Innovation, walkable cities, and well-being: gifts that keep on giving

One Tuesday a month, the ClearGov Blog team curates and shares three short talks on a theme. This month, at a time when we traditionally take stock of where we’ve been and where we’re headed next, we stumbled upon an unlikely thread: walking. It’s not the most obvious topic for a December post, but hear me out.

We started down the path of innovation in Ontario, strolled through Oklahoma City, and somehow ended up in a classroom in Nebraska. That’s what happens when you watch a couple of TED Talks. You end up going places you hadn’t planned and seeing connections you might have otherwise missed. TED Talks really are the gift that keeps on giving. Individually they can be inspiring, but collectively they can change the world — or at least your little corner of it. Consider this …

A woman walks four miles along a rural stretch of highway to work a four-hour shift at a grocery store. Her “commute” inspires a town administrator to innovate and reimagine the mission of local government. And, one clever, game-changing idea leads to another.

An urbanite drives to the parking lot to take the escalator to the treadmill. The irony inspires a city planner to rethink suburban sprawl. He reimagines cities that encourage walking — not four miles on a barren and desolate road, but a few blocks in a neighborhood where the walk is interesting and safe, and there are plenty of places to go and people to meet.

A teacher walks a mile in her students’ shoes — day in and day out — and no-one notices the wear and tear on her soul. Today’s educator is expected to provide social, emotional, and academic support to students who carry the weight of diverse and increasingly difficult circumstances to class every single day. Many educators carry that pain home with them at night. A Nebraska high-school teacher reimagines a society that not only recognizes teacher trauma but finds the time and resources to care for the caregiver.

The last week of December is always a time of reflection. Maybe you have a few extra minutes on your hands after the holiday dust settles and the food coma wears off. We’ve got just the thing to energize and inspire you for 2020. Let’s walk and talk:

Jason Reynar: Innovation in Local Government (13 mins)

In this inspiring 2018 talk, Jason Reynar reimagines the mission of local government.  A chief administrative officer for the town of Innisfil, Jason spearheaded a first-of-its-kind initiative to subsidize ridesharing in this sparsely populated rural Ontario-based town. After successfully launching a public transit system powered by Uber, he set out to apply the same outside-the-box thinking to other areas of local government. Find out how your civic neighbors to the north are improving quality of life through innovation.

Jeff Speck: Four ways to make a city more walkable (18 mins)

This is the second of two TED Talks on walkable cities presented by city planner and author Jeff Speck. Here, Speck outlines the four things you need to do to make a city walkable. These ideas are not just for big cities with big budgets, they’re for places like Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Birmingham, Michigan — and maybe your town. Spend 18 minutes with Speck to see how you may be able to apply his “theory of walkability” to your community.

Sydney Jensen: How can we support the emotional well-being of teachers? (11:30 mins)

In this frank talk, educator Sydney Jensen speaks eloquently about the hardest part of teaching. Spoiler alert: it’s not the curriculum. It’s the daily trauma of helping kids feel connected and supported in an increasingly detached society. Jensen shares real-world examples of schools that are effectively supporting the emotional well-being of teachers in practical, repeatable ways. Maybe Wellness Wednesdays could work in your district.

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