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Flex-Code and Urban-Ikigai

In order to create a clear communication path between individuals and local governments using graphics or visuals, the underlying verbiage needs to be simplified, updated, and accessible.

Photo of An Old Friend
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There are a great deal of outdated and unnecessary laws, codes, and zoning restrictions in almost every city, whether facing economic decline or not.  This concept thus offers a method for doing a little legislative house cleaning when it comes to the use of space.  Many of the concepts help bridge communication barriers by using info-graphics that are language neutral, while others offer ideas on the use of abandon space.  However, in order for nearly all of these to happen, it must get approved by a city council or local government.  

This concept is the antithesis of 'policy-making', by which I mean the purpose is to reduce and simplify the existing code, rather than continue to add wooden blocks on the legislative game of Jenga.  Once the code has been cleaned, then the doors and windows of opportunity will open. 

If a city, or any entity for that matter, wants to rebuild or reinvent itself it must first know itself.  It must know what has helped it grow as well as what has held it back.  This concept targets the identification of city roots (an urban-ikigai) while eliminating and purifying the existing restraints that will allow the people, the code-makers, and local governance to cooperate at the lowest common denominator.  

It is very easy to imagine an individual walking past a vacant lot and communicating its potential as an urban garden via social networks, but the daunting reality of jumping through hoops and over fire to make it happen deters most.  If those fires and hoops didn't exist, or embraced a more flexible understanding of land, these fantastic ideas are more likely to bloom.  

A city that awakens every morning with raison d'être will be impassioned and focused.  The more simple the reason, the easier it is is to rise and climb.

What resources (money, time, people, technology, etc) will your concept need to be successful?

Everyone needs a watchdog. Particularly in politics (thank you Daily Show). The decline of local newspapers has dramatically altered the concept of community. Some for the better, some for the worse. In order to make this concept a reality there needs to be an organization outside of elected officials, but within a community (broadly defined), that will work hand-in-hand to evaluate the pros and cons of legislature enacted when the city was working under a different modus operandi. For example, if detroit didn't focus on automobile manufacturing, and decided to concentrate on medical devices, there would need to be huge tax, property, housing, and community incentives to make the transition fruitful. Silicon valley didn't become what it is because it had a history of success. It became successful because it embraced a new wave of innovation and left room for creative hackers to mature and pursue wild ideas. Cities like detroit may have begun to favor large corporations during their strong years, which is okay, but when those corporations no longer exist, the city needs to encourage a gold-rush mentality and eliminate unwarranted restrictions. The current methodology would probably include a large amount of due diligence about the proposed industry, drawing on very general drawbacks or incentives, but lacking community input.

What steps could you take to implement this idea today?

For a community with a population of 10,000 people, 7-10 members of "Flex-Code" would begin a review process of current zoning and code law. After X amount of time, the group would present a collection of outdated, irrelevant, obsolete, contradictory, confusing, and nonsensical restrictions to both elected officials as well as a community members voting handbook (could use info-apps, all digital etc) that outlined why each law existed, what it protected, and its current benefit to citizens. In an online version people would be able to comment or send an anonymous message to their elected official asking for change or support of said issue addressed. The method of communicating the winnowed policy is open to discussion. We still live in a world where many do not have access to internet, yet deserve an equal voice. How do we address this?

How can your idea be scaled so that it's implemented in cities around the world?

This concept is best suited to begin in a small community where the outdated and inefficient legislature (building/zoning codes, post occupancy evaluations, building performance statements etc) can be addressed more easily and changes can be seen within a quicker turn-around period. By starting small the concept can more easily adapt and help fine tune a methodology that can be implemented on a larger urban scale. One approach might be to perform a trial version with a few cities below a certain population, population density, or cities with very focused industries. Then evaluate the strengths and weaknesses and compare the effectiveness of those same strategies at a different scale. The same strategies may succeed or may fail, but the point is not to settle on a specific strategy, but to gain an understanding of the "nature of a city". Ultimately the goal is help a city find its 'Ikigai' or reason for waking up in the morning. By eliminating the outdated and superfluous, we can understand urban roots and build accordingly.

My Virtual Team

I'd like to thank the concepts of 'Infographics to Inspire Change', ' Reclaimed Detroit', ' Brownfield-eliminator App', and 'Decode the Codes' for their brilliant insight into urban revitalization.


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Photo of Meena Kadri

Interesting thoughts, Campbell. For those of you who are keen to get a better understanding of the fascinating concept of 'ikigai'– check this for starters:

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