Madison launches sustainability plan

Madison launches sustainability plan

In James Speth’s book, The Bridge at the Edge of the World, he states, “that inevitably, the drive for transformative change leads to the political arena where a vital muscular democracy steered by an informed and engaged citizenry is needed.” He goes on to state that the first step in the transformation to shape such a new democracy, is to begin to envision the type of democracy that is needed.

The recently published City of Madison’s Sustainability Plan and its citizenry engagement effort is a beginning for a vision in this direction. Instead of evaluating the plan on what is missing; what expertise, technology, stakeholder engagement, partnerships, goals, sustainability indicators, sustainability principles, resilience principles, education, or assessments are currently missing; I prefer to identify what is present in the plan.

1) It is built on a strong planning framework, one that we have been introduced to during the course. The plan has 1) an executive summary, 2) it provides background, 3) a clear vision and mission, 4) identifies its stakeholders and how they are being engaged, 5) provides the application of sustainability leadership concepts and indicators that the City identified as relevant to the plan, 6) describes its implementation, and 7) provides a framework to assess its measures of success. The Transition Handbook states the 6 principles of community engagement as 1) visioning, 2) inclusion, 3) awareness raising, 4) resilience training, 5) psychological insights to behavior change, and 6) credible and appropriate solutions. The City’s plan appears to have engaged in almost all of these principles in developing and launching the plan, (not clearly apparent is #4 and #5).

2) It is a community level plan. Transition communities and community sustainability begins at the community level. The Transition Handbook describes successful community level sustainability to occur through individual communities coming up with their own answers and solutions that come from within versus seeking a prescriptive approach or one that is generated by outside experts or consultants. The City of Madison’s sustainability plan clearly is at an appropriate size of community for transformative change.

3) The plan incorporated citizens as stakeholders of the plan. A simple principle highlighted in McKibben’s Curitiba Community example was “the mayor made a conscious effort to physically reshape the city and then to transform its citizens through ‘respect’ as individual contributors and leaders.” The City of Madison Sustainability Plan has goals that have already been initiated with a call to citizens’ to get involved where motivated and / or interested. The plan, will always be only as strong as the current leadership and the community of citizens involvement.

4) The plan presents the systems framework and sustainability indicators used to develop the plan. The plan clearly states the frameworks, their sources, and their adaptations for the community of Madison, Wisconsin. The Natural Step is the systems framework chosen to test the decision-making process as the plan is implemented. The Natural Step is well established in the City of Madison and serves as an excellent framework for resilience education.

5) The plan represents changes in public policy. If the plan is carried out as described through its direct relationship with the City’s intergovernmental agencies and around the ten stated goals; Natural Systems, Planning & Design, Transportation, Carbon & Energy, Economic Development, Economic Workforce Development, Education, Affordable Housing, Health, and Arts, Design & Culture; policy will continue to evolve. Policy that that further engages individuals in the community and ultimately promotes environmental protection, social equity, economic prosperity and overall democratic renewal.

The great turning of humanity requires a cultural and spiritual awakening, I am not sure the newly published City of Madison Sustainability Plan on paper, will drive that level of transformation. But then again, through its simple clear story, 10-goal framework, community level planning, alignment with the City’s Comprehensive Plan, incorporation of community members as stakeholders, framework for developing partnerships to achieve goals, and overall systems thinking approach; the plan and the community it serves may inspire engagement around the plan and opportunity for individual citizenry to get involved and to inspire change, transition, and transformation into an awakening of some kind. Ideally, an awakening towards a more resilient community.

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