Friday, January 8, 2016

Building Lovable Cities—Q&A with Peter Kageyama

What does it mean when a city is ‘lovable’?

In less than two weeks, explore the topic of lovable cities as Peter Kageyama shares his expertise on lovable cities in his hands-on workshop at the 2016 Leadership Conference.

Peter is a community development consultant and grassroots engagement specialist. In 2014, he explored the topic of lovable cities during his keynote speech at the Annual Conference. This January, he will be working with experienced officials to go in-depth and demystify what makes a city lovable.

Peter recently took some time to answer some questions about lovable cities.

How would you define a lovable city—are there signs you can see when you’re in a lovable city?
A ‘lovable’ city is one that you feel connected to—emotionally, physically, spiritually. There are many signs that you can see when you’re in a lovable city, but not all of them are obvious. I remember visiting cities that were down on their luck during the height of the recession, but still I saw residents with hope for the future. Providing that life and love is a sign everyone can see and take note of. Those are the most common signs—little things people do that show their love. Just like in personal relationships, small gestures that show people really care. At the 2016 Leadership Conference, I will work with city officials to view their cities through a different lens, one where they will be more aware of all the little signs residents create showing they love their city.

You mentioned seeing how much people love their cities, and how meaningful that is. Why is that emotional connection so important?
When you have an emotional connection, when you’re emotionally engaged, it’s because you love something. When you love something, you’re more willing to overlook shortcomings and go the extra mile for it. If you’re a city official, then caring is your job. That’s why you do what you do—because you love your community and want to see it thrive, you work for the satisfaction that you’ve contributed and made your city a better place. The question is, how do you get others to act on it? In my experience, the emotion is there. Residents live in and love their city, but they just might not realize it or know what to do with that emotional connection. As a city official, the real trick is then harnessing that emotion. When that happens, then our communities really thrive.

City officials are caretakers of their communities—how can they make the most of this unique role and draw out that love residents have and translate it into action?
It's true that city officials are the caretakers, but it’s not all on them. Most people think that city leaders have the sole responsibility of making sure our cities thrive, but all residents possess an unofficial leadership, and that is a hugely untapped resource. That’s what city leaders can harness, and it opens the doors to the process of city-making for everyone. What I want to do at the Leadership Conference is work with experienced officials so they can develop ways to tap into the resource of citizens and nurture that emotional-engagement.

Many projects can require a big investment of city resources. What can cities do to spark community engagement and create a more lovable city, without breaking the bank?
Most of the things that truly show how loved a city is are actually smaller things. It’s the unexpected, delightful, and sometimes silly things that we notice and keep with us. Once again, I feel it’s like a relationship. It’s wonderful to get a gift, but it’s often the card that holds the true meaning and profession of love, no matter the expense of the gift. City-making isn’t all big infrastructure. It’s also the smaller things: a dog park or community garden. A neighborhood event. These gestures have a disproportionately large impact on the community. Those little, silly things are what show our love for our cities.

What wonderful, and maybe silly, story do you have about your city? Get ready to share your city love-notes with Peter and your colleagues Jan. 22-23 in Brooklyn Center! Register by Jan. 19 to be a part of the 2016 Leadership Conference—visit the League's website to find out more and register.

Want an extra bonus to attending this year’s workshop? All attendees will receive a complimentary copy of Peter Kageyama’s new book Love Where You Live!

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