An incremental approach to urbanism is focused on improving conditions. The incremental approach is focused on the small scale, low risk, investment. This approach is not about large budget investment. Incremental approaches are about thoughtful management can be accomplished through a bottom up grass roots approach, or from a top down approach.
I recently posted an Incremental Approach to Urbanism, where I began to define Incremental Urbanism. To expand and further explain the Incremental Approach, I wan to share how the incremental approach is being used in practice.
The two best examples of the bottom up grass roots approach can be found through the Better Block Project and Tactical Urbanism. These are both groups and philosophies that support residents to improve their community from the bottom up. I would encourage you to check out both of these groups and review the case studies and projects.
The grass roots approach is well documented, and the technical tacticians of these projects do an excellent job of sharing how they completed these projects. The less documented approach is the top down approach. The top down approach is harder to put your finger on, because in many places, government is the problem. However, there are places where government is undergoing dramatic change.
The top down approach in an incremental approach were local government is permission giving. I take the term “permission giving” from the work of Bill Easum and his book, Unfreezing Moves. Easum describes permission giving through the context of the congregation of a church. I assure you that the social complexity of a church is concentrated version of the social actions of a city, which make this a great comparison.
To paraphrase and virtually lift the words of Easum, a permission giving organization, is an empowering community where persons are encouraged to discover and live out their God-given gifts, in order to enhance the agreed-upon community vision without having to ask for permission for a central authority as long as they can find two or three people who want to help and what they do does not violate the DNA of the community. Permission giving communities are the places where new ideas are nurtured and supported.
The top down approach are the places where you use policies, procedures, and staff, to assist in incremental development. These are the places where local government have a clear mission that directs staff to continually improve place in every capital project. These are also the places that allow developers or residents to complete small scale demonstration projects through a permit type process. The local government allow for low risk projects to occur.
There are many places that have a top down, permission giving policies in place. You may not see these policies implemented at the speed of a grassroots movement. Remember, unlike the private sector, local government has no value of time. This is why you need to maximize the top down approach for the the projects with the bigger obstacles.
An incremental approach to urbanism requires both the bottom up and top down approach.