The USA is about to have a leader with a real understanding of grass roots activism, with face to face experience of community engagement and organization, and with an ongoing commitment to supporting communities, urbanism and innovation. Obama understands that key to rebuilding the American dream lies in repairing its urban infrastructure and rebuilding its cities.
I am terrifically excited by an American president whose rise to power is based in local communities and who appears to be making a resolute commitment from the get go to respond and repay that support by attacking a range of critical issues at their source.
With a solid commitment to urban policy and innovation the new government is promising great transformation. By continuing to engage citizens in discussions about critical issues - with timely and personal response and feedback, this new government is already delivering much needed change.
Urban Policy & Innovation
The following is taken from http://change.gov/agenda/urbanpolicy_agenda/ (this link may change post inauguration) – I wouldn’t normally copy/paste such a large block of text, but I think its hugely important to note the critical connections made here between urban policy and community engagement, innovation clusters and sustainable economies, livable cities and healthy communities.
The Obama-Biden Plan
As a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, Barack Obama learned firsthand that urban poverty is more than just a function of not having enough in your pocketbook. It's also a matter of where you live -- in some of our inner-city neighborhoods, poverty is difficult to escape because it's isolating and it's everywhere. Our job across America is to create communities of choice, not of destiny, and create conditions for neighborhoods where the odds are not stacked against the people who live there. Barack Obama will lead a new federal approach to America's high-poverty areas, an approach that facilitates the economic integration of families and communities with efforts to support the current low-income residents of those areas.
Strengthen Federal Commitment to our Cities
- Create a White House Office on Urban Policy: Obama and Biden will create a White House Office of Urban Policy to develop a strategy for metropolitan America and to ensure that all federal dollars targeted to urban areas are effectively spent on the highest-impact programs. The Director of Urban Policy will report directly to the president and coordinate all federal urban programs.
- Support Regional Innovation Clusters: Thriving innovation clusters across the country like the North Carolina Research Triangle Park and Nashville's thriving entertainment cluster prove that local stakeholders can successfully come together and help reshape their local economies. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will create a federal program to support "innovation clusters" -- regional centers of innovation and next-generation industries. This innovation clusters program will provide $200 million in planning and matching grants for regional business, government, and university leaders to collaborate on leveraging a region's existing assets -- from transportation infrastructure to universities -- to enhance long-term regional growth.
- Create a National Network of Public-Private Business Incubators: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will support entrepreneurship and spur job growth by creating a national network of public-private business incubators, which facilitate the critical work of entrepreneurs in creating start-up companies. They will invest $250 million per year to increase the number and size of incubators in urban communities throughout the country.
- Build More Livable and Sustainable Communities: Our communities will better serve all of their residents if we are able to leave our cars to walk, bicycle and access other transportation alternatives. As president, Barack Obama will re-evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart growth considerations are taken into account.
- Foster Healthy Communities: How a community is designed -- including the layout of its roads, buildings and parks -- has a huge impact on the health of its residents. For instance, nearly one-third of Americans live in neighborhoods without sidewalks and less than half of our country's children have a playground within walking distance of their homes. Barack Obama introduced the Healthy Places Act to help local governments assess the health impact of new policies and projects, like highways or shopping centers.
Meeting during their work on the 2003 Gov. Howard Dean Presidential Campaign, Internet and online communications firm EchoDitto wrote the blueprint for Internet political strategy. It is fair to say that their subsequent work for clients such President Bill Clinton and Barack Obama for Senate must have contributed much inspiration for the online engagement strategy for the 2008 presidential campaign.
Youtube became the medium of choice as live debates, question answer sessions and political messages flooded the site. As Beccy Allen - researcher from the Hansard Society notes - "online campaigning has longer term consequences for government - once you have engaged people you can’t just turn it off. To make online engagement legitimate and effective in terms of continued engagement and policy development, a clear strategy for using citizens’ input and an explanation of where their input will go is important."
During the Transition, Obama’s “One president at a time” mandate hasn’t prevented his transition team for Innovation and Civil Society from continuing to engage American citizens in an ongoing conversation about the new government agenda. Continuing to use YouTube as their medium, the team poses questions for the public to respond to. Focusing on issues of service, economy, energy etc. the call to action continues.
In an personally engaging (and hugely time consuming) means of feeding back, Paul Schmitz from the Transition's Innovation and Civil Society Team responds personally to the comments and suggestions received online.
Also at ChangeDotGov – The Obama-Biden Transition Project - you can Ride on the Whistle Stop Train Tour, Join the Discussion, or watch any number of clips documenting life inside the Transition administration. This element of transparency and immediacy is something new in modern politics.
The mood in the USA right now is electric. There is such a sense of anticipation as the country readies itself for tomorrows fairytale inauguration. See what we’re all waiting for as Obama “Thanks” the nation in his last Youtube address before the big day: