Trust is one of the indicators measured by the World Happiness Report that ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. Trust is built through values such as the fact that citizens are encouraged to speak up when they witness something that is not okay. At the same time, the built environment also communicates trust. Take for example, the metro which trusts passengers for paying their fees and therefore, lacks the typical security measures such as the turnstile access control. If caught for not having purchased a ticket though, the fine is steep. Another indicator of the Danish etiquette for being respectful for others’ individual needs is that metro trains include a quiet section—similar to those in the libraries—where passengers need to be mindful of the noises they make. And, during major events sponsored in the city, the metro is free to increase accessibility.
Project Sweetie Pie uses gardens and urban farming as devices for teaching and helping youth enjoy learning and explore diverse career paths. The organization serves as an example of supporting equality, conserving local recourses, as well as enhancing North Minneapolis’ economic prospects. Founder Michael Chaney discusses the importance of providing opportunities for youth development: “It isn’t just dollars, it’s the young people and the people who will become the leaders of tomorrow. How can we hope to be sustainable if we’re not educating those people?…. And gardens could bring in corporate fellows and their families and their children. And bring in neighborhood residents and their families and their children. It gives us a direction and goal in the community to really focus our creativity.”
Project Sweetie Pie
Photo credit: Project Sweetie Pie
Almost a third (28.1 percent) of Seward community’s population is foreign born, compared to 15.3 percent of Minneapolis’ population (American Community Survey, 2012-2016). Kerry Cashman, Community Coordinator of the Seward Neighborhood Group talked about community building: “We came up with the idea of having meals together, ongoing. And so we set up two sets of meals, four Tuesday nights, and the request was that if you said you would come, you had to come to all four…and we would have a topic each week. And they’d be like, talking about gardening or talking about animals or food or traditions, holiday traditions and then eating together. And it was amazing.”
Seward Neighborhood Group
The 8House was designed by Bjarke Ingels Groups as a community-building apartment complex with businesses on the lower floors. There are generous spaces for gardens, a daycare center, community spaces, and a restaurant within the parameters of the building. The building’s shape encourages residents to interact and create connections by for example, access to the units being through a long walkway around the complex. Although this is an upscale community with market-rate housing, it is situated adjacent to an affordable housing complex. This closeness of the residents from different areas of financial background allows the residents to break down stereotypes and learn from each others’ differences.
Factors such as having family in the neighborhood and interaction with neighbors have been found to provide a contextual understanding of why people stay in a neighborhood. But according to a Pew Research Center (2010) study, fewer than half of American adults (43 percent) know most or all of their neighbors. In his book The Vanishing Neighbor, Marc Dunkelman (2014) argues that technology coupled with new routines of everyday life have expanded the breadth of our social landscapes while at the same time, eroding the incidental interactions that have built local communities for centuries. The shared courtyards of Copenhagen’s residential buildings foster an environment that encourages residents to meet each other and build social connections. Playgrounds, barbeque areas, picnic tables, and elevators placed in a central location provide opportunities for residents to pass by one another.
Knowing Your Neighbors
The city embarked on a strategic visioning for the future with 10 projects, including an expanded bike/walk trail system; Community Wide Technology, that provides low cost technology including wireless internet to increase economic prosperity, enhance education, and heighten community safety; Community Recreation Center, where residents can meet, exercise and play; waterways maintenance, including recreational opportunities such as kayaking, canoeing, tubing, swimming and fishing; business-friendly environment that attracts new entrepreneurs, encourages retail and reuse of under-utilized buildings; community pride by fostering support and mentorship programs along with physical beautification; transforming the old utilities building into the anchor for Austin’s Art Row to complement the Main Street Renovation Project; establishing downtown Austin as a destination point; and the “Gateway to Austin,” an iconic I-90 overpass attraction that represents the community’s identity.
Roseville, St Paul, Maplewood, and Ramsey County are developing short- and long-term vision plans for the Rice Street-Larpenteur Avenue intersection. The cities see this node as becoming a high energy, mixed-use “Gateway” that serves the neighborhoods and broader community, which includes some of the lowest-income census tracts and a high degree of diversity. Senior Planner Brian Lloyd reflects that, “It’s an area that has seen disinvestment for years and years and the visioning study is designed to bring some attention and some investment both from the public entities as well as…promoting private investment.” The “Gateway” focuses on safety, health, and social equity and will be linked by a continuous multi-modal transportation network with improved streetscape improvements and access to natural features/amenities. Design and redevelopment will promote pedestrian activity, support local business vitality, and create a greater sense of place.
Rice Street Gardens have become a cultural meeting place for the immigrant populations living in Roseville–26.2% of the city’s population is now people of color, including many new immigrants. The 250 garden plots are used predominantly by Nepali, Hmong, and Karen refugees living in Roseville, Maplewood, and St. Paul. Accustomed to growing their own food, the gardens provide the refugee and immigrant residents with a sense of home, access to healthy foods, and exercise opportunities. Studies have long revealed the mental and physical benefits of gardening (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017; Van Den Berg & Custers, 2011; Wang & MacMillan, 2013). Potlucks occur throughout the growing season and act as a means for residents to share diverse foodways. Fees are kept low and community partners provide necessary resources like land, water, and financial support.
Rice Street Gardens
Photo credit: Sherry Sanders from Rice Street Gardens
Bemidji Ojibwe Language Project is enacted by more than 150 area businesses to support the Ojibwe community and showcase Bemidji’s diversity–12.32% of Bemidji’s population is Native American. The project created a movement among local business owners to include meaningful phrases from the Ojibwe language on signage. According to Michael Meuers and Rachelle Houle (two volunteers who started the initiative), while three Native American communities are situated in Bemidji, not many connections between these communities and local residents were created in the past. Celebrating the Ojibwe language through store signage helps Native Americans feel more welcome and enables non-Native residents to learn about the Native culture and traditions.
To help preserve the Ojibwe language, much of which was lost due to forced assimilation and forced acculturation, signage around Mahnomen County is being changed to incorporate both English and Ojibwe. Roads, lakes, and rivers are demarcated in both languages. While the signage preserves the language and provides important educational opportunities to both the younger tribe members and the community at large, seeing the language acknowledged is important in creating connections to the culture of the Ojibwe people. White Earth Cultural Coordinator Merlin Deegan articulates that the language can help reclaim the past from within the day to day lives of community members. These signs are a physical reminder of the people, language, traditions, and history of the community, an important tool for building meaningful relationships in Mahnomen County.