Community Planning and Community Diversity

During the latest Community Learning Day at Leadership Waterloo Region, something we touched on triggered a thought that I found frustrating and disturbing – frustrating and disturbing because I can’t think of a clear direction for identifying a solution. We were discussing the issues involved in community planning and transportation systems with Sunshine Chen, and we came to a couple of realizations.

Premise 1. Good community planning comes from identifying common shared values of a communities’ constituents, and creating a living environment condusive to those values.

This was underlined by Larry Smith, who spoke to us about the micro-level of city planning: the people. He told us a great story about his own family’s experience and how about a city’s economic growth is all about people. "It’s all about this simple, spooky word: home. You seek your fortune, and if you’re luck, you find home."?

Premise 2. Today’s communities are realizing create benefits from increased cultural diversity. More opinions, more thoughts, and different values are painting an exciting tapenstry and a rich cultural experience.

The corrollary of these two premises is therefore,

Premise 3. Because of increasing cultural diversity, today’s communities are becoming increasingly difficult to properly plan.

I find this precept rather worrisome, because I feel as though it is one of those facts, that if unaddressed, can lead to increased instability in our social frameworks. For example – when implementing a healthcare network, we now need to plane health networks that are able to accomodate dietary constraints, faith issues, language barriers and other cultural issues. In fact, every social system that we have becomes exponentially more complex (and therefore more difficult and costly to implement) due to this cultural diversity we celebrate.

On the other hand, the more common our values are (or rather, the more segregated out populations) the more cost-efficient the support networks can be.

The reason I worry, is that unlike other give-and-take issues, this one does not seem to have a clear second side. If I say "the govenrnment needs to spend more on education" the immediate response is "well that money needs to come from somewhere" – and so the give and take nature of that issue creates a self-balancing system automatically. This issue, however, is different. If i say "Our community needs more cultural diversity" – everyone will celebrate and support that cause, regardless of the implied increased complexity and cost of our social systems. At what point will this be taken too far? How much diversity is "too much". At what point do we mix things up to such a granular point that difference becomes the norm and?complexity the standard; at what point can we no longer afford the social systems and no longer hear individual cultures above the noise of diversity?


VP HCM Products at NetSuite and Founder of TribeHR and Lewis Media. Waterloo Region Enthusiast and active volunteer.

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