Monday, October 27, 2008
Sea Change for US Waterways
I was blown away this weekend when I attended a community visioning session facilitated by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency. (So much so that I completely forgot to take photographs).
James Wadddell, an engineer from the Corps of Engineers, led a group of engaged residents in articulating a vision of future development for a local neighborhood - the Mobile Street district. The significance here is that, historically, "vision" has been a top-down process as the Corps of Engineers dictated projects with little or no community input.
What a breath of fresh air.
Sustainability, along with the encouragement of community priority-setting and decision-making, was a common thread throughout the interactive workshop. Waddell artfully led the group in articulating a vision unique to the neighborhood by having residents draw their ideas on paper.
After some initial natural reluctance, and with some comforting reassurance from Waddell that "stick figures are OK", the markers started touching paper - that's when the magic began.
There's something about drawing that seems to access an intelligence that's hard to bring out verbally. Maybe the well-worn cliche "a picture is worth a thousand words" has some merit.
Before long, the ideas were flowing. One inspired citizen after another, from pre-teen to grandmother, stood up and articulated a dynamic vision that few "experts" could match in terms of appropriateness, workability, and uniqueness.
It was a beautiful thing to witness.
Below, a handout outlining the process. Double Click to enlarge.
UPDATE: By request, my "stick-figure drawing" above.