State of Canada’s Cities Summit: From Fragile States to Fragile Neighborhoods – Why local places matter
In this session, US scholar Seth Kaplan and Canadian community-economy builder Zita Cobb grapple with reimagining neighborhoods as the most critical unit of organization in North America. This challenges classic perspectives on the nation-state, amplifying the local.
Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to email@example.com with “transcription” in the subject line.
Mark Beckles Afternoon, everyone. My name is Mark Beckles and I’m the vice president of Social Impact and Innovation at RBC. For many, many years, my work has been focusing on strengthening the capacity of our local communities to thrive economically and socially and culturally, and to be safe, productive and resilient. And the work that everyone in this room is doing is part of that sort of hands on effort and all the more important now with the challenges that we heard about today. And, you know, I really am hopeful as a result of the conversations that we are having. But we’re also gathered here today in an important place, Canada’s capital region. And we’re lucky enough to now hear from two really passionate place activists from both sides of the border. From Washington, D.C., Seth Kaplan, who is an international affairs expert and author whose new book, Fragile Neighborhoods, has just been released. And Zita Cobb, Canada’s resident place advocate, whose first home was Fogo Island, but she now lives here in Ottawa, her second place. So from residents of two capital cities, please welcome first Seth Kaplan and Zita, and a lively conversation will follow. Thank you.
Seth Kaplan So first, I want to thank Mary for running such a great event and Laura and everybody else here. I think we should give Mary some some applause for all the work. I hear this is the first and certainly not the last annual conference. So we have to appreciate all the work that’s gone into this event. Thank you. So I’m going to talk about my book and I’m going to talk let me first lay the groundwork that I you will see that I think neighborhoods are very important there. A way to frame. Many of our social problems. And I want to first start off by explaining why where I come from that I wrote this book and then lead into the discussion about why I wrote the book and then what we’re talking about. So first, imagine my day job. My day job. If you ask people in Washington, who is Seth Kaplan? For the most part, everybody will think of me as the fragile state person. I’ve been in about 75 countries. I’ve worked in about 35 countries on a daily basis. I’m literally working this morning on my phone on Libya and Nigeria, where I have groups of people trying to reduce violence in the civil war. And as part of this work for for many years, I have written lots of publications. That’s the first major book on fragile states. This is the one, one and only United Nations World Bank joint report, Conflict prevention. And this is an organization I’ve co-managed for the last 11 years. And so I’ve been doing this work. And I would just say the one very quick takeaway about what I do that’s extremely different than what most people do when they look at fragile states is that I’m really interested in the society and the fragile nature of relationships and social dynamics that will lead to a greater risk of violence or a greater risk of basically economic stagnation. So I’m always starting with the nature of relationships. About 2015, 2016, I was asked over and over and over again without even me prompting people, Is the US becoming a fragile state? And you can understand why with the right, with the election and what was going on with the election made a lot of people in Washington nervous and they were asking me this would have happened by the sixth or seventh time. I had to do something about it. I know some Canadians would wish the United States would become a fragile state, but putting that aside, I had to explore this question. And so I spent a lot of time researching the topic. And I think the big question that we need to ask ourselves, given that our constitutions haven’t changed, our electoral systems haven’t changed, many of our organizations and institutions haven’t changed. If anything, there’s more of them. What has changed? And for me, the starting point always is what is different in our relationships and how is that affecting the nature of what is going on in society and how is that leading to different outcomes? And so I think the big the big change that we need to understand is for all of human history, going back from the first settlements, which are 11, 12,000 years ago into World War to 1950s, roughly, everybody lived in place based communities, place based communes. You shopped locally, you use local schools, use local businesses, you use local markets, local whatever public spaces, local houses of worship, everything was local. You knew people, You had a lot of institutions, you a lot of networks. And they embedded people in these relationships and they gave life its meaning. And then after World War Two, we have a completely different, especially in the 1960s and seventies, because of cars. We have a completely different development pattern. And that pattern is not only physical, it also has led to dramatic changes in the nature of institutions. And so the net result is we are now network societies. And I think this is especially true in North America more than you might find in Southern Europe or some other more, I would say, more compact societies with more traditional social systems. And this is very dynamic and this is gives great opportunity to lots of people that may be denied opportunity previously. But what