So far, this much is clear to me: HUD's staff is project or transaction driven, and they have little experience thinking in a longer term strategic or systems context. I have yet to find good planning models from HUD that account for the complexities inherent in sustainable development.
Second, "logic models" -- a primary tool used by the Feds and foundations to evaluate a potential investment -- tend to be too simple to capture the complexities of a sustainable economy, which calls for a broader systems mindset.
Third, we will need to experiment with new, agile planning approaches, because the traditional, linear planning models are inadequate for building sustainable communities. They are too slow, inflexible and costly. We cannot spend three years coming up with a sustainability plan, before we launch some useful pilots. Our implementation and planning would better go hand-in-hand.
The challenge we face involves developing agile, open processes that are guided by experienced collaborative leaders. Balancing open participation and leadership guidance seems to me to be at the heart of what we need to do.
Finally, we need some simple simple rules to guide us. We need to design a flexible, light-weight, and continuous "planning and doing" process. We cannot manage complexity with a complex planning process.
These simple rules will enable us to develop clear metrics that have meaning for our communities. Our simple rules should encourage experimentation. Metrics in a sustainable economy will play a different role than metrics in an industrial economy.
In an industrial economy, metrics (and the impulse to measure everyone by the same yardstick, e.g., jobs) emphasize control and undercut experimentation. In a sustainable economy -- and economy reliant on flexible, adaptive networks, metrics provide a critical tool for learning and evaluation to figure out "what works".
We are gaining some other interesting insights. In sustainable development, value creation takes place at two levels. First, value creation emerges as civic organizations develop more sophisticated collaborations. This idea is explored in Steven Goldsmith's new book, The Power of Social innovation. So, for example, a neighborhood takes a step toward a more sustainable economy if leaders connect career pathways from high schools to entrepreneurs in an emerging cluster, like urban food businesses.
At a second level of value creation, urban design and planning guides the development of a built environment that supports and amplifies these collaborations. The neighborhood, for example, can create additional shared value by turning a vacant warehouse into a food business accelerator with high energy and water efficiency. A new "learning center" within the accelerator could serve as a food processing center for new product development, an entrepreneurship and technician training center, and retail distribution hub.
Value creation comes first from organizational collaboration and, next, from integrating these collaborations into the design for a flexible built environment that reduces the environmental costs and creates new opportunities for turning waste to profit.
We are focused now on integrating the disciplines of Strategic Doing into these new, agile planning models.
Some other observations: Sustainable development requires us to develop "portfolios of collaborative investment". Managing this portfolio involves initiating pilot projects, experiments that "link and leverage" assets across organizational and political boundaries. (Connecting high school career guidance with entrepreneurial start-ups is an example.)
To build sustainable, resilient economies, we need to place a lot of small bets. These experiments need to be scaled, based on an evaluation of what's working. Our metrics will help us evaluate and learn. No single experiment should be so big that its failure will destroy our agile planning process. In other words, we need to manage the downside of each experiment by asking "What could go wrong?"