Jennifer Bradley and Josh Sorin: Let’s Not Go Back To “Normal”
Originally published in CityLab.
“Normal” in too many cities looks like this: Pedestrians and cyclists die on streets made for cars, not people. Chronic underfunding of local government and social services entrusts the health, well-being and education of our most vulnerable neighbors to the variability of tax revenue. Black and Brown communities lack the space or amenities to social distance and are penalized when they seek creative means to do so. And in times of crisis, while some big businesses are quick to equate showing up to your job as an act of heroism, they remain unwilling to pay a living wage to heroes.
The changes we’ve seen in our cities in an extremely short period of time suggests that many of the barriers to better cities are not technical or financial, but rather political in nature. That’s why it’s critical that we don’t allow a desire for normalcy to lead to a rushed return to normal, and the failure of the status quo. Instead, before our memories of what better cities look and feel like begin to slip away, we should be thinking about how the entire city ecosystem — government, businesses, residents, nonprofits and philanthropy — can support a major culture change in cities: from hiding from failure to embracing and constructively learning from it.
For all its agonizing, and fatal, impacts, Covid-19 is not unprecedented: It’s neither the first pandemic nor the worst. Cities have always come out the other side better, but not by accident. Positive urban transformation came out of an intense reflection on what caused such catastrophic failures and a deep commitment to find a better way forward. We face a similar moment now. Cities all over the country have seen clearly where they are failing. It’s counterintuitive, but remedying those failures will require more failure, born out of a commitment to build a better future through bold innovation and cross-sector collaboration.
Read the complete piece in CityLab and the Fail Forward research here.
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