Value-Adding as a Concept to Transform the Middle East

Value-Adding as a Concept to Transform the Middle East


Value-adding has gotten a bad rap. Mostly because we are used to hearing the term “value-added,” which has come to mean a financial reward for our step of the chain on the way to consumers.

I spoke in Beirut in November to the ministers of energy, environment and other arenas, plus 120 CEOs of corporations in related industries. The video is above. Value-adding is the subject of the talk. Value-adding means to change positively the lives of the stakeholders every time you engage them. The ‘ing” is indicative of a never-ended commitment to increase the value to the system of stakeholders.

Place Sense


For human beings, places are meaningful and meaning creating.  According to urban planner Timothy Beatley, “Meaningful places are essential for meaningful lives.”  Without a sense of place we would live within undifferentiated and thereby meaningless space.  Cultural Geographer Yi-Fu Tuan wrote, “Space is transformed into place as it acquires definition and meaning.”  Our sense of home, of homeland, of our place and role in the world, all help to give us a sense of rootedness and identity in the world.  They help to nurture us and provide us a safe haven when we are in need of it.  When we have a sense of place in the world, we know where we come from and where we are going.  As such, we feel “in-place” in the world.

Sense of place is an embodied experience, not an abstract concept.  Our home and the street we live on may feel meaningful and alive More

Planning for Regenerative Communities Requires New Premises


While we are hearing more and more about regenerative design, less attention has been paid to how community planning must shift.  Traditionally, community planning efforts have been organized around managing different societal functions—job creation, transportation, housing, habitat protection, etc. as a way of creating economic development, environmental protection or community revitalization. They have largely been conducted as if these facets of life were unrelated to each other.  Where more than one facet has been considered, the goals that were not the primary driver have normally been treated as background constraints, e.g., to advance economic development with minimum harm to the environment. The push to create “sustainable cities” has added goals around carbon emissions and energy efficiency without changing this pattern–a pattern that presents serious barriers to community sustainability, let alone regeneration.

There is growing evidence that this fragmented approach to planning is failing. Urban centers are feeling overwhelmed by the More

When a conference is more than a conference


I spent last week at Gaining Ground’s Resilient Cities conference in Vancouver, BC.  Four years ago, Gene Miller—founder of this remarkable conference series, drew Bill Reed and me into a series of conversations about his new vision for conferences, one that broke away from the talking heads phenomenon to actually foster dialogue and thinking. A radical thought! I’d long before given up on conferences, finding most to be about “thoughting not thinking”—promoting old thoughts vs. developing new thinking.

Gene’s vision, and his passion for promoting urban sustainability when it was barely a blip on the horizon overcame my reluctance. So when asked to present at this year’s conference, the 6th in the series, I didn’t hesitate. Once again, the range of subject material was rich and deep.  But while most people will remember the content, it was the process design that really caught and captured my attention and admiration. Gene and More

Dating Nature



At a recent conference, I heard David Orr express the need to ‘fall in love with nature.’ His point was that without a relationship of love and kinship, too many of us will continue to see nature as an enemy to be subdued (tornados and tigers), a nuisance (mosquitoes and poison ivy), or provider of a functional service (delivering clean water and food.) He went on to state that we need to focus on helping children experience this connectivity.

I thought, what about the adults? Have we given up on the people who can activate the change that we need right away? We might not have time for these children to move into positions of authority. Throughout their lives, people fall in love with one another. Adults marry at all ages, and elders experience profound love for their grandkids. Can this pattern be extended to love for nature?

We know that More

Problem or Solution?


Current world trends indicate that increasingly the health of our Earth and its inhabitants are inextricably tied to the future of our urban centers.  According to the United Nations, the year 2005 marked the first time in our planet’s history that over half of the entire human population lived in cities.  In western countries, this percentage is even higher, with 80 percent of the population living in urban areas.  In addition, these trends of urbanization are on the rise, particularly in developing countries.  Between 1990 and 1995, 263 million people were added to cities in developing countries.  This is equivalent to the formation of a new Los Angeles or Shanghai every three months.

With such growth trends occurring in our urban settlements, it is disconcerting to consider the disproportionate impact that cities now have on our planet.  Cities today take up only two percent of the world’s surface, yet they consume More

Regenerating Place through Story


That we are seeing a rapidly expanding focus on sustainable cities is hardly surprising. Cities have become the principal engine of economic growth in a global economy—and they are having a disproportionate effect on the ecosystems of their regions and the biosphere as a whole.

Currently, the pressing nature of climate change and peak oil, together with our long love affair with technology, have made efforts to reduce the impact of cities the central focus of the sustainable cities movement. While critical, meeting the challenge of a deteriorating planet requires more.  It demands that our cities become active contributors to the social and ecological regeneration of their regions. Cities at the forefront of sustainability are recognizing that they need to take up both halves of the sustainability challenge—reducing damage while growing connection to and among the living systems of their place.

There is a growing understanding that even as we establish and More

Solving for Pattern

Recently, I sat down to read Nicholas Mang’s case study of Curitiba, Brazil, which is now available on the Regenesis Group website. As I read I was reminded of a powerful 1981 Wendell Berry essay, called Solving for Pattern.  In the essay, Berry describes three kinds of solutions to the “problems of our time.” The first, he writes, is the solution that causes “a ramifying series of new problems.” A modern example can be found in energy-efficient lightbulbs that attempt to solve the problem of carbon emissions, but leach mercury into landfills when disposed of. The second type of solution is “that which immediately worsens the problem it is intended to solve.” Berry gives the example of attempting to fix compacted soil with a tractor whose weight further compacts the soil. Bringing in a bigger tractor only makes the situation worse. The third type of solution, the type that Berry advocates, is what More

Balancing Needs and Potential


Many, including the United Nations, have lauded the city of Curitiba, Brazil as being a leading model for ecological urban development and planning.  In addition, a multitude of Curitban civic planning policies are now being replicated in different cities around the world. What has received less attention in Curitiba’s storied success, however, is the unique place‐based visioning process that their civic leaders developed.

Every morning, the mayor and his core team of planners would meet in a log cabin retreat in the middle of a forested city park. There, according to one of the planners, they worked only “on what (was) fundamental, on what would affect a large number of people and could create change for the better.” Then, in the afternoons, they would return to city hall to meet with their constituents and to deal with the city’s day‐to‐day More

Developmental Economies® Emerge from Story of Place®


Carol Sanford and Joel Glanzberg on Chautauqua, KVNF, Public Radio. We explore the meaning of Story of Place® in creating Developmental Economies® and regenerating communities.

“Developmental Economies®” (DE) involve the Business community in a different and more effective way. DE is a way of improving the vitality and viability of existing business and creating and incubator for new businesses that extend the uniqueness of the region and its “vocation”. Every PLACE has a uniqueness and out of that comes an opportunity to create unique value-adding (rather than value-added) offerings that cannot be copied and as a result become valued in the region and beyond for their uniqueness and distinctiveness that mirrors the PLACE itself. The cities where this has happened, for examples Portland OR, Curitiba, Brazil, have increased greatly the wealth and prosperity of a place and overcome the hazards that traditional economic development causes. It also makes a more cohesive More