Local Initiative [ #gplocal ]

An important part of the Gangplank mission is to support the local economy. We firmly believe in a new type of economic development  that is amplified with the rising of the creative economy. A lot of research is pointing to the fact that communities with high attachment express greater economic growth. Attachment is less related to the perception of the local economy and far more related to how accepting a community is of its diversity, its social offerings and its aesthetics. Creating emotional connections and fostering community is what drives the local initiative. Simply put it is about catalyzing pride and involvement in the local community.

Three key factors are at play in developing attachment to place:

Social Offerings – The entertainment venues, places to meet, etc.
Openness – How welcoming is the community. How easy is it to connect. How easy to get involved.
Aesthetics – Is it expressing its physical beauty. Are there green spaces, public places and central points of interest.

Girl Dancing with Banjo Player in Grand Rapids Fall October 2012 During ArtPrize

Placemaking is another critical component of the local initiative. We can look at the Project for Public Spaces to see some of they key elements of placemaking. The local initiative actively works with residents, businesses and the public sector to enhance:

Access & Linkages: You can judge the accessibility of a place by its connections to its surroundings, both visual and physical. A successful public space is easy to get to and get through; it is visible both from a distance and up close. The edges of a space are important as well: For instance, a row of shops along a street is more interesting and generally safer to walk by than a blank wall or empty lot. Accessible spaces have a high parking turnover and, ideally, are convenient to public transit.

Comfort & Image: Whether a space is comfortable and presents itself well – has a good image – is key to its success. Comfort includes perceptions about safety, cleanliness, and the availability of places to sit – the importance of giving people the choice to sit where they want is generally underestimated. Women in particular are good judges on comfort and image, because they tend to be more discriminating about the public spaces they use.

Uses & Activity: Activities are the basic building blocks of a place. Having something to do gives people a reason to come to a place – and return. When there is nothing to do, a space will be empty and that generally means that something is wrong.

Sociability: This is a difficult quality for a place to achieve, but once attained it becomes an unmistakable feature. When people see friends, meet and greet their neighbors, and feel comfortable interacting with strangers, they tend to feel a stronger sense of place or attachment to their community – and to the place that fosters these types of social activities.

It is expected that Gangplank members sit on local boards, as well as serve an advisory role for city and school officials.

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