“The most perfect political community is one in which the middle class is in control, and outnumbers both of the other classes.” (Albert Einstein)
“A community is a group of people who have come together, and they work and they live to try and improve the standard of living and quality of life – and I don’t mean money.” (William Baldwin)
What does it take to empower and “enable” a disabled community? The small community where I live (Squamish BC) holds a very deep, personal and even spiritual meaning for me. Starting in the early 80’s I spent over a decade doing some fairly serious rock climbing on our 610 meter (2000’) tall Granite Monolith called the Stawamus Chief. I believe it is second only to Half Dome in Yosemite which I think is a little over 4000’ above the valley floor. I was no 5.12 leader but I could do 5.10 all day with the odd 5.11 thrown in and have climbed, and fallen, all over that rock.
Anyway, around 10 years ago my partner and I decided to move to Squamish and bought a home with a view. And yes you guessed it, with GREAT views of the Chief out of every window. I felt like I had come home! I continued to work in technology, business consulting, statistical consulting and pursued some of my own interests in philosophy, writing and photography. After around 9 years of watching local politics from the sidelines, watching as much of our local community began to dissolve, opportunities ignored, lost or plundered and a remarkable lack of awareness of global technology or social trends, I decided that maybe I could make a contribution. I have a broad background in psychology, research, marketing, business, technology and I am intimately familiar with the benefits, and trends towards open, shared and collaborative models for software, communication, education, publication, government and science. I am also an extremely driven person and once I set my mind on something, things tend to happen. Not always for the better, but I do tend to make an impression or an impact. So last year I made a failed attempt to engage with the local political environment in Squamish. I won’t go into the details of how, what or why it failed, but let’s just say that I was not the “right” person for what the Squamish community believes it needs right now.
What I had hoped to accomplish by getting involved with local politics, was to try and play a small role in beginning the process of engaging the local community, business leaders, politicians in an open and collaborative process for sustainable economic and business development. I wanted to utilize what I know about global business, technology and social trends to see if I could encourage, or facilitate a new model for local community engagement where everyone could play some role in the direction our small community takes in the future. I wanted to try and see if Squamish was ready to become an Enabled City where residents, artists, teachers, parents, youth, business leaders, politicians and academics were all given equal opportunities to participate and contribute to a shared knowledge pool where innovation and fresh ideas were encouraged, even expected. Basically I had hoped to encourage, support and possibly facilitate the creation of a new Enabled Squamish along the lines of the vision described at the Enabled City. Unfortunately I failed miserably and so have started down a different path now.
One day, hopefully in my own life time, I may see Squamish evolve into a world-class, enabled, collaborative and sustainable community where we recognize the need for thinking globally, leveraging new forms of technology, social engagement and a community where innovation, motivation, excellence and determination are considered valuable, even necessary qualities in our community leaders, politicians and most importantly, our citizens. Squamish is without a doubt a spectacular jewel (environmentally). What we need to do now is to also become a leader in the development of an Enabled City.
“At its simplest, The Enabling City is a new way of thinking about communities and change. Guided by principles such as collaboration, innovation and participation, the pioneering initiatives featured in The Enabling City attest to the power of community in stimulating the kind of innovative thinking needed to tackle complex issues ranging from participatory citizenship to urban livability.” (Enabled City)
“We have entered an era where interactive technologies and a renewed idea of citizenship are enabling us to experiment with alternative notions of sustainability and to share knowledge in increasingly dynamic ways. We now see artists working alongside policy makers, policy makers collaborating with citizens, and citizens helping cities diagnose their problems more accurately.” (Enabled City)
“What emerges, then, is a community where the local and global are balanced and mediated by the city at large, and where local resources and know-how are given wider legitimacy as meaningful problem-solving tools in the quest for urban and cultural sustainability. Here, innovation is intended as a catalyst for social change — a collaborative process through which citizens can be directly involved in shaping the way a project, policy, or service is created and delivered. A shift from control to enablement turns cities into platforms for community empowerment — holistic, living spaces where people make their voices heard and draw from their everyday experiences to affect change.” (Enabled City)