I started this blog when I started working for a socially and environmentally-conscious real estate development company in February 2020. I had just finished two master’s degrees: one a Master of Social Sciences (with an emphasis in Social Justice and Women and Gender Studies) and the other a Master of Public Administration.
My interest in community development started much earlier than my career in real estate development. In a broad sense, I think it started when I fulfilled my life’s dream of studying in Paris (and ended up being miserable). That is the first time I really started questioning my values, priorities, and the life that I was attempting to build for myself.
In a narrower sense, I think it started when I read this article by Nick Smith called, “Poverty, Money, and Happiness.” Smith’s article problematizes how we tend to think about economic growth and wellbeing. Essentially, it examines these questions:
If money doesn’t equal happiness, then what does? And how do we make sure our policies enhance wellbeing on a local, national, and international level?
Smith’s article was one of the first that made me question the moral implications of standard community development practices. It made me think about the values, beliefs, and priorities that guide the work of civic professionals, social workers, activists, and organizers as they work to improve communities.
People who work in development typically focus on its practical aspects. Whether they’re working to alleviate extreme poverty in Africa or trying to curb the deleterious effects of gentrification in the United States, the strategy is typically this: eradicate poverty now, ask questions later.
Yet, as so many thinkers, researchers, and policymakers have realized,
the formula for thriving communities is more complicated than economic growth = happiness.
What’s more, the earth cannot sustain unfettered economic development on a global scale.
We need to think more critically about what we’re doing when we invest in communities and develop neighborhoods. We need to be more imaginative with our economic development strategies. And when we are working to improve people’s lives, we need to reflect on our own values and question our own beliefs – particularly the normative ones that tell us that one type of community is better than another.
Whether we’re neighborhood activists fighting for our own lives or the lives of those we care about – or civic or non-profit professionals guided by our moral obligation to help others – we need to think philosophically, culturally, politically, and scientifically about all that do.
The purpose of Creating the Good Life is to intellectually inform community development efforts by providing a space for progressives to debate ideas, exchange values, and engage interested members of the public.
Because progressive action should be guided by pragmatic progressive thought.