A Brief Intro to the
“We’ve long had reliable processes for producing what we don’t want: poverty, climate change, extinctions, etc. But, until now, we’ve lacked
a reliable process for producing what we all want—recovery, revitalization and resilience—so those efforts have mostly failed.“
– Storm Cunningham, RE
About 90% of local recovery, revitalization and/or resilience efforts fail. Most places–probably yours—have a long history of visions, plans, charrettes, summits and political promises related to creating a better future…a better future that never arrived. The reason for that failure is the same in almost every case: lack of a complete renewal process.
Every place has some of the elements, such as projects, policies, partnerships, etc. Few have all. And even those that have all the generic elements of the process often forget that each of those elements must be regenerative in nature. For instance: policies that encourage sprawl will undermine downtown revitalization projects.
A good redevelopment project can have a revitalizing effect, but that’s not the same as actually putting the community on a new trajectory. For that, a strategic process—with an ongoing program—is essential.
Local residents are seldom aware that a process is needed to reliably produce anything. So, if you ask them why an initiative failed, they’ll say things like “lack of funding”, “poor leadership”, “insufficient stakeholder engagement”, “paucity of partners”, etc. But those are just symptoms of not having a strategic process, not causes.
The First Fundamental Improvement in the
Process of Improving Places in Over a Century.
There have been many advances in community development and redevelopment in the 100 years, but none of them involved the process. We have new information technologies (such as GIS). We have design and planning that’s greener (LEED), more pedestrian-oriented (New Urbanism) and better engaged with residents (placemaking, tactical urbanism, etc.).
We have better building materials, new tools for undergrounding infrastructure, new machines for quickly repaving roads, and countless other innovations that have improved efficiency, reduced toxicity, and enhanced beauty. We have better policies (smart growth, mixed income, etc.), better zoning (mixed-use) and better regulations (smart building codes). The past century also brought us better ways to finance all of this activity, such as TIF, CDFIs, crowdfunding, etc.
But we haven’t seen a single improvement in the actual process of improving places. Any business leader will tell you that’s where the magic is. Henry Ford’s key innovation wasn’t in designing a better car: it was in the process of producing cars faster and better, which enabled him to offer the customer more for less.
That’s what the RECONOMICS Process does: it makes community recovery faster and better, enabling leaders to offer residents more improvement in less time for less money.
The groundbreaking new (2020) book, “RECONOMICS“, describes reconomics as the study and development of processes that produce resilient recovery and revitalization in communities and regions. These processes are based on strategic, programmatic regeneration that repurposes, renews and/or reconnects built, natural, social and economic assets. As a result, local leaders worldwide now have a proven approach to producing what they all want: resilient prosperity.
They can now address complex agendas without making governance more complicated. Today, virtually every place on Earth needs to simultaneously produce crisis recovery, economic revitalization and community resilience. Properly applied, the RECONOMICS Process does exactly that.
“Process” is the key word. Every successful manufacturer, farmer, business owner and manager on the planet knows that a process is needed to reliably produce anything. That basic management insight is missing in most places that are striving to produce revitalization and/or resilience. Process is seldom present in such situations. As a result, failure is the norm.
Instead, most places stagnate by endlessly producing plans that are never implemented. They launch initiatives that aren’t supported by–and are often sabotaged by—their own policies. They rely on private developers to propose projects, so that governance is reduced to reactive yes/no decisions.
Or they focus on just one or two agendas—like downtown revitalization, heritage renewal or beautification—while ignoring numerous other factors that are crucial to success, like infrastructure renewal, air quality and natural resources restoration.
Or they remain in a stop-start, project-oriented mode, never gaining the momentum and efficiency that comes with an ongoing program. They have to recruit new partnerships—and create new stakeholder engagement efforts—every time they want to do something new. As a result, they fail to produce the single most important outcome: increased confidence in the local future. With that, communities can attract—and retain—residents, employers and investors. They also have more ability to borrow money for capital improvement projects.
Instead of creating a place that residents, employers and investors want to be a part of, process-free places rely on baiting them with artificial incentives like tax holidays, free land, and image-boosting marketing campaigns. Such tactics occasionally produce a “win”, but seldom reverse the trajectory of a declining economy or quality of life.
The emerging discipline called “reconomics” is the solution. It studies successes and failures worldwide to detect common factors. What’s almost always present in the success stories? What’s almost always missing in the failures?
The result is the RECONOMICS Process. It’s the state of the art in reliably, efficiently producing resilient prosperity at the local, regional and national levels. And each step in the process is a potential entry point for you to grow your career or organization.
The most spectacular revitalization and resilience successes are usually the ones that have the most elements of the RECONOMICS Process. One of our goals in training and certifying Revitalization & Resilience Facilitators is to help more places create the complete process. Only then can cities, regions and nations fully develop their renewal capacity. Only then can we reliably produce resilient prosperity for all.