it means is that there’s a lot of people who we don’t we can’t see it easily, but they are not in a good network. They don’t have a network. They didn’t go to the right school or join the right organization to get a good network and they feel left behind. They’re not left behind because they’re less smart. They’re left behind because they’re in the wrong networks. They don’t have the right institutions. It leads to distrust neighborhoods. It leads to a lot of people being isolated. And we have a lot of people who feel like this. They’re anxious, they’re depressed, they’re alone, they have freedoms, but they have no support supporting relationships on a day to day basis. And for all of human history, people lived. There were, of course, downsides. But what people had was a lot of relationships and a lot of institutions, many informal that supported people on a daily basis and today were very much isolated people. And when you look at things in Canada’s. Things about membership and groups, volunteering and other things. Number of friends. We have a decline in all these things. And bye bye. Bye bye. As a result, we have loneliness. We have decline in, let’s say, mental health and other issues like that. We have rising depression. We have in all of North America. This study, I know it got a lot of attention in Canada. We have rising loneliness. And so all of this is affecting people. It doesn’t it may not affect you and me. And if you have a strong intentional nature, you can go and solve these problems. But if the physical and institutional landscape leaves people alone, we cannot ask over 40 million Canadians to each intentionally go out and solve your problems and make more friends and join more, more associations. We can encourage it. But if we don’t have the physical institutional landscape, it won’t happen. For me, what’s most astounding when you study this subject is how much place matters. When I mean place, I’ll give you one simple statistic. Depending on your neighborhood in Canada, there’s a 20 year difference in life span. Just think about that. In my country, it’s 40. In Canada, there’s a 20 year. I looked at the statistics just to confirm there’s a 20 year difference in life span, depending on where you live. That is a very rough proxy of well-being. It’s not a it’s not a not a perfect one. But if there’s such a difference in in well-being, there’s also going to be great differences in many, many other indicators. This is from the Center on the Developing child from Harvard. It’s about children. And I want you to see about how they define well-being, relationships and social institutions is the inner core. Then it’s the built environment and then it’s policy. Mostly when we debate social problems, we think about policy. I want to tell you the inner core is the most important, and the middle core shapes the inner core very much. For a long time we’ve known about the neighborhood effect. This is mostly about distressed neighborhoods, but I don’t think its only about distressed neighborhoods. Raj Chetty, the most well-known expert in the United States on social mobility, has proven over and over again through data how much neighborhoods matter. But I want to make it clear that when I talk about social poverty, I’m not only talking about. Poor people. You can live in a materially well-off neighborhood and not know a single person. I ask each of you how many of your neighbors do you know? And if you had an emergency, could you find somebody in your neighborhood who could help you in in the next 1530 minutes? This is a quote from Naomi Schaefer Riley. And I do believe part of this is we’re afraid to show we’re vulnerable. We’re afraid to reach out and show that we have needs and we become very safe, self isolating. But again, for me, it’s it’s partly about how we’ve designed society. So the key point I want to make is that neighborhoods have a huge impact on society as well as individual well-being. Many of our social ills sit downstream from neighborhoods. We all live in a place, and yet we have built a place less society. You can see this physically just by driving around. You drive around and there’s a nice house, nice house, nice house, nice green area. Where did these people meet? How do they know each other? There’s there. They may not go to the school locally. There may not be a local association. There may be. There may be no opportunity where they will meet unless they get out of their house and knock on the door. Some people will do that. Many of us will not. So how do we design society? So it’s not only physically, but institutionally designed to help people. What can we do about it? We want to ensure that society is organized around flourishing neighborhoods. Every person should live in a house and a flourishing there, but that is economically flourishing and for me, very important. Socially flourishing. That’s rural, suburban, urban. Everyone, wherever you are, that is essential. And that means strong institutions. That means a supportive landscape. That’s partly about design of the landscape. A flourishing society needs to be built on flourishing neighborhoods. And I love this quote. It’s from one of the organizations I look at at my book. We have lots and lots of huge problems and challenges in our society. If we think of them as lots of little problems, neighborhood by neighborhood problems, we can solve them. There is no magic bullet. There’s only lots and lots placed by place, neighborhood by neighborhood, thinking how to make our society better. And so just thank you very much. And we will talk. I will be over there by the books afterwards. If you have any questions and you want to talk about anything, feel free to find me. Thank you. Thank you.
