NYC –> Shanghai, 28 days (4 weeks, eep!): A Mosaic of Carrots & Sticks

August 13th, 2013. 28 days.

2013-07-31 18.07.03So some of you may know that I’m not the only New Yorker doing a countdown. In 83 days, the City will vote for a new mayor (and actually, the primary is in 28 days; imagine that!). So with the upcoming election looming, I thought this picture was quite apropos. Staying true to the purpose of these mini-blogs, I will refrain from indulging in political commentary (cannot compete with John Oliver’s sidesplittingly ridiculous coverage of the election anyway – he’s doing an amazing job covering for Jon Stewart, by the way!) and instead focus on urban design – and leadership. Bloomberg’s policies have been just as eclectic as this mosaic in his name, as varied as the little slice of New Yorkers pictured here, and as diverse as the architecture that lines Cooper Square in the East Village. However, his commitment to healthy placemaking and active living have been unwavering – and the impact many of these policies have had are undeniably positive. That said, many have criticized his approach as one laden with too many sticks (e.g. the soda ban) – and some may even fault him for ruling with somewhat of an “iron fist.” So how does one strike the right balance as a leader? How does one engage the citizenry – in an authentic way, not just to “check” off that “box?” These issues are particularly top of mind as I prepare to live in a country where participation isn’t exactly a goal RE urban design goals and policy. But for me, as a researcher, consultant, and entrepreneur, the people – the users – are an absolutely critical part of successful “urban design”– it’s why I’m not only OK with the fact that State of Place relies on “people-powered” data, but I actually tout it as one of our key value propositions as it facilitates decision making (including those related to leadership and policy) both by objectively identifying neighborhoods’ assets and needs and building community buy-in and engagement. It’s leading with carrots, not sticks.

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