Monday, July 18, 2011

Brian Frank on Civic Criticism

In his quest to bridge the gap between complaining about and contributing to civic matters, local writer Brian Frank posted an excellent piece last October which I've been meaning to draw attention to ever since.

The whole thing is worth a read, but Brian beautifully articulates the tension between the utility and place of criticism in the two paragraphs below:
"On one hand I know it’s not nice to criticize, and in most cases I prefer to see people actually doing things and making mistakes, rather than over-thinking plans and talking about hypotheticals and going nowhere. Criticism like mine can stifle action which is not something I want to do.
On the other hand I think a lot of us have ideas and suggestions that are worth considering and the last thing I want is everyone going along with mediocre projects to get along."
The agony over how to address the frustration is a pain I share with Brian; as a creative person myself I'm often quick to lose enthusiasm when ideas don't manifest themselves as "creatively" as I believe they could be realized. It's not that I believe "my" ideas are the best, it's just that I'm a fan of thoroughly exploring a number of ways to make things happen – in the end, I like to know why certain choices were made, which ones were rejected, and the overall story of how we got to where we ended up. This is where you'll earn my support.

Call it the designer in me, but I'm a sucker for the process.

So when Brian suggests later on in his piece that lending support is perhaps as easy as lending a hand, my hat goes off to him: finding a way to get more people involved in "making things happen" right from the start rarely fails to increase ownership and in the end, support.

It's a simple concept to grasp, and it's by no means a "new idea" – but it's an effort I truly believe we need to make take in so many of our civic matters, and it's worth an underscore with this blog post.

The next time you're about to set to work on a project – any project – throw your invitation to contribute as wide as you can. If it's support you're after, find it before your project goes public. Don't worry about too many voices slowing things down – you'll have to deal with those voices eventually anyway.

Many hands make more than light work – they make proud parents of us all.

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