They serve on the boards of city planning and resource organizations, and they sit in seats of influence in local government. They donate thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of dollars to local charities, or invest in game-changing development initiatives. They work long, tireless hours to ensure that our communities continue to move forward. They are our leaders, they are our urban heroes, our shining examples of what one person can do in what, at times, seems like a sea of senseless city banter. These are the people that take our cities and help lift them up. This post has absolutely nothing to do with these people.
The good people who fit the above criteria deserve all the respect they receive, and much more. But there is a growing group of urbanists that we often overlook. It is the average man and woman who loves their city and does everything they can to promote it to their friends, and pretty much anyone else who will listen.
These folks aren’t chairing any organization’s board, but they at the opening of every new local shop or restaurant. They may not give thousands to charity, but if there’s a charity event on a Saturday night, they are probably there to support it. They don’t create local jobs, but they will invariably choose a hometown brew over a national beer, supporting local jobs. When you see them out, they are always wearing the t-shirt or hat featuring a nearby sports team or quirky coffee shop. They are active on social media, “virtually” introducing followers to every local restaurant, shop and event they visit. This man or woman lives and breathes their city, and even though they don’t hold any formal position, they are absolutely vital in creating a positive perception of our ever-evolving cities. If our leaders are the trains, moving our cities forward, these “average urbanists” are the ties and the rails, supporting and guiding the forward movement of our communities.
More importantly, these are the people that create a sea of local pride. The most influential way to change the attitudes of others is a web of like-minded city supporters, blanketing a city with a vibe of community positivity. But this palpable energy doesn’t only reset the perceptions of individuals, it gives confidence to local investors and business owners to build and expand operations, creating jobs and further opportunities in a synergistic manner. When people know they have a population that will support their business, they will move forward, lifting the local economy with it.
So that guy you know that just posted another positive review of the newest restaurant, or the woman you know that always drink’s your city brewer’s bohemian-style specialty? They are my heroes. Taking nothing away from the people that are on the front lines of our transitioning cities, it’s the sea of average urbanists that create the pro-local, attractively weird and beautifully unique culture in which our urban centers can thrive. They may not have money, they may not be in front of the camera or have their name printed in black and white… but they are the fabric that binds our communities together, lifting it up and moving it forward.