Using a pizza metaphor, White calls his idea “selling change by the slice.” The idea, he argues, is to give people a little taste of what successful change is like so that they’ll be more likely to support more of it in the future:
But an awful lot of bold community changes can be tried out before being fully implemented. And if you’re proposing a big change, that may be the smartest way you can offer it: as a test. Find a place in the city where you can demonstrate the change and its benefits so everyone can see it. If it’s as successful as you expect, you’ll dramatically lower the fear level, and by the time you ask citizens and their leaders to accept the rest (a built-out transit system, a mixed-use development in their neighborhood, a new kind of recycling), it’s less like a leap of faith and more like a hop.
White’s post goes on to suggest some great, viable-sounding solutions for actually getting things done in a community. It’s also worth noting that both White’s concept and the one I mentioned a few days ago are similar to Jane Jacobs’ emphasis on “gradual money” that slowly gets invested in a community. She contrasts that idea with “cataclysmic money” that comes on all at once, causes dramatic change, and is negatively disruptive.
This approach seems perfect for a community like Provo where change — in the form of increased density, infill and development — is needed but often resisted. In fact, since I’ve been writing this blog I’ve been told again and again that people just won’t stand for anything slightly disruptive.
That’s certainly true to some extent, but I can’t help wondering if one of the problems has been the way issues were historically framed. After all, when sweeping projects are mandated from on high by government or wealthy developers even the most rational person can switch into NIMBY mode.
In any case, I like White’s approach. It’s very similar to the way I envisioned Provo converting over-wide streets into housing, but it could be applied in an array of scenarios to help give all of us a taste of good development.