I am currently preparing a revision to my first book, The Local Economy Revolution: What’s Changed and How You Can Help. I decided to update it to capture some of the things I’ve learned since it was first published in 2013. Look for the new and improved version later this year.
The centerpiece of that book is a series of statements called The Wise Economy Manifesto, which I first published in 2011. So I’d better start there.
It’s not about buildings or spaces or economics. It’s about people. We know that, we know, but… we don’t. We say we’re building a street or a program or a product for people, but too often our plans don’t do what they were intended to do, or fix what they were intended to fix. But we pretend we don’t see that, and we move on to the next one.
Part of the problem is that we hold regular people at arm’s length from the process when they could potentially make it much more effective. But more importantly — and more problematically — we love the thing more than the people. We say that we are designing and building our thing for people, but we get wrapped up in, obsess over, fall in love with the thing we’ve built, with its supposed beauty, simplicity, ideals, materials. We can easily do this with business ideas, and we definitely do this in architecture and urban design and historic preservation and public policy strategies.
Why? probably because it’s easier to love the thing we made than to love messy, complicated, not-always-predictable people. Or let those unwashed mess up our masterpiece.
But when we let ourselves do that, we shouldn’t be surprised when the things we make make the lives of the people we thought we were helping worse instead of better. Again, we’ve done it a lot. And we can’t pretend anymore that we don’t know any better.
**From the upcoming book, The Local Economy Revolution Redux: What’s Changed and How You Can Help. Coming Spring 2020 from Wise Fool Press.