When we founded Electric City Life we founded a platform for our community, in the Columbus, GA area, to come together online and engage in our culture through collaborative, positive toned conversation, articles, pictures, events and more.
After about a year, I saw that this virtual platform needed a real life platform where we could come together every month, about different subjects, with an array of community authorities in a similar laid back, positive toned conversational style.
We also join with other inclusive, culture meetings around the community. It isn’t always at The Loft, but this has been our home base for one Wednesday night of the month at 5:45pm.
When I first dreamed about Monthly Meeting of the Minds (MMM), I imagined it being 8-10 people in the back of The Loft, like a bible study or something. However, the first meeting packed the main listening room with about 75 people, and it’s been full every month, simply because it is something the community wants and needs.
Last month we had an incredible authority on building “Strong Towns”. Charles (Chuck) Marohn, Founder of Strong Towns, flew in for the day and his last stop was with us at MMM, thanks to Will Burgin.
The thesis question, which drove Chuck to start a non-profit and embark on spearheading Strong Towns while traveling around the country preaching this gospel, is: “Why, despite all the growth we’ve experienced, are our cities, families and neighborhoods going bankrupt? Why the persistent decline despite our great affluence?”
He explained in detail how we are building roads and construction that will never be paid off and aren’t conducive to sustainable growth.
Chuck explained how the most effective sustainable evolution is within small incremental changes. For instance, during thousands of years of civilization people experimented with what works over time and they consistently built tight-knit, walkable communities.
He gave perspective by saying, in a whole generation we’ve completely changed everything, building our whole country for cars, not people, and it isn’t working. It was a big social experiment, but we did it all over our nation instead of in small focus points.
This made me think of Uptown Columbus, and other cities I’ve visited throughout the world, that have created a more livable, attractive area by simply building it for people, instead of building it around cars.
I talked to Chuck about Electric City Life, explaining how ECL has been an organic, sometimes messy, collaborative platform, and how we are finding innovative ways to engage our community in cultivating culture through events like MMM, articles, pictures, etc.
Chuck proclaimed more of his gospel by explaining, “That’s good, keep going, a path to true sustainability will only come about through systems that receive feedback and are able to adapt in complex ways. Orderly but dumb (top down) systems perpetuate the worst problems while they simultaneously resist change, even when change is broadly demanded by the culture, and how chaotic but smart systems (bottom up), while scary to an affluent society, are the only way real progress can be sustained.”
Electric City Life has been fairly chaotic and sometimes confusing for some, but it has been progressive.
I told him one of our mottos is, “An engaged town is a strong town”. I also asked how we can move into more effective results, with more engagement and strength.
He gave examples of engagement and ownership (which is what the re-branding process of the city is learning). For instance, we could give $100 to 10 people that deem themselves worthy and give them a section of our community so they can make it more engaging. Then to whoever does the best with the money, should be given more to implement more changes.
During the meeting he was positive, but laid down some hard truth about how he has never seen a town with a more screwed up property tax system. He talked about property tax and land tax, skirted around the property freeze mess, and really encouraged us to implement small change for more healthy growth.
I was encouraged to find out from Anne King, Executive Director of MidTown, Inc., about how MidTown is starting a new iniative that implements small change. They have begun a project called, “Incremental Development: Small Scale, BIG Impact”. It will engage local residents, developers, builders, bankers and investors to create a local team that creates local wealth, jobs and leaders while it builds better neighborhoods. To learn more, click HERE.
In closing, we had another Monthly Meeting of the Minds last night, and partnered with Young Professionals Governmental Affairs Committee. Cora King opened the meeting for ECL and Joseph Brannon MC’d, representing the YPs (special thank you to them, because I was very sick).
Special guest, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, commenced the themed meeting, “Speed Date the Candidates”, by speaking on the importance of local engagement in government. The Mayor spoke passionately on how we should show up for political meetings, ask questions, and call on our local representatives, not just to complain, but to advocate for what is important to us.
Twelve local candidates participated, each at their individual table, while attendees had five minutes to sit with them and ask questions.
Every month has been successful in it’s own right, covering subjects such as healthy living, startups, film, leadership, Minium Grid, The Knight’s City Challenge, a Holiday Social Party touring art studios, and more.
We hope you’ll join us. The more participation and feedback, the better connectivity and effectiveness we will have in our meetings and our community.