Mary W Rowe Seth. And so I just I just want to say that. These both are these two are both big talkers. And when I ask them if they do the session together, because I thought it’d be useful for you to hear Canada/U.S. and I had seen Seth’s book and I very familiar with Zita’s thinking around place and I thought, “Oh, there’s some interesting connections here”. But the challenge for these two to each of them put in there under 10 minutes is a bit of a miracle. And you were right on the nose, ten and a half minutes. And Zita’s going to have a similar challenge in that she’s also … these folks run around and give big, long, thoughtful talks. So treat this like a little teaser. It’s like the lunch, it’s a buffet and you need to know that you can go online and hear them in more detail and hear them talk at a more leisurely pace about all the different things that their work takes them on. But I’m going to now ask Zita to give us her perspective on place and then the two of you are going to have a conversation and I’m going to just be here eavesdropping, asking the odd question.
Zita Cobb Okay, I’m a slightly competitive Seth, you did it in ten. I’m going to do it in less. And there are only 50 slides. And I have to say something that has nothing to do with slides, which is it is …. I agree with you so much is about networks. And to me, that big question, that big question which has to manifest in the small question is how does the part belong to the whole How does a person belong to their local place? How does a place belong to the bigger place, to the region, to the country? And and it’s a wiring. What’s the wiring that holds us together? I come at it from economy, the economy. And in a way, my whole life is 65 so far. I’m not finished my whole life yet. But every time someone says urban rural divide, I have a mini stroke. So maybe I’ll end here today because I’ve heard urban rural divide a lot today. There is no urban rural divide. Can we all agree on that? There’s just different places of different sizes. Okay. We’re going to go through this super fast. Fogo Island. A small island is a good way to understand because you can see cause effect. And it’s it’s bounded. This is this island off the northeast coast of Newfoundland. I know we have a lot of people from the United States here today. Newfoundland, before it joined Canada, 1949, want to join the states, but they didn’t want us. So we’re Canadian and there is Fogo Island up there at the top. It’s four times the size of Manhattan, so not a small place. And in my lifetime, in this place, well, in it, for four centuries, the people of English and Irish descent who have lived there came for this for fish. The North Atlantic cod, which is the most important thing. We built things like this. We fished in little boats like this and. Then this happened. This was part of a money system that we didn’t understand. It arrived. It took all the fish. 350 years of culture pretty much collapsed or was in danger of collapsing overnight. The economy collapsed overnight. This fellow was my father who did not could not read. Never had a bank account. Had deep ecological logic. Deep social logic. He understands what it was like to live with people, and we were very much tangled up with each other. I have a nephew who, when I started this work, was eight. And every time I talk about community and community economic development, he used to say, I mean, is this is it a community or is it a community? If it’s working well, it’s a mutiny because it means you talking to each other anyway. So my father said, after not understanding why anyone would take all the fishes, well, they must be turning it into money, which is, of course, exactly what was happening. This happened all across Newfoundland and Labrador, too. We didn’t resettle. But I want to say this no coincidence this resettlement act was in the late sixties. Friedman’s famous article about this is all about the wiring. I think about the economy as wiring. And when the economy forgot about place while places fall out of the hole. Little places fall first. I have a brother who used to live at Young and Eglinton. I used to say, You better get your ass home and help us with this project because the things that are eating us, this wiring is going to come too young. And Eglinton too. And it has come too young and Eglinton. So we have the wrong economy. We were saved by art. Because art is a different logic system. The people who came from the National Film Board at Memorial University. I was around between eight and ten when all this was happening. They had no answers, but they had lots of good questions. And the questions really all had to do with focusing us on what we cared about. So this was we formed a co-operative in 1967. None of this was easy. It was a tangle of disagreements around religion, around everything. But we actually managed to find the complicated answer. There is nothing more frickin complicated than a co-operative in a small community. It’s a way it’s an organized way