Midwest Sustainable Cities Symposium

The following is a guest post from the minds behind the Midwest Sustainable Cities Symposium, taking place this upcoming weekend in Chicago. For those in Chicagoland, this is a great opportunity to put on your Congress-minded hat before heading up to Madison for CNU 19. Hurry and register for CNU 19 today!

An Open Invitation to the first annual Midwest Sustainable Cities Symposium

The Midwest Sustainable Cities Symposium will be an annual meeting which attempts to build a bridge between progressive innovators and practitioners in different Midwestern US cities. It takes place May 28, 2011 from 11-5 at the Egan Urban Center at DePaul University. Room C-100 in 1 E Jackson, Chicago, IL.

The mission of the symposium is to join practitioners and academics from all over the Midwest in order to share their ideas and best practices in such fields as sustainable development, urban agriculture, cooperativism, and localism. By doing this, we hope to boost Midwestern cities’ attempts to reshape their urban landscapes. Many of the cities represented at the conference have been wracked by processes of corporate consolidation, de-industrialization and urban decay. In response to these processes, countless individuals throughout the Midwest have undertaken projects that seek to renew the spaces and functions of their cities, and part of their enduring and widespread success will depend on sharing ideas among a consortium of organizations, thinkers, and businesses. This inaugural Sustainable Cities Symposium aims to offer a venue for inspiring and spreading good ideas and exploring possibilities among the people who are already active. It will also serve as a starting point for students to engage the real-world possibilities that await them after graduation in Chicago and nearby Midwestern cities.

Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and countless other Rust Belt cities, in the wake of outsourcing and deindustrialization, have struggled to compensate for their losses in talent and population and indeed have failed to find new ways to attract "creative class" talent. A Detroit CEO wrote in an email to Rust Wire, the rust belt news blog, that his firm had no choice but to relocate because of its inability to attract talent to Michigan, despite “one of the best hiring environments for IP firms in 40 years.”

Instead of trying unsuccessfully to compete with Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, New York, etc. for creative class clout, Rust Belt cities might stand a better chance for revitalization if they adopt initiatives in the realms of urban agriculture, localism, cooperation, sustainability, etc. This way they will offer longer-term answers to the social and economic questions that remain ignored in prospering post-industrial cities. Many in Rust Belt cities have been attempting to work on these problems (like what to do with abandoned warehouses and how to accomplish the problem of food deserts, to name a few) within urban communities. Providing solutions to these persistent problems will carve a new niche for the former loci of manufacturing, and truly propel them into the 21st century with a different, but still very important, set of assets. It is our goal with this Symposium to unite some of the people already sharing this vision. 

The format of the Symposium will be something like this: 
Each presenter will offer a brief 15 minute overview of the project or projects he or she has been working on. During each presentation, we are asking audience members to write down their questions (we will provide pen and paper) so as to foment conversation during the discussion, to take place during the final 2 hours of the event. We will take a break for lunch when our keynote DePaul Faculty will present. At the end of the day we will allocate approximately 2 hours to a discussion, during which audience members will engage in a conversation in small groups with presenters based on sector or field. We will then report from each group, and following that the guest speakers will form a panel to discuss questions asked by the audience pertaining to the large issues facing our cities. While we don't expect necessarily to solve these problems in two hours, the diversity of representatives and the success they have seen in their fields will be a spark to inspire students, faculty and one another. This is at once a learning experience, a solidarity action, and a conference on positive findings. Finally, we will try to create an action plan, and discuss ways to keep the conversation going, and to continue to intrigue and involve participants, students and faculty.

We invite and encourage anyone who has an interest in sustainability, localism, coopoerativism, or is looking for a forum to discuss new ideas about our changing Midwestern cities. For more information on the presenters, schedule and the date and time make sure to check out our website atwww.mscsymposium.wordpress.com

We hope to see you there!

Dan Brown | Peter Murphy | Brad Nosan 

Midwest Sustainable Cities Symposium

 

 

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