‘Knight Cities’ podcast: Building a new kind of economy

Communities / Article

Is it time for a new kind of local economy in our cities, one that’s based on people sharing their knowledge? Tessy Britton believes it is. Sign up for Podcast Alerts Subscribe

Tessy and her colleagues at Civic Systems Lab are building a city framework where people can teach skills to those around them and learn new ones. It’s part sharing economy, part neighborliness. I asked Tessy about the Civic Systems Lab and what she calls the “new civic economy” she is helping to build.

Here are five things you should know from my conversation with Tessy:

1.    Many people are living in disadvantaged circumstances, and society is not providing good pathways to help them improve their lives. 

2.    There is a big gap in the transition between dependence and independence for disadvantaged people. The professional social services provided to people often don’t result in the skills and confidence required for them to hold jobs.   

3.    Civic Systems Lab is experimenting with a new kind of civic economy that uses peer-to-peer “co-production” to fill that gap. The lab’s approach is to create open, local, small opportunities for people to share what they know with other people and to learn from their peers. It’s a new way to build skills and community.

4.    Practical co-production activities, such as cooking, making things and repairing things, that are packaged in appealing ways and offered in easily accessible storefronts attract people of all types, not just those who are economically disadvantaged. These activities can help everyone. 

5.    The shared spaces in our cities do not currently support these kinds of opportunities. For instance, where can people easily cook together or  make things together? We need to rethink our cities to support these activities and make it easy for people to participate.

Listen to my conversation with Tessy here. And sign up for the “Knight Cities” newsletter to get alerts as soon as new conversations are posted.

Look for new “Knight Cities” content posted every Wednesday. You can follow us on Twitter at #knightcities or @knightfdn. And if you have ideas for people you’d like to hear from, please email me.

Carol Coletta is vice president of community and national initiatives at Knight Foundation. Follow her on Twitter @ccoletta.