I guess “downtown” and “inner-city” don’t have exactly the same connotations – but even so, and despite the common language which all too often separates us, I think this article from Government in the Lab today fairly describes the virtues of a long-running American experience we could – and should – learn from here in Britain. Especially in the light of the recent rioting and looting.
Not only is it not too long a read, it’s also very revealing. So highly recommended to you all – and please don’t pass up the opportunity!
The closing paragraphs in particular grabbed my attention, as they cover off the importance of including both the involved and the disinterested when analysing the future needs of a community (the bold is mine):
How important is open source to local economic development efforts?
It’s huge. Because one of the biggest challenges (in terms of attracting companies to downtown) is lack of good information. The more transparent we are with a prospect interest in attracting a new business, the more successful we tend to be. When we don’t share information, they’ll find out later. There is a perception of urban areas being more dangerous, and our data helps to prove otherwise.
The people that were most passionate had the hardest time stepping away from it and couldn’t give us the insights that we eventually uncovered. The person with a loose association [to downtown] gave us better insight. This was an ah-ha moment. If you only involve the advocates, you don’t get the broader view. Participation from all made the information better.
This is surely something Ed Miliband’s plea for a “national conversation” post-English riots could contemplate in its remit. As well as any government response which might emerge from the whole affair.
At their best, open source principles aim to apply the eyes of an observant and intelligent million to making better and continually improving products, services – and now even neighbourhoods.
Learning from other experiences – and the experiences of others – is one of the greatest skills humankind exhibits.
Let’s, then, try and see if we can do so in the aftermath of all this civil disturbance in England. And do so from the most expansive and inclusive examples we can find – that is to say, from those very virtual and online sectors which have led the way in community collaboration for a more than startling decade.