Apples & Oranges – How the Small Place Becomes Mighty for the ICF Jury

During our recent briefings for new ICF jurors, one the most frequently asked questions was “how do we measure a big city, such as New Taipei against a small one, such as Mitchell?” Our answer is simple. We use a universal sports analogy to make it clear.

As it is with people so it is with cities and communities. Being small creates an inferiority complex that either leads to a despondent resignation of one’s status, or a powerful will to look at it as an opportunity to overachieve. ICF jurors are tasked with looking at the bigger heavyweights of the Top7 and the smaller overachievers in this year’s group and determining which one has done the most to excel at each of the six criteria.

There was recently a boxing match in Las Vegas where the fighter that people said, “pound- for-pound,” was the best fighter ever won the contest. What did they mean when they called Mayweather “the best fighter, pound-for-pound?” They meant when you factored in all of the criteria for a great champion in that sport (speed, toughness, punching power, stamina, courage and ring intelligence), Floyd Mayweather, like Sugar Ray Robinson before him, is the best fighter in the world irrespective of the weight class to which he is assigned. In other words, a great fighter is a great fighter. If you are squeamish about boxing, try poetry. A work of poetry – if it is a true masterpiece – does not depend on the size or the length of the poem. What matters most is the feeling you get, and how you have been transformed, moved or changed by what the poet accomplished. We cannot quantify inspiration.

So it was with the Jury’s qualitative judgment of the Top7. The ICF Jury is being asked to evaluate seven communities based on our criteria, their stories and a report to determine which is, pound-for-pound (or neighborhood-for-neighborhood) the one that inspires them most. Many jurists develop their own quantitative system for categorizing the information that is presented. There is a lot of it, so it makes sense to do that. Some have their own method, including using a spreadsheet or matrix. Our Jury chairman, Jag Rao, has developed his own method which he is always sharing with jurors.

We have a quantitative ranking being done simultaneous to the Jury's qualitative assessment. So members of the Jury need not worry about their final “numbers.” It is their judgment we seek. Bear in mind that in years past, the Intelligent Community of the Year selection was based on a razor-thin margin, usually a fraction of point separated three of the seven at the end of the voting period! So we tell jurors that if there are two, three or even four communities that are close in their assessment – perhaps even too close to call – we suggest that they re-read the material given to them related to the sixth criteria. This year the criteria is the “Revolutionary Community.” It should be the tie-breaker, if there is a tie.

We know it is not easy to measure the small, the medium and large qualitatively. Some urge us to separate out awards into categories. But I say “no.” In the end a community is a place people call “home.” And there is no discrimination between one’s love of home in a rural hamlet far from the city, or in an apartment in the big city, far from the rural hamlet. Let’s just say that from ICF’s view, we are all in this together. May the champion who is, neighborhood-for-neighborhood, the best be named on 11 June in Toronto.

To our Jury: good luck and thank you! To those of you following their work: stay tuned. The best is yet to come.

Louis Zacharilla
Co-Founder of the Intelligent Community Forum. Louis Zacharilla helped found the Intelligent Community movement. He is the developer of the Intelligent Community Awards program. He is a frequent keynote speaker and a moderator at conferences and events.
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