Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sustainable Communities

The very nice folks at Sustainability Camp 2008 have asked if I would be able to speak at their event on Sunday.

Well, to be honest, they asked my boss. And he said, "No." And they said, "Oh, pooh. We're maybe short a space." And then he said, "Hey Corey, what are you doing Sunday afternoon?"

But after SO MUCH FUN talking at ProductCamp just a few short weeks ago (and I should really write a piece on that, there's a good idea), and of course considering that there are few things in this universe I love more than the sound of my own voice (the sound of Julie Andrews' voice, for instance), it was pretty much a done deal.

So it's not yet 100% clear if I'll be speaking there or not, but my topic if I am will be Sustainability in Communities. I'm fascinated by the problem of building self-sustaining communities -- sustaining from a SOCIAL rather than an economic point of view. How do you create a community that will last? What makes long-lasting self-organizing groups different from those that collapse?

Lots of possibilities there, I think. New-style companies like Ricardo Semler runs (or that Chris and I are talking about), online hobby-based communities, and grass-roots political organizations.

Any thoughts from out and beyond? Any experiences with communities that persisted beyond expectations?


  1. Hey Corey,

    I had no idea. Here's something to soothe your soul while you wait to find out...

  2. This is one of those moments that I regret moving back to Vancouver. Toronto does really cool stuff like this and I find Vancouver lacking in such things.

    Some suggestions:

    If you have time, take a look at a fascinating book called "A Geography of Hope" by Canadian Chris Turner. It's a non-fiction piece about his own round-the-world trip in an effort to document all the excellent examples of Sustainable Living from energy production to housing, to waste relaimation. It's excellent.

    It's my personal belief that planned communities are doomed to fail because planning cripples the human need to innovate.

    I also believe that doing the Right thing has to be easy and profitable while doing the wrong thing should still remain completely legal though discouraged. This allows for personal freedoms and experimentation while reaping all the benefits of a market economy.

    Lastly, I'll suggest you check out a really old post of mine on a project by a guy named John Stillich. He's trying to push for what he calls a "Newburg" design for cities in Southern Ontario based on high-density, low-rise architecture modeled after the old city of Paris.

    My old post:

    Some urls I found while digging:



  3. That last one resolves to a 404. The Google-cache one can be found here though:

  4. Cool stuff, Dan, thanks!

    I'm going to talking (or, hopefully, listening) more on things like social structures and behavioural principles (transparency, status, stuff like that) and seeing if we can reach some agreement on what makes for self-sustaining communities, and if it's possible for help communities (such as companies or hobby groups or social action groups) to grow and maintain themselves.