Fuel for the Change.
Leading or supporting deep, meaningful change in your community… well, it’s damned hard work. Old answers don’t work, new answers are still fuzzy, colleagues and residents don’t get it, and bosses can be… well, you know.
After years of dinking around the edges, we know it’s time to marshal the forces to make the changes our communities need. But to do that, we need three things:
Toolkits to help us do the day-to-day things better;
Understanding of the Trends to see where the future might be leading us,
and perhaps most importantly, Wisdom and bravery to undertake that hard work — and the encouragement of knowing that we are not alone.
The Wise Fool Press is designed to give you those three types of fuels — quickly, efficiently, and through the platforms that makes the best sense for you. We bring you deep thoughts and practical tools to help you navigate, and to help your community ride the waves of change. We don’t believe in magic bullets, and we don’t believe in selling snake oil. What we do believe is that we need to figure out better solutions. And that we’re in this together.
Our first three publications represent each of these different types of fuel:
The Local Economy Revolution: What’s Changed and How You Can Help is designed to give you an enjoyable but thoughtful read that helps you build a deep understanding of what’s going on today — and reinforce your courage and determination in doing what your community needs. You can learn more about it, and find links to read samples and order it, here.
Why This Work Matters: Wisdom from the People Who are Making Communities Better shares reflections from 11 in-the-trenches community professionals who do the tough work of making communities better — in small towns and federal agencies, in governments, nonprofits and consulting, and in everything from urban planning to economic development to answering the phones in the city manager’s office. The stories they tell are beautiful, poignant, funny and heart-wrenching, but mostly they are encouraging — telling how these professionals keep finding the courage to overcome frustrations and keep doing the important work they do. You can learn more about it, and find links to read samples and order it, here.
Crowdsourcing Wisdom: a guide to doing public meetings that actually make your community Better (and won’t make people wish they hadn’t come). The ways, the methods, the assumptions that we rely on to do day-to-day democracy stuff – to figure out what people want their governments to do, to try to get them to understand why we’re building this or that, to get people involved in decisions the way we know we should…they’re
This book does a brass-tacks examination of the ways that our usual public engagement assumptions and methods backfire on us. We’ll then walk through a more effective strategy for doing public engagement that gives both citizens and governments a better and more meaningful experience. We’ll conclude with some tactics for managing unproductive behavior and Crowdsourcing Wisdom when you find yourself stuck with some of our typical public meeting situations. Learn more and order here.
In addition, we’re producing an occasional series we’re calling Short Shots — easy-to-read mini-publications that give you more food for thought and good ideas than you can fit in a blog post, but less than one of those books that sits on your bedside table, mocking you and making you wonder how you’ll ever find time to read it all. With a Short Shot, you get a solid dose of meaty ideas without having to dedicate a weekend to it.
The first Short Shot is
What We Thought We Could Do, and What We Can Do: The Secrets of Retail District Revitalization. This illustrated mini-book outlines the fundamental reasons why many conventional strategies for improving older commercial districts don’t work and lays the groundwork to help us invent more effective, more cost-effective ways to make these places more successful. We start with some of the Magic Lever solutions that downtown advocates often support, then we take a deep dive into the often hidden challenges and blind spots that the actual businesses in these commercial districts face every day. We then explore some new ways to strengthen the health of a traditional business district by focusing on building healthy businesses, and we end with a story of change and revitalization.
But that’s just the start. We’ll give you a sneak peak at our upcoming publications below. But first,
What’s with the penguin?
You know, to be accurate, it’s a Fat Penguin Floating Majestically Over Toledo.
This little gem, drawn by illustrator Barry Gott, showed up in an early edition of the Wise Fool newsletter. And I can’t think of a better symbol:
The Impossible becomes Possible. It’s not necessarily graceful, and it might look downright goofy, but the Impossible becomes Possible.
And as the Wise Fool name implies, a little awareness of our own silliness probably isn’t a bad thing either.
In the Works:
Here’s a few snippets about some works in the works. Do note that the titles are working titles and subject to change.
Won’t Get Fooled Again: Protecting your community from economic studies. I’m working on this in partnership with Peter Mallow, my development guru/ analytical wizard friend who has written a series for the Wise Economy Blog and co-prepared the Won’t Get Fooled Again presentation. We’ll help you understand what’s going on – and more importantly, help you uncover the hidden assumptions and ask the make-em-squirm questions that you and your community need answered before you put your funds and land and futures at risk. We’re working on it.
Tactical Economies. This work will examine how the principles of tactical urbanism – quick, temporary improvements designed to show a place’s potential — might be translated to economic development and economic revitalization. This one is in the research stage right now, so if you have examples of tactical economic improvements at work, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Preservation-Driven Economy. This book will attempt to unravel how exactly preserving and reusing older buildings and places help make local economies stronger and more resilient. A lot of the challenge here will be in making the things that the preservation and downtown revitalization worlds have learned over the past few decades more accessible and comprehensible to the general public. Right now, this one is in the conceptual stage, but I’d expect it to move forward pretty quickly.
Building a Business Ecosystem. The Local Economy Revolution started to unpack the idea that local economies need to be managed like a forest, not like a machine, and this book will start taking that idea from the abstract to the real world. One of the keys will be sharing good models of how we can re-connect, reinforce and grow these ecosystems, so again, if you know of great examples, shoot me a note at email@example.com
Lessons from the Rust Belt’s Children. This book is also envisioned as a collection of essays — sharing the perspective of community leaders and professionals who live and work in the Rust Belt about how that experience has changed the way that they think about communities — and the way that influences their work to make their places better. This one’s just in the beginning stages, but I think it’ll be awesome.
Obviously that’s a lot on the plate, and this is a bootstrapped operation with big ambitions and limited resources. But I don’t think that means we shouldn’t try.
If you’re interested in helping, either by helping us fund some help, or by becoming a contributor, send me a note.
In the meantime… keep floating!