to fight with each other. And I think that’s what we need more of. This is the co-op they formed. It’s still the most important part of our economy to this day. The Carters coming back ever so slowly. We fish for other species. This this co-op exports to just about everywhere on earth. So I think with somebody this morning started into his Bruce I think into you were asking a question about scale. This is, I think what in particular Canada has to figure out, how can we become masters of all scales? If you want to run a fishery on a little island off the northeast coast, Newfoundland. We do not need a transnational fishing company. We can do it just fine as long as we have the technological tools. And I know that people think innovation happens in cities and I know it does. It also happens in small places. This was very innovative. So this is the kind of tangle we have today. We more women in the room these days. Nice to see. Anyway, this is what I have learned in my life so far. It matters who owns what. Because the owners set the business model and the business models determine the outcomes. If our fishery was owned by a transnational organization, we wouldn’t be living on Fogo Island today. Now, if you need to drill for oil and gas off the coast of Newfoundland, little local co-op is not going to do it. So we have to be masters of working at that scale, too. And so my old boss, you said most important things keep the most important thing. The most important thing. Nature and culture are the two most important things. We sadly, for us, we are physical creatures. We are meaning seeking creatures. We’re social creatures. So we need to be in a place for born in the place. We live in a place. And we’re going to die in a place. And all of our relationships are held by the place. But I can’t figure out what it means when people don’t think about place. And business and technology are two great tools. So we have to turn that around. I love the work of John Fullerton. I’m just pointing to it the Capital Institute. He’s I think he’s one of the best thinkers in this. So our work I went home in 2006 from a career in business and technology. I worked in in a deep, big silo. And I came home and I realized from the ground, from the place none of these silos are organized to serve place none of them. So where all the silos hit the ground called the horizontal, it all goes to shit. When I hear people talk about the role of municipal governments. We had five municipal governments in 2006. It was. It was like a tangle of knots you couldn’t navigate. We have one now. That’s an improvement. So I guess we’ve regionalized in our own little way, anyway. Sure. Fast is the charity I set up with the two brothers, including the one who led that Young and Eggington. And we organize ourselves this way around a poem. It’s about holding on and reaching out. And for every place there’s what we have to do. And it’s like, yeah, it’s like walking. And I think this is the battle we’re in. The economy does have a soul if we give it one. No amount of me going to play bingo on Thursday night is going to make up for an economy that doesn’t contain social actions and social connections. So we got to get the right economy, got to get the right words. We can find the words. Maybe we’ll find a way. We keep calling things assets that are not assets. Money is not an asset. It’s a resource. People are not a resource. Nature is not a resource. It’s an asset. Most investment is not development. What is development? Taking the inherent value in in people and places and bringing it forward to make it stronger. So just thinking different is this development. No, not on for one that’s not on football. And by the way, sorry, all the rest of the pictures are. So this what we’re doing now is short, fast. We’re still working on Fogo Island. I mean, I do live on Fogo and I’m just saying I’m in Ottawa a lot, too. I went to university in Ottawa. I love Ottawa. Yeah. This is from Gil Chin Lim. He’s. He was an urban planner who said we have to create a global network of intensely local places. We need very different economic wiring. Then we have to do that. John McKnight’s work around asset based community development is essentially what people were doing in the sixties is what we do. And for a while and now and these are the questions, what do we know? What do we have, What do we love? What do we miss and what can we do about it? It’s building. Building a future based on what you have, not what you don’t have. We started with art people at a bunch of studios. This is an art project. I don’t have time to explain because I’m still want to compete with with the South on time. We built an inn which when we were starting it, everybody said, it’s not normal, practical, reasonable, rational. And it wasn’t. If you used the prevailing economic logic, it makes no sense. But if you use a different kind of logic about what has value, it makes lots of sense. This is the end. It’s magical because it’s made of the fabric of the place. We didn’t