A Reservoir for Civic Progress
How can a community learn from its civic projects and build on them? There are lessons in Baton Rouge's years-long effort to establish a center for people suffering from mental illness or substance abuse.
Otis White is president of Civic Strategies Inc., an Atlanta-based firm that does collaborative and strategic planning for local governments and civic organizations. He also writes frequently about civic leadership and change, in his blog at otiswhite.com and in national publications such as the New York Times. He originated the Urban Notebook feature on Governing.com in 2002, posting daily for five years.
In 2012, White published a multimedia book, "The Great Project: How a Single Civic Project Changed a City," for reading on an iPad. He hosts podcasts about civic leadership and is helping to create an annual event called the Civic Exchange to explore urban successes and how they come about. You can learn more about him at the Civic Strategies website.
The turnaround of Central Park is more than an urban success story. It's about shared responsibility and trading power for results.
As a suburb of Atlanta has shown, the key is creating an army of informed and engaged citizens.
The story of the iconic race offers a good lesson in how to make room for grand civic ideas.
It hasn't worked that well in business. In the public sector, it has sometimes been disastrous.
Getting the public behind you is critical, but it isn't easy. Nobody did it better than Franklin D. Roosevelt.