This article was originally published in Issue Media Group publication Soapbox Cincinnati.
This week’s guest on & Co. — Yard & Company's limited series focusing on COVID-19 and the impact on our cities — was Lauren Hood of Deep Dive Detroit. Lauren is a translator and negotiator between developers and community stakeholders. She has led innovative dialogues and initiatives around equitable development and inclusive growth. We spoke with Lauren about everything from how to define growth to what expertise means and how it is compensated. Below are five takeaways from the discussion:
RESET VERSUS AMPLIFY
The COVID-19 crisis is creating an opportunity for individuals, families, institutions, and government entities to rethink priorities and values. In many ways, the pandemic is allowing us to hit the reset button on our lives, but when it comes to racial equity, fairness, and safety this moment is not a reset moment, but a moment to amplify a message that many have been trying to communicate for years. What has been obvious to many for some time — infrastructure disinvestment, inequitable police procedures, lack of quality housing, and more — is now resonating with a larger, more influential audience because of our present crisis.
FLATTENING THE HIERARCHY OF KNOWLEDGE
Often experts are invited into complex neighborhoods and districts to solve long-standing problems. This process typically includes learning about the community from the community through tactics like community meetings, focus groups, surveys and on and on. It’s time to think about expertise in more than one way. While outside experts can bring technical knowledge to a place, that is only truly transformative when it is paired with community knowledge. Both are essential to creating positive change and they should be thought of as equally valuable and compensated accordingly.
WHAT’S THE RUSH?
The impact of COVID-19 has not been equal. Black and brown people have seen higher rates of contraction and deaths since the outbreak occurred. While many cities are beginning to reopen and install creative implementations in downtowns and neighborhoods, understanding and acknowledging the disparity of COVID’s impact will be critical. Patience and listening will be essential as cities begin considering how to help some neighborhoods consider their reopening strategies.
CHANGE OF CONSCIOUSNESS
The pandemic has greatly magnified the structural inequalities that have pervaded our built environment for hundreds of years and helped elevate the long-overlooked voices of people of color. We must move beyond the notion of “do no harm” or managing the isolation and pain wrought by racism. Our work and the impact that it has must be intentionally anti-racist, anti-isolating while being both reparative and empathetic to the different starting points we all have as communities, individuals and practitioners.
LESS TALKING, MORE LISTENING
Too often subject matter experts have a set of tools that can be generally applied from place to place. This approach to placemaking often leads to a lot of talking and presenting from the subject matter expert. While aspects of this approach need to remain a part of the process, authentic and in-depth listening typically is left out of the process. It is time to flip this model on its head and spend more time listening to communities about what they need and how they see their community. We can then begin thinking about how our expertise can help them solve their problems.
In partnership with Soapbox Cincinnati and NKY thrives, Yard & Company, launched video podcast series, & Co., focused on solutions, ideas, and interventions related to the COVID-19’s impact on cities. Please share.