Archive for the 'Economic Development_ Urban' Category

How Design Makes the World. Scott Berkun.

How Design Makes the World. Scott Berkun. 2020.  A journey into design literacy

The author poses  four powerful questions for us:

1. What are you trying to improve?
2. Who are you trying to improve it for?
3. How do you ensure you are successful?
4. Who might be hurt by your work, now or in the future?

In explaining design and the world around us he makes very telling and simple arguments.

What to ask of things you see around you:

What were they trying to improve?
Who were they trying to improve it for?
How successful were they?
What hidden constraints could explain its weaknesses?
Who were the powerful people who made these decisions?
Who paid for it?
Did people come first, or a technology, or an organization?
What message is the style sending to you? Who is included
or excluded from participating?
What systems is this design a part of?
Where in the natural world, or in another culture, might
there be a better solution for this problem?
Does this design create flow or conflict
What new problems does this design create if it’s
What are you going to do about all of this? (If in doubt,
start a conversation.)


Very useful book to anyone who designs and builds.

The New Confessions of an Economic Hitman. John Perkins.

The New Confessions of an Economic Hitman. John Perkins.  2016. ISBN 9781626566750.  If you don’t read about the international crooks you will not recognize them at home.  The author worked many years as an EHM. He was trained to go into third world or struggling countries to inflate growth projections from large infrastructure projects  ( Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Panama etc). These projects would then be funded by the World Bank and others and the country would be loaded up with debt.  . The money lent would go to US firms to do the work (of course some $  would find its way into select in country pockets).  The US engineering/construction company owners would pocket huge profits.

The projects would under deliver and the country would not be able to pay even the interest on these huge loans.  The US would pressure the govts to take on more debt, vote certain ways at the UN , buy more US products and so on.. The peoples’ lives would get worse not better. ( shades of the banana king and 1MDB )  If the govts did not play ball with US plans, regime change, assassination etc. would happen (Chile, Honduras, Ecuador, Panama.  Wrap a large disinformation campaign about this all.   You could not make this stuff up.  The author points out now that the same tricks are going on in US states with big projects and perhaps even in Canada.

A potent read, albeit the author is not concise enough for me. The story speaks very loud about the dangers of these large US companies, the military industrial complex and US policy.  Evidently China is following the same US playbook.

The Prosperity Paradox. How Innovations Can Life Nations Our of Poverty. Clayton M. Christensen

The Prosperity Paradox. How Innovations Can Life Nations Our of Poverty. Clayton M. Christensen. 2019.  ISBN 9780062851826.    Christensen is the most respected name in  any discussion of innovation with numerous relevant books to his name.  ( E.g. The Innovators Dilemma). He turns his attention to how can you turn around poverty . Using his theory of Jobs That Need to Be Done, he reverses our view from providing infrastructure first ( Banking, Ports, water systems  justice, anticorruption etc) to what inhibits the day to day life of the common man. He provides many case studies from American history and modern third world entrepreneurs who had to “do it all ” in order to build their companies, and put in place the infrastructure needed.  and examples of huge failed projects.   His point of view just makes so much sense, his chapter of corruption shining a fresh light on the subject.   Very readable with his detailed  footnotes that are as valuable as the text.

Smart Cities. Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia. Anthony Townsend

Smart Cities.  Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia. Anthony Townsend. 2013.  Slate magazine says,  “Townsend has collected fascinating stories of urban renewal and innovation from around the globe and packaged them into lessons that are neat and digestible”. Our City is pursuing an Intelligent City initiative and I found much useful information that applies in this book.   I especially found his views of bottom up initiatives  useful as that is the model my City is using.  He references many organizations and website that have some valuable ideas and programs for any City to investigate. Very much worth the read and this is an author to follow.

The introduction is available at

Naked City. The death and life of authentic urban places. Sharon Zukin

English: Looking southeast at Ikea store in Re...

