Building healthy places for healthy people is embedded in Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s mission. More than 60 percent of people in the US fail to get the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity each week, and 25 percent are completely inactive. Millions of Americans use trails to become more active and the low-stress, traffic-free environment entices people of all ages and abilities. Safe places to walk or ride are a critical option given rising pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and serious injuries.
At Logan City Council in Queensland, we’ve taken a different approach to influencing change by harnessing the power of collaborative partnership. We’ve done this through focused initiatives involving community, universities and secondary schools, social innovators, change-makers, entrepreneurs, and our own staff.
One of the key drivers was to tap into the community of experts who were mentoring startups in neighbouring cities. Because that knowledge was leaving our city, local startups were following. The idea was keep both within Logan’s boundaries to strengthen Logan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and deliver benefits back to our local community.
Instead of looking around and thinking to one’s self about what could be done to make a certain place better, our program urges folks to share their ideas and begin building support from the ground-up. That’s how a group of neighbors and volunteers in Brightmoor, Michigan, succeeded in transforming their neighborhood’s food desert back in 2015.
We are firm believers in putting nudge theory to work within organizations. Luum is a data-driven commute benefits software solution that runs end-to-end employer commute programs and gives them deep insight into how their employees commute. We’ve seen the ripple effect that even the slightest positive behavior changes around the commute can have for an entire organization and, subsequently, its city. Over the past five years, our hometown of Seattle has seen its transit ridership grow (one of two cities in the country!) and boasts a downtown drive-alone rate that hovers around 25 percent.
Opportunity exists to reverse structural inequalities and create inclusive societies. We are now presented an occasion to take decisive action and choose the kind of cities we want to see in the future. Short-term responses limited to reactionary planning are the symptom of current urban inequalities, and puts cities at risk of leaving many residents and communities left behind. In the long run, this impacts growth.
As we navigate the tectonic shift to a digital work economy, we have to answer a simple question. What kind of world do we want? We don’t have to wait to see whether robots and software win. The pace and spread of change are already having a seismic impact on work. If we better understand what’s happening today, we can solve for tomorrow.
We’re pleased to share that applications for the third year of the program are currently being accepted. In 2017 AARP launched the AARP Community Challenge Quick Action grant program to fund projects that build momentum for change in communities to improve livability for all residents. To date, we’ve funded nearly 220 projects in every state and several U.S. territories. Grants have been given to governments and nonprofit organizations and have ranged from several hundred dollars for small, short-term activities to thousands for larger projects.
Litigation has long been recognized as a tool for compelling change in individual behaviors and industry standards, often serving as a stopgap where existing government regulations are inadequate. For example, litigation against tobacco companies helped raise awareness about the health impacts from smoking and played a part in spurring stricter regulations on cigarette manufacturing and marketing.
In the climate change context, we’re seeing an evolution of different legal strategies being employed to affect changed behavior and standards.
We believe the scientific evidence suggests that interaction with nature is essential to achieving UN-Habitat and its New Urban Agenda, and policymakers should explicitly say as much. If we do not build some nature into our cities, we risk creating an inhumane, grey world for ourselves. Without nature, the urban century will fail.
When we first approached business owners about their interest in getting a ramp we were offering the them for a fee to cover some of our costs. But even at $50 most people weren’t interested. Some business owners told us that they don’t need a ramp because they don’t have any customers that use wheelchairs! Ha! So we had to figure out a different approach. We pulled together some volunteers, got some donated building materials, and went back with an offer of a free ramp.
Working with a coalition of more than 260 cities to help them engage residents to solve problems, we’ve learned a few things about what makes these relationships work and what can wreck them. When they work, long-term relationships between city leaders and citizens are the foundation for the collaboration that creates strong, vibrant cities.
Progress needs to be made in the evaluation of approaches to developing resilient communities. The evidence base for the effectiveness of these approaches is currently lagging behind practice. Funding for evaluation is generally too short-term to offer scope for capturing the developmental nature of community resilience related activity and evaluations on wider outcomes are lacking.