The case for community

Robert Putnam coined the term “social capital” in a seminal essay written in 1995. He’d later expand those ideas about community into a full-length book, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, in 2000.

Putnam’s book and his ideas have infused my own thinking about the world since reading the book in 2002. In 2005, I tackled writing a book of my own, one that drew liberally upon the concept of social capital, using baseball rather than bowling as the metaphor for the changes American communities have experienced over the last 50-60 years. Continue reading

Can local food save us?

Local food, at least in the sense of it being a subculture, is a healthy one in Brunswick/Topsham. All a person needs to do to take the pulse of the two communities relative to the importance of local food is to pay a visit to Crystal Spring Farm on Woodside Road on a Saturday morning between May and October. That’s where one of Maine’s most vibrant farmers’ markets takes place.

First, there are the numerous local farmers that come from a 25-30 mile radius of Brunswick, bringing a variety of locally-grown and produced foods. You can find vegetables, fruit, meat and poultry, even seafood, as well as value-added items like cheese, bread, all produced locally. Then, there’s the section of the 300 acre Crystal Spring property serving as a parking lot, packed with automobiles and even a few bicycles. Continue reading

Small town growth and vitality

Boothbay Harbor: One of Maine’s 10 prettiest villages.

Last week I gave a talk on community branding. My presentation touched on economic growth and vitality in small town Maine, and I also managed to wax semi-poetic (coherent?) on workforce development, something I’ve acquired a fairly extensive knowledge base about. More than mere knowledge, I have developed initiatives and programming that have been successful. Continue reading

Teaching writing

Words matter. They have the power to heal, convey love, hate, complexity, as well as whimsy. Some people are obsessed with words and how to arrange and order them—we’re called writers.

A decade ago, I gave myself permission to call myself a writer. This wasn’t an arbitrary decision. I based it upon things I was figuring out about myself at the time. Looking back, I made the right choice. Continue reading

Roll with it

The world we live in, or better, the world of work that we inhabit has shifted. The shift is a seismic one, but not everyone’s been affected by it, yet. For those of us that have embraced this “new way,” we’re a step ahead and building our portfolio with each subsequent day spent scrambling and with each new project completed. Continue reading

Broken beyond repair

Education as a system is broken in America. Whatever method you use to evaluate schools will yield a result that’s disappointing. While there are still good schools and communities where the K-12 model works, most don’t.

In Chicago, a city with nearly 400,000 public school students, a labor impasse finds schoolchildren staying at home for a third day, as teachers picket, demanding changes in how they are evaluated, more autonomy to teach, and an increase in their salaries and benefits. Meanwhile, the students are the losers. Continue reading

We know less than we think

There is a scourge that is affecting America, one where men and women with little to show in the way of results somehow think they are better qualified and more capable than others, particularly those in positions of leadership. This phenomenon has a name; it’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect, named after the two researchers at Cornell who came up with the hypothesis.

Another similar effect is illusory superiority, a cognitive bias that causes people to overestimate their positive qualities and abilities and to underestimate their negative qualities, relative to others. We are all guilty of this from time to time. Where it becomes problematic is when it seriously impairs people’s ability to think critically and see events through a realistic lens, framed by perspective and self-awareness of this bias. Continue reading