Naked City. The death and life of authentic urban places. Sharon Zukin. 2010 . ISBN 9780195382853.  A very useful viewpoint of how New York ( and related large cities have dealt ( or not dealt) with progressive change in its neighborhoods.  By looking closer at Brooklyn, Harlem, East Village, Union Square, Red Hook, neighborhood gardens the author illustrates the relentlessness of change and how city approaches can help or hinder that. What is interesting is that when a neighborhood moves from gritty to cool, then gentrification and rising property values will follow, at some time or another.  The author does not forget her history with notes on  the likes of Jane  Jacobs and Robert Moses as well as notable mayors and their impacts.   Good grounding for the urbanest.

The Lean CEO. Leading the Way to World-Class Excellence. Jacob Stoller.

English: John leading Lean and Mean

The Lean CEO. Leading the Way to World-Class Excellence. Jacob Stoller.   2015. ISBN 9780071833073.  This is the missing  book that puts together the plethora of lean successes across industries , public sector and geographies.  You will learn not only where Lean came from ( Deming and much more) , but how successful it has been in some many sectors and why it has not been more widely adopted in N America.  For tech companies after the Lean Startup you must  become the lean grownup to survive and grow. This book will help point the way.  Clearly written with  lots of examples makes this an engrossing book. Well worth anyone’s time to sit down and read it.

Screw the Valley. A Coast-to-Coast Tour of Americas New Tech Startup Culture: New York, Boulder, Austin, Raleigh, Detroit, Las Vegas, Kansas City. Timothy Sprinkle.

Geographic center of the contiguous United Sta...

Screw the Valley.  A Coast-to-Coast Tour of Americas New Tech Startup Culture: New York, Boulder, Austin, Raleigh, Detroit, Las Vegas, Kansas City. Timothy Sprinkle. 2015. ISBN 9781940363301.  A very ambitious book.  Look at seven locations that are building up a tech economy, that are not in Silicon Valley. The author visited Detroit, New York City, Las Vegas, Austin , Kansas City , Raleigh-Durham and Boulder.  He met as many people, companies, accelerator/incubators, angels/VCs that he could and documented what he heard.  These locations are all going about this in their own way with or without government assistance.  The grass roots energy is considerable as is the commitment of local entrepreneurs who are paying their success back into the community. If your location/group/community is thinking about this path the book is a fresh view and there are some insights to be gained. The sheer size of this task allows you to forgive the very very odd mistake on why certain folks did very well.   Good read and it proves once again that cities can and will do it their way .

City 2.0. The Habitat of the Future and How to Get There. TED Books 2013

TED (conference)

City 2.0.  The Habitat of the Future and How to Get There.  TED Books 2013. An excellent resource . It is pragmatic and full of real world achievable examples. The bonus is the linkage to individual  writers and their individual TED talks. If you are in planning and urban design – a must read.  Clearly written and a fairly quick read.

Walkable City . How Downtown can save America one step at a time. Jeff Speck

English: A car of the Portland Streetcar syste...

Walkable City . How Downtown can save America one step at a time. Jeff Speck. 2012.  ISBN 9780865477728. The author, a city planner /designer has written an urban yet very readable guide to helping cities get away from their car addictions.  Many of our local public forums return to keeping our city( New Westminster) a walkable city.  Specks book is a great first step in seeing what can be and is being done in many places.  He does an excellent job of stipping us of the car based blinders and prejudices that we all have in North America. I appreciated that he noted the efforts of Vancouver and Portland in these efforts.

I just completed a journey to Greece and Western Turkey and it is blindingly how much more interesting an old, pre car built city is for walking than one that is car based.  And how increased traffic can really bind up these cities. Too bad they look to the West for insight son how to handle this.  Kind of like asking a heroin addict how to kick the habit.

Speck also does a great job of showing/ linking our car based designs to increased carbon footprints and how some thoughts in design can ameliorate/prevent  self induced issues.  That was again brought to me in the Turkish city of Marmaris which had many covered streets/bazaars that were very pedestrian oriented. This was in a city that has an average daily temp of 30 degs. Shade is really important.  Terminal 2 in Heathrow, UK  is another good example , which uses mostly north facing windows to prevent increased heat build up in the open plan building. Its is a good job.  If you fly Star  Allinace you can experience this.

I recommend this to anyone interested in living in a more interesting,  energetic and vibrant city.