The Placemaker

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In every person there is all the knowledge and skill to be a leader. When one links that with a passion, a great deal can get done.  This project is that link for me.  And I hope a by-product of this project ignites others to link to their passion as well.  All it takes is an idea, a support system, even if it’s TED Talks or the Village Building Convergence and a little creativity.

Here are 10 Basic Placemaking Principles that I learned, provided by the Village Building Convergence, to help support your effort .

1. Support Local Leaders: if you have a local leader, or what I would call a “connecter” in your community support them. It’s tough having the job of activating a community toward a higher good. You also might need them to support you in return. So if they knock, answer.

2. Focus on local assets: all neighborhoods and communities are different, either in a socio-economic way or a geographical way. It’s important to keep that in mind when you are in the process of thinking of ways to improve the neighborhood. When you have gatherings, it’s ideal to map out where your assets are in the community. For example, if your neighbor Joe is a musician and your other neighbor Lucy is an event planner, perhaps they can partner up together to plan the entertainment at the next gathering. Don’t be afraid to tell people what you are doing when you ask them about their trade or interests. Here is an example of Community Resource Localization/Asset Mapping from the City Repair  website.


3. Value the process: this can take some time to understand. In the beginning of this project all I could do was think about it and plan in my head all the different things I wanted to happen. The dangers in taking on more than you can handle is that you lose sight of the purpose and all your energy is wrapped up in planning and presentation. If your intention is to form relationships, that will happen and the rest will organically unfold.

4. Be Open to Ideas: always be willing to listen to others. I’ve had many ideas that I pushed back because someone else had something more engaging or that that they were willing to help out on. This isn’t “my” AlleyUp, it’s everyone’s.

5. Start Human scale: each exchange in relationship leads to endless opportunities. No matter how small or simple the task it adds up the social capital. After meeting and getting to know the neighbors behind me, we now cat-sit each other’s cat when we leave town.

6. Designed for Connection: always keep in mind that placemaking is about sustainability on many levels. It’s purpose is to sustain relationships, assets, ecology, a sense of living in a place. Planning projects with that intention will keep you on track for success.

7. Design for community growth: placemaking is INCLUSIVE. In today’s community, people tend to focus on their property line and what they can do to improve their own space. There is value in letting go of that perspective and envision what could be of service to people that live beyond your property line.  For example, I have planted a pumpkin patch in a forgotten space between two neighbors’ homes, in hopes to have ripe pumpkins for our next Fall neighborhood gathering.


8. Professional Support:  when there are times that you don’t know what you are doing and there doesn’t seem to be a neighbor coming forward, it’s okay to seek out assistants and teachers. Here is our neighbor Darci, who is a landscape designer, teaching us about native and drought tolerant plants for the parkway rehabilitation.


9. Community is Inevitable: with a placemaking intention as your foundation, relationships will form, no matter what the physical by-product is. There is some kind of magic that happens when you share your vision and invite others to share in it too.

social capital

10. Community is the Foundation:  Always find the best projects to support the community. When considering projects always keep in mind the values of the community. And you find those out by asking. Find out what people’s definition of community is and manifest projects based on those ideas.


Most importantly, every Placemaker has a story to tell. To share your story click on contact in the menu above.