copy any generic fancy instrument where else, and every place has a specificity and knowledge is in a place and joy is in a place, and we can build great economics assets in that way. Every object you see there we made that made. Guess what? That made more economy. And yeah, these are two words we steer by. We are. We think about the economy. Diane Hodges is here today, who is kind of the pioneer of this. We think about nutrition, economic nutrition. We take the label, which just happened in my lifetime, and we just simply tell you, where does the money go? There’s work goes for the inn. If everything that was offered for sale in the world had a label that told you where the money went, we’d be fixing the wiring pretty quickly. And we started a little fish business. I mean, we have the co-op, which is a big fish business, relatively speaking. We saw fast start at this one. It’s all about handling cod. So we wanted to make a different market model as the fish start to come back. Fish means cod in Newfoundland, by the way. And so we take these fish mostly to Toronto a little bit to Ottawa and sell them one by one because they’re caught one by one, their loved one by one, they died one by one. And look at the economic attrition level. 69%. I think that is goes back to Fogo Island. So we think about the economy as turning money into fish. When people say there’s not enough money. That’s true for most of things, but there’s not enough money. Sometimes I think there’s too much money. That’s what got us into this problem. I try not to use words sustainability because it sounds like it’s all done. Should never be a now good thing that The Economist is thinking about places. This is what we have to do. We have to make that systemic tilt. Seth, you’re going to weigh in. I have 17 seconds left. This is what we have to do. So if Canada doesn’t have an economic strategy, I don’t know if that’s true, but if maybe that’s a good if we don’t, because then we can start fresh. And I think how we should start is every single person, no matter what we do, where we work, leave our desks, leave the building out and lie down in the street. And look up at the place from the place from the ground where we are. And then let’s make an economic strategy from there. And so with see why we did a pilot project during the lockdowns and it was around how do we strengthen community economies framed in regions book? He said a simple thing in this book, the third pillar. He said human societies rest on three pillars. Markets, governments and communities. And unless and until we strengthen that community pillar, all of our nightmares will come true. And I’m going to go to these were the four things we focused in on as the levers of how you strengthen community economies. I’m sure you can all read. I want to go to the next slide. We map our economies. We should know everybody is an economic actor. Every institution is an economic actor. And let’s figure out how all the economic factors touch a place. And we think about ourselves. We’re practitioners of economy and that’s it. I would say if you beat me by one minute and 43 seconds.
Seth Kaplan You had more beautiful slides.
Mary W Rowe Thanks. So now you can reset the clock for us and we’re going to just have a bit of conversation between the two of you. And you’re both Shorefast is actually about tethering, right? Is that what it is?
Zita Cobb It’s about tethering money to place. It’s yeah, it’s about making it possible to attach or so keep attached to place. I mean, more Newfoundlanders work outside of the place because economies just keep failing than are in the place. Yeah, it is about tethering to place.
Mary W Rowe Because I think that’s, that’s what you’re talking about. I mean, I’m always interested. I’m sorry that Janice Stein has left, I think. I don’t think she’s in the house. Maybe she came back. But it’s important for us and Bruce as well and others like Seth, You guys have been working in the international sphere and it’s like suddenly waking up. Is it? Oh, wait. Neighborhoods kind of matter, too. And it’s is it how do we tether people? Is tethering important to our sense of belonging?
Seth Kaplan I think we need to think of society as being horizontal. That’s a term I use a lot. I use it when I’m working on a country, Nigeria, Libya. And when we look at the challenges our society faces, we need to think that every place along the horizontal needs to be doing well. When we just look at one vertical number, GDP, I mean, we do want to grow, grow the economy, but that is not reflective of how well all those places are doing. So we need a way to measure how well we’re doing horizontally and we need a way to ensure that every place it’s about tethering, but it’s also about practically finding ways that each of those places can thrive, the place can thrive, it won’t tether these two. So I think.
Zita Cobb We should stop breaking them. We got to stop breaking them because there’s a whole lot more work to fix them after we’ve broken them totally.
