Talk about soul. Last week I attended Westchester County Association's ReThinking Westchester conference and had an opportunity to listen to the heartfelt presentation of Ethan Kent, a seasoned expert on the transformation of public spaces, an authority on the practice of Placemaking, and one of the top honchos at Project for Public Spaces (PPS) in NYC.
Founded in 1975, PPS is a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping others create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. Their pioneering Placemaking approach helps cities and towns transform their public spaces into vital places that highlight an area's local assets, spur rejuvenation and serve common needs.
As soon as Ethan began to elaborate on his slide that identified the four elements that create place I saw the light. 1. Comfort/Image. 2. Uses/Activities. 3. Sociability. 4. Access/Connections. They were the same four essential ingredients that attract people to an amazing coworking space. When combined in just the right way, the result is that powerful, unexplainable feeling of knowing you have arrived. That you have stumbled upon something that makes you feel just a little different. A place that moves you.
Similarly, in 2008 Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation launched the Knight Soul of the Community project. They interviewed some 43,000 people in 26 communities over a three-year period and found that three main qualities attach people to place: social offerings, openness (how welcoming a place is) and aesthetics.
Many coworking spaces are the soul of their communities. The hub. The nexus. The place to be. How does this happen? There is much to be leaned and adopted from the practice of Placemaking and better understanding what makes a place succeed or fail, and what attracts people to a space, or pushes them away.
In closing Ethan talked about The Power of 10 as it applies to communities. Simply put, what are the 10 top attractions that bring people to a place, inspire them to linger longer, and make them want to return? This makes me think about W@tercooler's Power of 10. What makes us a destination and how can we tap into the soul of our community?
Thank you Ethan for sparking these questions in me, and for your efforts at PPS in educating and inspiring others to create and foster community.