Why “Slow Communities”?

To launch Slow Communities I am delighted to write an inaugural blog post about why we’ve chosen this name.

CC Image courtesy of westy48 on Flickr

CC Image courtesy of westy48 on Flickr

The concept of “slow” is probably best known in conjunction with the Slow Food movement, which Wikipedia describes as “[striving] to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and promotes farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem.” And there’s Slow Money, promoted by the Slow Money Alliance, working “to build local and national networks, and develop new financial products and services, dedicated to investing in small food enterprises and local food systems; connecting investors to their local economies; and, building the nurture capital industry.”

It seems that our fast times are calling for slow with other movements popping up, such as “Slow Travel,” “Slow Art,” “Slow Counseling,” and even “Slow Parenting.” Our own Barbara Ganley pioneered the concept of Slow Blogging, and I’m just about to read a book about “Slow Democracy” by Susan Clark and Woden Teachout. These efforts share the aim to connect people with local resources and one another, taking the time to relish the local assets of a place or a professional community, savoring the process of creativity, and generally being more proactive and thoughtful about what we do, say and choose.

But what about Slow Communities? Slow Communities are, I’d argue, the wisest communities; they are the ones to follow. So how do you know a Slow Community when you see one? Wikipedia doesn’t have a definition yet (note to self), so here goes:

A Slow Community takes the time to know itself, engages its constituents widely, listens to new as well as old voices, and works deeply through issues to find common ground and creative solutions. Slow physical communities such as towns and cities employ these principles to articulate their essential characters; they demonstrate a willingness to reject development that is fast, careless, uninspiring and destructive, and they show a commitment to their legacies and their residents by proactively charting and maintaining a pathway for long-term, sustainable growth that respects the past and present, while fostering a vibrant and enduring future.

Fortunately we have some great examples out there. The Orton Family Foundation’s “Heart & Soul” program for one. The “Envision Utah” approach employed many of these techniques and the Knight Foundation’s publication “Soul of the Community” documents some of the economic benefits resulting from deeper inclusion and a nurturing of the creative and social sectors. There are certainly other examples I could cite and I’d love to hear about ones you know, participate or live in.  And how about adding to or refining my definition of the term in a comment to this post?

While this post has focused on slow communities with a physical form: a city, town, village or even region, the principles of “slow” and the work of slowcommunities.org also relate to professional communities within individual organizations like foundations or non-profits or networks and consortia. In future blog posts I’ll explore these slow communities, so stay tuned.

I hope you’ll join the work of Slow Communities…ready, set, slow!

CC Image courtesy of kenteegardin on Flickr

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