“Pop-up Community”

In my societal commentary,Orion … A Feline Metaphor for Hybrid Governance,” I proposed a hybrid type of governance as alternative to our current political malaise and civic ineptitude. At the center of this hybrid is the Community 3.0 Front Porch civic network. A Front Porch can be the local pub down the street or the coffee-house you get your morning the espresso from. It can be Bill’s garage where everyone hangs out to watch Sunday football games. It can even be your kitchen table. What happens on the Front Porch is what matters … not what it looks like or where it is.

The Front Porch’s purpose is to identify Solutions, whether they be in response of needs or opportunities. These Solutions are designed to help your community pick up the slack and mend its societal safety net. They can range from organizing a cleanup effort, to fixing a playground, to even spearheading a high school mentoring or apprentice program.

To get a more full understanding of the Community 3.0 Front Porch concept, please read the post, “Front Porches.

As a part of the Community 3.0 platform we’ve put together a roster of several examples of what can come of collaborations in your community’s Front Porches. Imagine, take direct action … and this could be your community.

One of these examples is “Pop-Up Community.”

Pop-up restaurant posterize

Vacant Commercial Space Optimization

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Several years ago I read book called “How Buildings Learn” by Stuart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalogue. The premise of the book was that a building whether it’s a house, a factory, or an office building should be designed to adapt with its owners. As a family goes through the different stages of its life, so should its home. If it can’t then the family will have to pack up, move and find a new home more suitable to its current needs. Such is the same for businesses.

Unfortunately this is not always the case. In fact, normally it’s not the case. Brand vilified vaunted architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright because his buildings, especially his houses, were built for one specific family at one specific time of their life. If anything in this family’s life changes … their residence wasn’t appropriate for their needs since it could adapt.

We can take this same principle and put it to communities. Inevitably communities and cities change over time. Detroit is a dramatic example of this. Unfortunately, unlike a family, a community can’t pack up and move down the street or to the next town. Its stuck where it’s at, abandon buildings and all.

But it doesn’t need to be like this. There are three main impediments to a community’s adaptability; individual design of its buildings, zoning laws and mindset. I the first two can be structurally and administratively overcome. A building, with a little imagination – can be converted into something more appropriate for the community’s needs at the current time. Zoning laws can be changed, maybe not without a lot of kicking and screaming … but they can be changed.

The third impediment, mindset – is not so easy though. Adaptation and evolution can either be embraced and helped along, or it will come on its own terms. And in the latter, it’s often not pretty. Again we look at the example of Detroit. Once the decline of the Big Three American auto industry started in the ’80s, the city (and especially the auto unions) turned a blind eye to it. “This can’t be real. Nobody’s going buy those foreign cars. We’ll be back bigger and better than ever.” Detroit did not embrace its enviable evolution. Now we see what happens when evolution comes on it terms. It’s pretty much like a real life version of the four headless horsemen in the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

It’s easy to do the same old thing the same old way, day and day out – and just expect the world to take a break. But it doesn’t work that way. This reluctance to change and except new ideas is the core reason for the generational gaps we’ve had in past, have now and will have in the future. The older generations want things like they were, and the younger generations want things like they’ll be – and the transformation can’t be fast enough. Well, let me tell you – there ain’t any time machine, so we’re not going backwards, at least in time (attitude maybe). For a community to prosper, or even survive – it needs to embrace adaptability. It can hold on to its heritage and history, and it definitely should. But it has to take that heritage and bring into the future and make it relevant to the members of all its generations.

This embrace has to take place with the local presence, the locally owned businesses and commercial property owners. It has to happen with the city leaders. Adaptability requires being on the pulse of the community, recognizing where its resources are and maximizing them. That’s the advantage local businesses have over the box stores and the national chains. Locally owned businesses can adapt immediately, while the latter change course like the Titanic. In fact that’s the prime advantage a local business has over an “out-of-town conglomerate.” They can’t compete on price. But they can compete on relevance.

But there’s more to adaptability that just changing product mix or revising hours or even sponsoring local events and sports teams. It’s about changing one’s mindset from the old fixed location “brick and mortar” two-year lease – to none of the above. Imagine if you had never known a world where a business was committed to a fixed location for fixed time period.

You ever walk around an old downtown area and see all the buildings with nothing in them. It’s not like the downtown is dead or doesn’t have potential, a new potential – it’s just not be utilized or maximized. What if a business could go into one of those buildings for two months and then pack up and leave. And then another business, of a different type would come in a couple of months later for stay three months and leave. It may not be a two-year lease for the building owner. But then again the building owner isn’t getting the two-year lease anyway. Plus having the building occupied, generates traffic and revenue for neighboring businesses … and keeps that “living dead” feeling from creeping in.

This is Resource Maximization.” And this is what communities will need to do to prosper in our “warp speed evolving future.” And the people navigating this “warp speed.” are the younger generations. These “kids” want flexibility to grow with “trial and error.” And a two-year lease in a fixed location just doesn’t cut it. This is the main reason for boom in “office hubs” or shared office space in recent years. I belong to one in Los Angeles. It works perfect for me since I’m only in L.A. a couple of times a year, but for a month at a time. When I’m there, I pop in and do my thing, network, attend events or just socialize.

If a community truly wants to move ahead then it will have to position itself to attract these young entrepreneurs and their crazy ideas, whatever they are. On that note, I’d like present my idea of the next evolution of community, or I call Community 3.0, and the “Pop-up Community” is big part of it.

Customer focused:  be where are the customers are and when are they going to be there.

Permissive zoning laws: flexibility will create more business for everyone including neighboring businesses, thereby raising property values.

Special permitting processes for pop-up and temporary businesses: make it easy for small low capital businesses to operate legally by cutting the red tape.

Walkability: pop-up businesses encourage geographic consolidation therefore access via foot rather than automobile. The less time in a car … the more time in a store.

Specific pop-up business network loyalty programs, “Pop-up Points:” having a common loyalty marketing program operating under consistent rules will bind this nomad community together and make it more stable and more likely to be less transient. These programs can also take the form of cooperative promotions.

Co-op ventures between property owners and tenants: rather than relying on old the “fallback” of the two-year lease with set rental rates, property owners should participate in the success of their tenants’ businesses.

Street activity: create a fun, festive environment including visual art, performance art, food carts, etc. which will draw people to an area. This increased traffic (by foot) can only help all neighboring businesses.

Encourage community entrepreneurialism: rather than just focus on attracting big business – a community should grow their own through their own start-ups. The nurturing process should happen on all levels including the chamber, tech schools as well as co-op ventures with existing community businesses.

Office hubs: pop-up and temporary ventures need not be limited to retail. A community should have multiple micro co-op office space hubs with shared facilities, such as meeting rooms, kitchen facilities and technology areas to make it easier for fledging entrepreneurs to succeed.

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Please help us build a Community 3.0 “Pop-Up Community” mindset in your town or city. Help us create a foundation for which our communities can build on in their quest for self-sustainability and well-being. No matter what role you wish to play; whether it’s directly in your community or you’re someone who wants to lend your experience and expertise to us in devising network-wide programs … we welcome you.

To get a more full understanding of the Community 3.0 Front Porch concept, please read the post, Front Porches.Also please follow us on Twitter at @Community3_0, and check out the main 3.0 web site.

And when you’re ready – please comment below, tell us who you are and how you think you can better the 3.0 community.

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Community 3.0 Solutions:

 

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