I was excited to be involved in Dr.Greg Baeker’s book ‘Rediscovering the Wealth of Places‘, both as an editor and as a contributor. My personal and professional interest in culture is a longstanding one. Certainly, in sharing literally hundreds of community success stories with Municipal World readers over the past 20 years, the role of culture in creating vibrant, vital communities has been abundantly evident to me. Heritage preservation, community beautification, public art – these and other kinds of cultural activities are incredibly effective tools for civic engagement and pride because they speak to community values.
As an ardent proponent of sustainable community development, I think the identification and inclusion of culture as the fourth pillar of sustainability (joining on equal ground with economic, environmental, and social factors) therefore makes incredible sense for our communities. In this context, the identification of cultural assets through cultural mapping presents a wonderful opportunity for communities to articulate and share community values and traditions in a concrete way – and then, though cultural planning, to leverage those assets in a way that can help drive sustainability and economic development.
Rediscovering the Wealth of Places provides a roadmap for communities to do just that. It offers practitioners a solid foundation of theory, of course – but also, very importantly, the tools and processes and case studies that help bring the theory to life in their own communities. In addition to sharing his own experience and expertise, Greg has also successfully drawn together thought-leaders in the field, who have brought forward their own important pieces to the dialogue around culture, cultural mapping, and cultural planning. Brought together in this way, these contributions represent a significant resource for understanding “culture” and its role – and significant potential – in our communities today.
For me, writing the concluding chapter to the book provided the chance to not only summarize and comment on some of the key ideas in the book, but to discuss the current and future application of these tools and concepts. Web 2.0 technology, for example, offers communities some very effective, affordable tools for engaging the community and leveraging culture in very powerful ways – extending into tourism and economic development, community consultation, and local decision making and priority setting. And, we’ve only begun to explore the potential of these tools.
It’s been said that we’re training kids today for jobs that don’t even exist yet – that’s the creative economy! I believe, as we move into a future that is increasingly grounded in these knowledge-based services and industries, cultural planning and the ideas explored in Rediscovering the Wealth of Places are destined to become more relevant than ever before – for large cities and smaller communities alike.