Chris Hardie

Blog, Tech, Business and Community Building

community

March 22, 2014

Shutting down Richmond Brainstorm

20140322-screenshotFive years ago this month I launched the community improvement website RichmondBrainstorm.com. The site allowed users to submit ideas for ways to make Richmond, Indiana a better place, allowed other users to discuss and vote on those ideas, and shared success stories of ideas that had been implemented. I created the site because I think it's important for a given community to shape its own course for the future instead of waiting for solutions from state and national governments, and because I was tired of hearing good, creative ideas from others that never seemed to get the attention or visibility they deserved.

In the time since, some 86 community improvement ideas were submitted and discussed, and a number of the ideas became real projects that were implemented. The site got over 140,000 visits from around 45,000 unique visitors. I've also received contact from people other communities around the country asking for help to create a similar resource in their city, and so the idea of an online community improvement idea inventory seems to itself have become an idea worth spreading.

But, after an initial period of significant activity, the Richmond Brainstorm site had become largely dormant, with no new ideas submitted to it in close to a year. Over the years I've regularly talked to local community development organizations who have said the concept of the site is an exciting one and could even be integrated into their own efforts at prompting further conversations and action, but as yet Richmond does not seem to be a place where most of those kinds of conversations want to happen online, for better or worse. That combined with the time that it takes to keep the site's software current, deal with spammers and perform other administrative tasks has begun to outweigh the value that I think RichmondBrainstorm.com is currently bringing to the community.

So, as of today I'm shutting the site down.

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February 27, 2014

Disruptors among us

Security Theater KnifeIt seems that every healthy and thriving community, city, social group or ecosystem remains healthy and thriving because they can handle having a disruptive element with an important role to play.

The disruptors are the people or events that shake up the status quo, question why things are done a certain way, or introduce an element of chaos or discontent into the system and forces it to evolve, change or adapt.  They are the people whose survival or well-being is not dependent on the stability of the system; revolutionary new ideas and significant change rarely come from those whose livelihoods and sense of security depend on things going along as they are.

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June 20, 2012

A city in distress

edvard munch - the scream  1893If you live in or near Richmond, Indiana, it looks like you picked the wrong year to stop sniffing glue. (Does anyone get Airplane! references anymore?)

Have you ever scored yourself on the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, which measures your personal stress based on which of 43 major life events (death, divorce, job change, etc) have happened to you in the past year? It's an interesting scale because it recognizes that significant life change - positive or negative - brings with it an increased potential for illness and possibly other problems.

I think if we were to do a similar scoring of events in the life of a midwestern city, Richmond, Indiana would be somewhere in the "freaking out" to "going ape-shit" range. I dare say, we're a city in distress.

Even beyond what's happening at the state, national and global level - economic turmoil, war and other violence, toxic political races, Charlie Sheen's career, etc. - I suggest that the last year in the life of our community has been an unusually tumultuous one here.

Just a partial list of some major events I've observed in the recent life of Richmond in no particular order:

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June 19, 2012

An anonymous letter about the state of Richmond

Last month I received an anonymous and wide-ranging letter in the mail about the state of affairs in Richmond, Indiana, addressed to "Positive Place Committee, Madame Mayor, Richmond and Wayne County Government Officials, Palladium Item Advisory Board, and Leadership pundits."

I take it that I received it because I'm on the Palladium-Item's community editorial advisory board (though I would much rather reside in the 'leadership pundit' category because it sounds cooler).  The letter was mailed on May 15th, and was sent via USPS to an incorrect version of my office address, but made it to me anyway.

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February 16, 2012

7 Ways to Help Young Professionals Engage in Richmond

IMG_2224.JPGThere's a new group in town - H.Y.P.E. Richmond - that is working to "connect and mobilize young professionals to make the Richmond area an even greater place to live, work, and play."  If you're interested in those efforts, you might consider joining in on the brainstorming session they're having tonight at the Firehouse BBQ restaurant, 5:30 to 7 PM.

I won't be able to attend, but as an employer of some younger professionals who gets to hear some of their concerns and struggles "engaging" in life in Richmond, and as someone who has spent my own young professional life in Richmond, I want to offer a few initial ideas about how to help connect and mobilize that demographic.  (This is in addition to the ideas already being submitted and discussed at RichmondBrainstorm.com.)  My hope is that others will add to the list over time:

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December 13, 2011

5 ways to be a leader without running for office

Pilot BoatWhen I ran for office earlier this year, I noticed that a lot of people I talked to thought of themselves as existing firmly on one side of a certain line, and elected officials existing on the other side.  It was the "who can be a leader and get things done in our community?" line.  For some folks, the implication was that progress and transformation happen only when those elected officials take action, and that everyone else just kind of does their own thing and waits for progress to happen.

Of course officials who are elected and empowered by government to take action are often central to many kinds of community progress.  But it certainly doesn't mean that getting elected is the only way to be a leader in your community.

So, I offer this list of Five Ways to be a Leader in Your Community Without Running for Office:

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August 19, 2011

How to decide whether to join a volunteer board

Dinner Party DessertIt's an honor and a privilege to have volunteer opportunities to use our time and talents for the betterment of our communities. One common opportunity is to serve as a board member at an organization you care about and whose mission you support.

I've written before about things you might consider when leaving a volunteer board of directors for a non-profit or other community organization. I've also had some good conversations recently about the process on the other side of that kind of community involvement, deciding whether or not to say "yes" to joining a board of directors or taking on some other leadership role. For your sake and for that of the organization, it's important to do some research and reflecting before accepting that invitation, to make sure your involvement is a good fit and that the experience will be rewarding for all involved.

From my experience, here's a list of steps to take and questions to ask when you're considering whether or not to join a board of directors:

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March 3, 2011

Tom's New York Deli changes ownership

In early January, I published a blog entry noting that Tom Amyx, owner of Tom's New York Deli here in Richmond, wanted to give away his restaurant to someone who could carry it forward with a positive and exciting vision.  It turns out that my blog post generated quite a few inquiries to Tom about […]

November 21, 2010

Why can't those downtown merchants get it right?

There's an interesting and sad article in today's Palladium-Item, Main Street struggles for survival.  Articles like it are being written about struggling downtown areas across the country, so of course it's nothing new in "this economy," but because it's about the downtown in my community, I take special notice.

The article contains some interviews with downtown business owners, some perspective on the history of the Main Street organization there, and some talk of renewed activity from merchants and business owners (myself among them) in helping make the area thrive.  But there's something missing from the picture the article paints.

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March 13, 2010

Walking to Work

Main Street West of 8th - 1960For over a year now, I've lived less than a mile away from my company's office in downtown Richmond, Indiana.  And for the first time in my life, on most days I get to and from the office by walking instead of driving.  It's been a really enjoyable shift, and one that I hope I never take for granted, given how much of the rest of the country commutes to work every day.

Some observations on walking to work:

  1. Since walking has become my usual mode of commuting, I've found myself noticing even more what complex and sometimes onerous machines automobiles can be.  There a feeling of lightness I have in walking out the door and propelling myself down the street, feeling my muscles working and pace changing, saying hi to people and noticing changes in their moods and dispositions from day to day, just being out in the open air of the world.  This is much different from the protocols for entering, activating and safely operating my internal combustion go-go machine from one place to another; it's just a much heavier and more isolating experience, and while it still has its place, I'm quite glad to partake in it less often. - Read More -
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