We’re going back to the future. The Congress for the New Urbanism started as a hard-working, interactive meeting of the minds where the few hundred attendees were actively engaged in moving forward the mission of urbanism. As the years wore on and the Congress grew in numbers, education became more central to CNU’s mission and the annual Congress started to look more like a classroom than a parliament. Fast forward to CNU 20. 

Overflow at Open Innovation

Open Innovation Room

Image courtesy Jennifer Krouse (steepletownstudios.com)

The dynamism is back. Rapid-fire “Open Innovation” presentations in the “basement” play to a packed full room and when time permits overflow into debate and discussion. Panels are conversations rather than just a series of related presentations. New designs are critiqued in the hallways. The Open Source room is constantly abuzz with conversation. The Art Room has hands-on demonstrations. Member-led initiatives to solve problems and spread new solutions to larger audiences are popping up left and right.

CNU is offering more free content.  In conjunction with this increase in interactive content, CNU is posting more of the “presentation” style content on web for free. Several of the plenaries were broadcast live on the web and we expect to see the slides with audio from most of the breakouts going up on the web soon. In addition we’ve had great video content going up from First + Main and others. This is a momentous development. In this new age holding intellectual content close to the vest is not necessarily the best way to maximize revenue for the organization so they can continue their important work and is certainly no the most efficient way spread our message. We, as urbanists, want as many people as possible to understand our mission and so they might be partners in future projects and change the built environment for the better.

And it’s good timing. The world of information is rapidly changing. Planners and Architects are getting their continuing education credits from free webinars. TED.com is a leader in intellectual content offering high quality, well-produced content “Free to the World”.  People don’t need to buy cross-country plane tickets to hear educational content. What they do need to cross the country for is dynamic, compressed, interactive work-shopping of the ideas that will carry their practice and our movement forward in the following year.

In order for the Congress as an event to stay relevant the model must evolve, and it is doing so. Attendees need to be present for the tumultuous exchanges that are difficult to capture on podcast and to contribute to those debates. New participants need to learn by engaging and getting their intellects in gear. They need to make non-digital eye contact with the people who have the potential to be their colleagues, friends, and workmates for the next decades. Even if we see much more of our engagement moving to the digital sphere, shaking hands with your re-tweeter or listserve sparring partner enhances the digital experience, defusing tension, and helping participants to understand the personalities and perspectives they are engaging with when they return to the web.

My next post will get into a little more detail on the new types of content at CNU and how they’re succeeding. In the meantime, hats off to CNU for recognizing the changing world and being nimble enough to meet it.

The Open Innovation Track

Rapid-fire, open topic presentations with faces new and old from an open call for proposals:

In Room 1J during all Friday and Saturday breakouts.

Friday, May 11th, 2012:

10:30am | From Balanced Roads to Transit Oriented Development
– Incorporating Feeling and Habit into Bicycling Advocacy

- Old World’s Multimodal Design = New World’s Complete Streets

- Not your Grandfather’s DOT: How FDOT is taking Multi-Modal Planning to the Next Level
– Tracks to TOD in Somerville: One Community’s Approach to TOD Planning
– Fare-Free Transit
- Urban Mobility Generation: A traveler transportation hierarchy2pm | Resilience and Adaptation 

- Acting Local for long term impact and progress | Transition, Resiliency and Descent Planning
- Climate Adaptation Strategies
- Getting Real about Sustainability; Building Resiliency with Living Infrastructure
- Bahia Muyuyo Project

3:45pm Growing “In” in the 21st Century: Incremental growth patterns

- Stations as Places
- The charrette process: Architectural preferences
- Generative Pattern Languages and Incremental Infrastructure for real places
- Woonerf: A New Neighborhood of Shared, Living Streets
- Radical Radial – Re-Urbanization of Main Streets! An European approach
- Grids, Plats & Codes – a proposal for Cities as Master Developers in the 21st century
- The Next Urbanism – New Urbanism Responding to the 21st Century

Saturday, May 12th, 2012:

10:45am Tactical Urbanism, Economics and Community
– Tactical Urbanism Workshop
– The Importance of Local Infrastructure Financing
– Economic Incentives to Reduce Sprawl
– Killing the Civic Inferiority Complex
– Randall Anway – Deep Placemaking

2pm Across the Transect: From Historic Preservation to Composting

- Preservation and Urbanism
- The Trashy Transect: Composting in Miami through Miami 21
- Geeks and Grounders: High and Low Tech Transect Analysis
- Coding in the Galapagos Islands: Balancing Nature and People
3:45pm Sprawl Repair and Infill: From Incremental to Wetrofit to Agriculture

- Growing Outside of the Box
- Single Family Residences in for-rent Developments and Small Home Design
- Incremental Sprawl Repair
- Steve Mouzon’s Newest Idea
- Wetrofit Service

For questions or feedback about the Open Innovation Track, please email innovation@cnu.org.

CNU Board Elections

March 26, 2012

I am running for the national board of the Congress for the New Urbanism!

Find out more here.

If you’re a member, vote here (for Eliza Harris).

A previous post on this blog pretty well sums up my viewpoint.

I would write more but I think the above links contain my thoughts and I’m pretty busy right now trying to do my part for CNU 20, running CNU Orlando, trying to contribute to a Sprawl Retrofit event and of course my wonderful job!