Find a problem, design a solution | GOOD

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At its worst, the public decision-making processes tend to marginalize forward-thinking. You don’t need to look any farther than Congress to witness how stonewalling is systematically encouraged, how obstructionism by a minority means that a majority never truly succeeds. With the good and necessary checks and balances in place to stop absolute power, somehow we’ve come to a place where most of us feel like we’re all rendered powerless.

It has made me question: are we all really OK with just canceling each other out, even if we’re doing so through a “democratic” process? Is there a better way to engage for change?

I saw a lot of “canceling out” early in my career as an urban designer. I poured myself into the creation of so many ideas for places that would never come to be, because an elected council member didn’t like the architecture in the renderings, or because a newspaper editorial painted the designers as “outsiders” in encouraging dissent, or because a group of competing land owners rallied fear of change in locals. I still remember each one of those losses of opportunity, and I continue to regret that every one of them came without meaningful conversations involving everyone invested.

Ideas that could truly contribute to a community faced barriers of complacency.

It was out of my frustrated need to break down the barriers to collaborative community-building that I founded The Civic Hub. Our mission is to empower citizens with the tools they need to change their communities for the better. We help start those meaningful conversations I missed when I was designing solutions for communities, and in doing so we design our own kind of community solution: connection.

The Civic Hub is a social capital incubator: we work with individuals, groups, organizations, and even municipalities to help kickstart community-building. We have found that the biggest obstacle for any community-based initiative is always the unknown: a lack of “been there, done that” experience that could help keep momentum going. This is where we get to work. We provide services, tools, techniques, support, and old-fashioned elbow grease to help citizens understand the needs of their community and design ways to solve for those needs.

Our work has been described as the “hub” between urban design and community development, connecting design projects with the citizens that will ultimately utilize those designs and vice-versa. Whether we are building connection between disparate community interests, providing valuable public education on topics that will benefit all citizens, or developing communication avenues for citizens to hear each other better, we get to know so many wonderful towns and neighborhoods and citizens around the country.

And everywhere we work, we are greasing the gears of building community.

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