by Jeff Piestrak
Building Bridges is founded on a vision where our social, economic and political structures exhibit and support equality and fairness, where control, opportunities and benefits are shared with everyone, and our decisions respect the earth and our local and regional ecosystems. In this post, part of an ongoing conversation already underway in our community and beyond, I’d like to begin exploring how we might go about Reimagining Our Infrastructure, and what is holding us back.
The Structure We Have Now
Kirby Edmonds has been helping many of us better understand how existing structures and associated services maintain current conditions, resulting in some people and families becoming chronically trapped within poverty and criminal justice cycles or bubbles (illustrated in image below), in spite of many good intentions and efforts like workforce training.
The recent Understand to Overcome film screenings and discussions have provided some valuable insights into how racial perceptions can contribute to these structural barriers. Episode three of the series, The House We Live In, reveals how institutions and policies can disproportionately and unfairly channel resources, power, status and wealth.
The Structure We Must Create
The image below illustrates some of the linkages which might be created or strengthened to move us toward the Building Bridges vision, and those which must be broken. Here many are now able to enter the “ownership economy” and all that entails, including access to property, capital, community/civic engagement, and greater control over one’s own economic destiny and well-being.
What’s Holding Us Back?
Kirby outlines several things holding us back from this vision:
- There is no one entity whose job it is to create a new structure, and a lot of entities whose job it is to maintain what we have.
- Lack of imagination.
- We have not decided as a community to create a new structure.
- Old habits of mind and behavior.
- Our current relationships across race, class and place.
Thankfully, a number of area initiatives like Better Housing for Tompkins County’s Home Ownership program are helping level this playing field, opening a door to ownership for many formerly excluded. Perhaps you know of other efforts, possibly even personally affected by those? Or you have a suggestion regarding what new structures might be created to support a more healthy, equitable and resilient community? Comments are welcomed below.
In future Reimagining Our Infrastructure posts, I’ll explore other examples and potential approaches for supporting the Building Bridges vision, including ways we might better align and coordinate existing efforts for economic equity and environmental sustainability.