I’ve been using Facebook since January 2011, and this online communications tool continues to impress me. Corey Sciuto, a fellow Lowell blogger and member of this year’s class in the Public Matters leadership development program of the Lowell Plan Inc and Nat’l Park Service, wrote to me on FB and said he enjoyed the many messages I was posting under the title of “Innovative Cities Stuff.”
Some of our rh.com readers will recall the 2010 Innovative Cities Conference in Lowell, presented by UMass Lowell, the Park, Lowell Plan, Middlesex Community College, City of Lowell, and others, including the office of US Rep Niki Tsongas. UMass Lowell’s Continuing Studies unit managed the conference registration and operation in a first-rate way. Major sponsors included businesses (AECOM, Trinity Financial, Nobis Engineering, Winn Companies, Enterprise Bank, and more), community organizations like Acre Family Child Care, Coalition for a Better Acre and Lowell Heritage Partnership, and the Parker Foundation of Boston.
Over three days, more than 250 people attended sessions where city planners, business people, elected officials, community activists, educators, and others shared their experiences, often successful experiences, in places ranging from Portland, Ore., and Milwaukee, Wis., to Chapel Hill, N.C., Belfast in Northern Ireland, Ann Arbor, Mich., and Lowell. The keynote lunch speaker was National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, who talked about the way urban parks fit in to the National Park system. UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan gave a keynote dinner address describing a development concept for Lowell as a ”university and college town.” Congresswoman Tsongas conducted a hearing in partnership with a Washington, DC, research institute on best practices for city growth and sustainable social and economic policies. All of these activities took place at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center. In the two years since the conference the topic of Innovative Cities continued to engage lots of people in Lowell, some of them who work on urban issues in their jobs and others who are passionate about city life.
When I started using Facebook, I “Liked” a number of news and informations FB pages related to urban issues and community development. Gradually, I picked up more sites and began Sharing the postings to my circle on FB—which brings us back to Corey. He suggested that I create a FB group on Innovative Cities so all the info would be in one place and not interspersed with postings or sharings on every other kind topic. I told Corey that I could not take on one more task at this time and asked if he would set it up and keep an eye on the group. About ten minutes later, he wrote back to me and said it was done and live on FB. We both started pushing info to the group page and rounding up members. There are more than 200 members now. Everyone can contribute. I see it as an effective and efficient activity to follow up the 2010 conference. It amounts to a virtual, open-ended conference where we can share with the world the innovative activities in Lowell, pose questions about challenges for which innovative solutions are needed, and learn from people all over the country and globe about what they are doing in their communities to make life better.
If you are on Facebook, you can join the group. We look forward to your contributions, comments, and insights.