Seth Kaplan It’s much easier to build than revitalize afterwards.
Mary W Rowe So as you know, your pilot, when you went across the country, part of what you were trying to do, I think, is create a narrative that suggests that there’s a commonality across this. I mean, we think I see you. I says we’re in the connective tissue business where you’ve heard all morning this country has a vertically organized country, Canada province, municipal. We’re saying, wait a sec, the narrative is actually at the local level.
Seth Kaplan That’s how people experience it. I mean, we often talk up here some big issue, but think about how the 40 plus million Canadians are experiencing life. They’re experiencing it very much dependent upon where they live. And if we don’t think about the country horizontally, we end up with these one size fits all very top down. We tend to nationalize problems when what people want are things in their specific place that will make that place better.
Mary W Rowe We nationalize problems when we need to localize solutions. Yes. How’s that for that? Okay, let’s go. Yeah. See, in terms of the commonality, that’s, I guess, what I’m getting at for you. Your work. I’m interested who Zita is probably from the eastern most part of the country here. Anybody who is there anything further east than football?
Zita Cobb I think Shakespeare’s is a bit for centuries. Nobody. Nobody lives in Cape.
Mary W Rowe So. So Xena is from the first is each who’s here from the furthest west. You, Lisa farmer. Mary Victoria. You’d be the furthest west. This. How do we stitch that narrative together? We’re such a vast country with a tiny population.
Zita Cobb I think when we were doing this pilot, which I glossed over because I was wanting to race to the end the four levers in case you didn’t see them out, that we arrived at. I mean, there are many more, but these are probably the most important ones that about strong community economies is access to financial capital. I’m going to I’m answering your question indirectly, Mary. Access to financial capital, which is not assured outside of the major urban centers. I’m sure you know what’s happening in commercial banking in our country. Banks are pulling out of places, you know, faster than we can count. We used to have a bank. I’m Fogo Island is a perfect example. Again, we no longer have a bank, but when we started our work in 2006, we had a credit union and a bank. Now we have neither. So how do you develop without access to commercial lending? That’s a that’s a big one. Architectures for collaboration was another one of the levers. And this actually I think is maybe the most urgent one. And I heard a lot of this from the conversation this morning, architectures for collaboration in the local, in the regional and at the national. And I’ve given up actually thinking about collaboration because I think that’s too hard. I think what we need to do is just coordinate. That’s like a lower bar.
Mary W Rowe You have to like each other.
Zita Cobb You don’t have to like each other. Exactly right. And so in most places, so that the communities in our pilot project were Fogo Island, Prince Rupert County, Hamilton, London and Victoria, and I would say across Victoria. And every time I say this, I know the people in Victoria that were involved in the project rolling their eyes and there she’s saying that again. I was super impressed with the South Island Prosperity Partnership in Victoria, which is a brilliant piece of coordinating architecture that involves the city of Victoria and the municipalities that are around and the businesses and in in many of the communities. What often happens is people someone talked with this morning, people think, well, the mayor must be in charge of this place. The mayor must be in charge of economic development. Well, if I may, I know we’ve got lots of really smart mayors in this room. If there is a mayor in this room or anywhere else who thinks they can do economic development by themselves, I would like to meet them. And so it’s like, how do we come together in a local place? A community is the sum of all of us in a place. And we don’t have I think we need more formal structures for how we work together in the interest of our economy. And if the world is telling us anything right now, as Janice said this morning, is that, you know, we actually don’t all agree on stuff. And I think that’s too high a bar to think that we’re all going to agree we have different values, but we should be able to agree on the economy. And if we can do that, then I can play bingo and you can do something else.
Mary W Rowe You want to go to the other pillars there? Reform?
Zita Cobb Oh, yeah. The levers. So the levers. Yeah. So it was data access to data at the community level. And I was sitting with people at my table who are data people. And yeah, we don’t have data at the local level about how we’re doing economically. You can barely get above the provincial level. So that’s a problem. It’s hard to organize and move forward if you don’t even you can’t even get a baseline. And then the other was just the local capacity. And of course, I come out of the business world. I’m a big believer that entrepreneur entrepreneurs don’t fall out of the sky. They’re actually born somewhere. I don’t think they’re particularly special. I think everybody here is an entrepreneur has the potential to be one. And communities give birth to them and we just need to support them properly. And so this sort of capacities for how we innovate and steward an economy in a place.
