What If

Planning Smarter

These and other recent projects represent an approach to planning and community development that is more integrative and participatory in nature. At the core of the strategy is the recognition that sharing resources is often smarter than duplicating resources and that working together can produce greater gains than working in isolation.

The evolution of a more integrative and efficient community-based planning strategy opens up significant opportunities for maximizing the resources of the community as a whole. Imagine the educational, social, environmental and financial benefits of the case studies presented if these ideas were implemented in districts and cities throughout the state. Imagine the efficiency that could be created in a community where all of its assets are integrated. Imagine the impact if all of the community's physical, cultural, social, economic, organizational and educational resources could be planned together in a way that maximizes the collaborative benefits of each. Over the past ten years, architects have been developing and implementing a technique for integrating community resources called the Concordia model, where all community assets are organized into six interdependent environments.

The first of these environments contains the community's physical resources that encompass the total of the community's built and natural assets. These assets include all of the community's buildings, bridges, highways and telecommunications infrastructure as well as natural resources like parks and other outdoor recreation areas.

The second component of the interdependent community system encompasses the community's cultural resources. Included in this category are programs and artifacts related to the expression of individual and communal values and aesthetics.

The third component encompasses social resources that include a wide spectrum of the health and human resource assets required to maintain a healthy community infrastructure.

The fourth component of the total community system is the economic environment. Represented here are programs and activities related to business and commerce. Included are activities ranging from regional and local economic development programs to innovations and initiatives developed by private entrepreneurs.

The fifth category of community assets encompasses organizational resources. Included in this category are the various components of community governance, including the school board, city and county boards of supervisors, Rotary Club, Lions Club and a myriad of other civic organizations. This category identifies how decisions made on behalf of the community-at-large are developed, deliberated and implemented.

The sixth component includes all of the community's educational resources, encompassing a wide variety of learning assets. Included in this category are all Pre-k to 12, community college and university educational delivery systems. Also included in this comprehensive category are all of the community's civil service training and skills development programs along with similar programs in the private sector.

These six resources include a wide cross-section of the community's most vital learning and living assets. Although they can be seen as independent components of every community system, it is the quality of their interaction that can contribute to the community's overall health and well being. In the best scenario, educational information interacts with economic information, cultural and social data, and other available data to the point where all interactions are linked in a contiguous living web of interactive data and knowledge. When this web has been achieved, the community's assets can be said to be working in concord. In this context, our current community learning and living malaise can be seen as a kind of congenital disease that blocks the flow of information between each of the community's vital organs. When the system is functioning to its maximum advantage, the parts support the collective whole and the collective whole likewise nourishes all of its various parts.

But in order to succeed, the development, celebration and integration of these diverse community assets must be in tune with the heartbeat of the community organism. It is for this reason that the planning and implementation of these collaborative ideas must be developed through the creative input of a wide range of community stakeholders. The noted progressive educator John Dewey said that we need not only education in democracy, but also democracy in education. The planning and design of a more integrated and ubiquitous learning community provides an opportunity to engage students, parents, educators and a wide variety of community stakeholders in decisions that benefit all aspects of the community's health and well being.