Smart People: Page 7 of 24

Mon, 2015-10-26 13:58 -- Jon DeKeles
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How citizens came together to rebuild constitución after devastating earthquake

After a devastating earthquake and tsunami leveled much of Constitución, Chile in 2010, residents came together and developed a new community master plan in just 90 days. And they did it largely without the Internet and without using tax revenue.

The Brickstarter blog profiled the warp-speed project, which is remarkable. Constitución finished its sweeping plan and built consensus in just three months. Here's how it happened:

Shortly after the disaster, leaders opened a community center in town and invited residents to stop by to not only see the progress being made, but also to help shape the work being done. Regular meetings were designed to put everyone in the city – from city officials and building experts to the citizens themselves – on the same level. The role of experts was completely redesigned. Experts worked as facilitators. They helped shape concepts from brainstorming sessions into workable ideas; they did not dictate what would be done.

Internet access was spotty, so while social media was used to solicit some ideas, it wasn't the primary vehicle. Weekly town meetings were. To make sure everyone knew about the meetings, organizers drove around town with a loudhailer inviting people to attend. The meetings were packed and lively. Residents congregated around whiteboards to sketch out ideas. The experts served as valuable resources to answer questions and help refine ideas. Passionate debate was not only allowed, but encouraged. Those heated discussions helped identify and shape priorities. And participation remained strong throughout the process; the rebuilding process in many other communities has had strong initial interest but as rapidly lost steam.

The project was paid for by a forestry company – one of the biggest businesses in town. Normally, that would be viewed as a huge liability. Instead, the company was just another participant in the discussions. It funded the work with no strings attached. Any unease about its potential influence quickly vanished due to the way it conducted itself. It ensured that it had no more of a voice than anyone else.