Mary W Rowe And the last one.
Zita Cobb That was the last one wasn’t that hang on architecture for collaboration, access to financial capital data and local capacity.
Mary W Rowe Local capacity.
Zita Cobb Yes.
Mary W Rowe Seth, you in the book, Come on over here. Better I can take them. So if you talk in the book about neighborhood quarterbacks, what’s a neighborhood quarterback?
Seth Kaplan Okay. Well, first, if I may just say before that, it’s very important that we think of our landscape physically as well as institutionally, that we are each in a place and many places. It’s in a place with the define. I talk about the need to define a place, have an identity with a place, ideally a beginning and end and a center and have an own set of institutions. I want to ask you, how many places do you live that have that identity, have that center, have those institutions? That is essential. And and related to the last question. And then we need to measure success by how well each of those places those neighborhoods are doing. So when we talk about neighborhood quarterback in a place that has lots and lots of local institutions, people will have mechanisms to come together and lead efforts to make a place better. But if you’re in a place, a neighborhood that lacks those institutions, a neighborhood quarterback could be a very essential filling. I mean, if you think of distressed neighborhoods, that might be obvious. But I can also think of some maturely well-off neighborhoods in which no one talks to each other, in which some sort of neighborhood quarterback has a role to play to solve what we might think of as some sort of collective action failure in that neighborhood. The neighborhood quarterbacks that I talk about are quarterbacks affiliated with an organization called Purpose Built Community based in Atlanta that that sets up quarterbacks for distressed neighborhoods. And these quarterbacks coordinate change in everything from education, career, cradle to career to community amenities to I think, most importantly, ensure every neighborhood that it works on has quality low and quality mixed income housing. So these are in some ways dramatic changes to what a neighborhood is like. And if there are good institutions and lots of them, this might happen organically. But when there’s a lack of institutions, a quarterback is something that can be established to bring stakeholders together, to raise money, to raise a profile, to work with different parts of the government. It’s very important to understand this. A government work in silos. They don’t work based upon neighborhoods. I think they should work on neighborhoods and we should again measure success neighborhood by neighborhood. But to the extent that government is thinking housing, health care, education and so on and so forth, a quarterback brings all these parts together to solve the collective action problem of how do we make a place better?
Zita Cobb And that is the local. That’s what I’m talking about as a local architecture. Is that.
Seth Kaplan Locally? Locally. So your. Yes, your. Collaborative mechanisms are very similar to what I just described. They work differently, but the goal is the same.
Mary W Rowe You can’t have an American on a Canadian program and not have a sports analogy service at some point.
Seth Kaplan It’s time to talk about football.
Mary W Rowe Where I come to the U.S. and start talking about skips and isn’t a skip Skip. Aren’t you impressed? I know what the hell a skip is. Okay. I’m interested. This idea of, you know, my my reluctance around quarterbacks is that I don’t I don’t believe anybody is the boss of a city. I think that our community that that’s one of the that’s always my fear is that we’re going to camp out.
Seth Kaplan Somebody will come in and impose.
Mary W Rowe Impose.
Seth Kaplan That’s the fear. I mean, it happens often now when there’s no local capacity to to push back to push back. So quarterback, to a certain extent, fills a void. There’s a danger always from what you say then and you want change to be inside out, not outside in. It’s really important. Inside out. A quarterback done right. We’ll have local stakeholders, local leaders, local accountability. But when we have none of that, just think the government makes decisions or a urban or provincial government makes decisions and it affects lots of neighborhoods. And those neighborhoods, they’re not organized to advocate. They’re not organized to push back. It’s already happening. Right. Exactly. What you describe.
