Monthly Archives: May 2010

Next American City Podcast

The Next American City is a valuable resource for exploring the themes of Shaping our Towns & Cities (see the blogroll to the right). So I’m delighted to learn, belatedly, that they’ve also got a podcast here. You can add the podcast to the website and the magazine as yet another great place to look for discussion of the many issues and concerns impacting the shape of our communities.

–Jeff Prudhomme


Smart City Radio

If the themes of “Shaping our Towns & Cities” are interesting to you, you might want to check out Smart City Radio. It’s a weekly hourlong public radio talk show that “takes an in-depth look at urban life, the people, places, ideas and trends shaping cities.” For example, under the theme of “sustainable communities” the September 9, 2009 show focused on the architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham, whose “Plan of Chicago” in the early 1900s played a decisive role in the shape of that city. The episode goes on to include a conversation with Avi Friedman, who has thought a lot about the design of sustainable and affordable housing.

You can find links to the podcast as well as broadcast stations at the website

–Jeff Prudhomme

Measuring the Health of a Community?

What makes for a healthy community or a healthy city? How would you go about measuring such a thing? What indicators would you look at? The Health Equity Index developed by the Connecticut based Health Equity Alliance takes a crack at this by looking at different social determinants of health. The Index looks at  “community conditions associated with higher rates of poor health.”

The Index is based on a set of nine social determinants:

  1. Economic Security and Financial Resources
  2. Livelihood Security and Employment Opportunity
  3. School Readiness and Educational Attainment
  4. Environmental Quality
  5. Civic Involvement and Political Access
  6. Availability and Utilization of Quality Health Care Services
  7. Adequate, Affordable, and Safe Housing
  8. Community Safety and Security
  9. Transportation

The Health Equity Alliance is piloting this in 3 Connecticut Cities (Groton, Hartford, and New Haven). They’ll be looking the relation between these social determinants and data on health ” to reveal conditions that are associated with poorer health at the neighborhood and/or town level by race, age, place of residence, household composition, education, and income level.” Looks like a really interesting project.

–Jeff Prudhomme

The Changing State of Metropolitan America

The Brookings’ Institute’s Metropolitan Policy Program has put out a really interesting report on the State of Metropolitan America. The nine chapters (available in summary form online or as downloadable pdfs for the full text) “correspond to nine of the most important subjects tracked by the Census Bureau in its annual American Community Survey”:

Population and Migration follows the population growth and decline of U.S. places over the decade, and how the movement of people—from next-door communities, from other parts of the country, and from abroad—contributed to these trends.

Race and Ethnicity analyzes the changing racial (e.g., white, black, Asian) and ethnic (e.g., Hispanic) composition of our population, includ ing the patterns of growth and decline in these groups in different corners of the nation.

Race and Ethnicity analyzes the changing racial (e.g., white, black, Asian) and ethnic (e.g., Hispanic) composition of our population, includ ing the patterns of growth and decline in these groups in different corners of the nation.

Immigration focuses on America’s foreign-born population, both citizens and non-citizens: their growth, where they live, their characteristics, and the growing demographic influence of their children.

Age looks at the shifting balance between older and younger Americans across the country, especially as the baby boom generation—Ameri ca’s largest—approaches seniorhood.

Households and Families examines who makes up the fundamental units of our society, how their structures are changing over time, and how they relate to the different racial/ethnic and age profiles of America’s communities.

Educational Attainment profiles the educa tional status of adults (how much schooling they have completed, their enrollment in higher education), identifies differences by age and and relates these to the underlying economic features of regions.

Work analyzes two sets of indicators on the sta¬tus of America’s labor force: the wages earned by differently compensated workers; and rates of unemployment, which reflect the varying degrees of economic pain experienced by different parts of the country.

Income and Poverty portrays trends in the economic well-being of typical households, the size of the “middle class,” and the location and characteristics of America’s sizeable and growing poor population.
Commuting details how we get to work, how those patterns have changed over time, and the factors contributing to the sizeable differences among communities in how workers undertake those daily trips.

At the chapter index you’ll find links to synopses for each of those topics above, as well as links to full versions of each chapter. There’s a report overview here. And the Post’s Carol Morello has a summary piece on the changing picture of the American suburbs, especially in the DC region. What may be especially interesting to consider is the way some of our perceptions about suburbs and metropolitan areas aren’t keeping pace with the emerging demographic realities.

–Jeff Prudhomme

The Long Arc of Conversation

In our lives most of us have had the pleasure of relationships that seem to involve a long and constantly growing conversation. Maybe it’s with a good friend. Maybe it’s with a family member or a mentor. It’s not that you’re talking with each other all the time, though even when you’re not actually talking to each other, you’re thinking of what the other person said or of what you might say to them. You play over and over in your mind what was said. You think of new things to say. Even when you’re not with the person, you’re thinking of things to tell them. You think of things that respond to, or add onto what was said before. And in your conversations, you’re genuinely trying to figure things out. You’re not trying just to knock down the other person’s ideas. When you get a chance to talk again, of course, you don’t have to start at zero. You might go back to something you were talking about ages ago or you might launch into a new topic you feel is important to share. Because there’s a long arc to your conversations, you don’t feel like you have to say everything every single time you talk. You’ll talk again soon. Over time the long arc of your conversation will flow through many different paths with many different telling moments.
Taking part in one of the Interactivity Foundation’s Sanctuary Discussion Projects, like the Shaping our Towns & Cities project, is a lot like that kind of a conversation. Each session is connected to the others in an organic way. Just as with your other conversation partners, this means that there are times when a discussion will jump back to an earlier conversation point. It means that in the time between each session you might think of new ways to build on what was said before. As you talk with your fellow panelists, you’ll be trying to figure things out, exploring different ways to think about things, not just arguing to knock down one idea or another. And it means that you don’t have to rush to cover everything in one session. There will be yet time to talk about new insights, new questions, and new ideas as these emerge through the arc of the conversation. If you take part in one of our projects, you’ll find conversations that grow over just such a long arc.

–Jeff Prudhomme

Cross posted at the Interactivity Foundation’s Perspectives Blog.