Briggs, Xavier de Souza. "Community Building: The New (and Old) Politics of Urban Problem-Solving." KSG Faculty Research Working Papers Series RWP02-003, January 2002.

Abstract

The lecture outlines major trends affecting both the nature of urban problems and the shape of much public interest problem-solving in urban America. These trends include: the continued suburbanization of jobs, wealth, and political power; the evolution of a skill-intensive and networked global economy in which competitiveness is ultimately tested at the regional level; the decentralization of governance - including the devolution of key aspects of social policy to states and localities and deeper cultural demands that power be shared, that traditional authority and expertise are illegitimate; the "marketization" and nonprofitization of public responsibilities; and massive demographic change, in particular the so-called "graying" and "browning" of America. Beyond a great deal of patience and courage, problem-solving in this context calls for specific civic skills - a re-invention and updating of what de Tocqueville, in his landmark study of democracy in America 150 years ago, termed "the art of combining." Most urgent are the skills needed to confront five (5) broad, recurrent challenges: learning together, organizing and shaping interests, seeking agreement and managing conflict, planning and deciding together, and producing together.