Mary W Rowe Is it it’s interesting when you you know, you use art and culture and and you’re in a you’re in an environment that the landscape is very dominant. And I’m interested how do we understand the nurturing component of this? You’re looking at a room that’s full of people, several of whom work for a unit called the Business Improvement Area. And they are a little island.
Zita Cobb It’s like I think about a little island.
Mary W Rowe Mark Garner, where are you?
Zita Cobb Mark Garner Very close to the next island.
Mary W Rowe Mark Garner from downtown Yankees down downtown Gary used to talk about Young Street was like Fogo Island. And your stewards, your stewards of a place. It’s this no notion of stewardship of a place. We have models.
Zita Cobb It absolutely is. My father used to say, because Fogo Island’s got 11 communities and and here’s actually have Fogo Island managed to amalgamate when nobody thought we ever would. These communities are not that far from each other. But in our minds there were very far because we had a lot of strife religious across religions. And so like I grew up in a in a place called Yo bats arm tilting just five kilometers away. I never went there till I was 13. And my father figured out that that a community is the distance you can walk before dark. So that’s a neighborhood. It’s a community, right? And that’s where we know each other and that’s where we encounter each other. That’s for beauty. That’s where the specificity of our lives are lived. And so I think we can map flows of people and money in and out of a place, and we can understand what is in this place of ours, this neighborhood of ours. Now, I mean, that picture you showed South is like a that looked like a terrifying place. Where was.
Mary W Rowe That? That suburb.
Seth Kaplan The suburb that That’s a very typical American suburb. I could have taken that picture in, I don’t know, 100 places and it would all be the same, more or less.
Zita Cobb Right. So there’s no local in that place center.
Seth Kaplan There’s no extended right. You have this your house and your this green area. Yes. But there’s no way for people to meet each other unless.
Mary W Rowe But let’s talk. But I mean, I was interested. (Berta you can bring me the card right here). And when I heard Marion talking about manufactured housing, I get nervous because isn’t in many ways what we’re talking about. The result of an industrialized approach where we just could just kaching kaching kaching (yes … industrial) and aren’t you guys saying …. Bruce is saying you’re going to reshore and bring everything home. Is this our moment to rethink our economy?
Zita Cobb I think it’s …. we have to rethink it from the ground up.
Seth Kaplan Yes, horizontally.
Zita Cobb Yes. And when we think …. But but don’t forget to follow the money or think about how does because that’s the wiring. And then I think about plumbing as the way that, like financial resources can flow into a place. So when a bank leaves a place and Bruce had a more gentle word, what he called the places that have been disinvested, I like that I call them stranded assets. When when that happens, we we have to build the the plumbing so that money can flow back in. And it may not be in the conventional ways. I mean, who expects a commercial bank about building a new building in in a place of 2500 people? It’s not going to happen. But you know, where we’re at is kind of exciting time because we’re moving from the from the cyber sphere to Nanosphere, which is that’s a whole journey of its own. But we have still not figured out how to reckon with atoms. You know, the atomic level of our physical us, our physical lives. And not that I like going around quoting Peter Thiel because not my favorite thinker. But anyway, he’s smart. And he said, you know, in the world of bits, things are actually pretty easy to figure out. It’s the world of atoms that’s really hard. So we should start where it’s hard. And figure it out. Like, let’s let’s all leave this room today and lie in the street and then start to figure out how things work in this place.
Seth Kaplan And we need to always think there’s people and there’s people’s lives and people live in places, neighborhoods. And if we’re designing an economy, but for me, as society and all of our structures are designed in a way that keeps that Lilly encourages people to be alone and isolated from one another. What is the natural result? The natural result is the picture I showed when people are just mistrustful, alienated and depressed. It’s a natural result, and if we don’t think differently, we will have more of the same natural result.
Mary W Rowe So on that note.
Seth Kaplan Let’s be positive. We can make a difference. We can go back to a better organization and still be very wealthy. I believe it’s true.
Mary W Rowe Zita, a last word.
Zita Cobb I agree.
Mary W Rowe 20 minutes, Seth’s going to sign some books. We’ll be back in 20 minutes for the sessions at 2:00 pm. Thank you. Thank you.