stories are critical to understanding a place. They inform deep values, how to build social capital, even how to build successful tourism. In this workshop, we show people the shape of stories of place, how to recognize them and we capture the essence of a few stories as a group. Then we work on developing stories of place out of each individual’s relationship to place. Often these begin to define interpretive themes of place.

Do You Know What I Know?     This workshop is geared toward an affinity group, people of shared values and interests (at least for this endeavor) who want to develop further their place in their community usually to support some particular outcome: recognition of the group’s importance or role, development of a new institution, bringing forward an important issue into more prominence, establishing place-based school curricula, etc. This workshop is also useful in communities where a group of people feel their way of life, the value of what they have meant to the community, is threatened and in this case it can help restore a sense of community connection on both sides. It is important to begin with a group that knows at least how to define their grievance or goal which is what makes them an affinity group for this workshop.

Your Brain On Stories      What we now know about the brain and how it can help or hurt us can fill library shelves (lots of them). And learning about brain science has strengthened our understanding of why stories have always been important to us and why we need to invest in them now. It turns out that stories are the best way to bypass what people think to what they feel, and feelings are the most important tool to engage to improve places. While this workshop may turn into a longer engagement in some communities (depending on the theatrical talent in the community), this starter workshop is designed to explore the development of theater of place, beginning with some key stories which could be scripted and developed. As such, the workshop explores possible stories, characters, story lines, theatrical approaches and other attributes of theatrical development which advance the development of a story told through theatrical means. At the end of this workshop there will be at least one focus area a community can select for further research and development. What results depends on the community: a play for schools, a theatrical production to commemorate the anniversary of a community event, or even a troupe which continually develops the place conversation through theatre.

The Public Realm and the Built Environment     Places all over are discovering the importance of the public realm and they are investing in it, to humanize our environments, to create more attractive places (which attract people), and even to establish an identity for a place. Yet we operate in our silos: parks and rec, natural spaces, land use planning, zoning, community buildings (performance spaces, historic structures, museums, libraries, civic and convention centers, arenas). Beyond the isolated design of a building into a space, or the occasional large civic plan, what could places do to integrate their built environment, their public realm and the life of the city? We begin with a survey of the kinds of places and opportunities that people have developed to create a sense of the whole. Then we will discuss special opportunities in your place for thinking fresh about the whole. We will capture these thoughts in an idea map for future use by those engaged in the workshop.

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