“Our police are more trusted in our republic than our president.”
Here’s a “pop” quiz: name the source of that quote.
Hint: It does not come from an authoritarian leader of a country. Nor does it come from the United States in 2021.
It comes from representatives of the world’s most Intelligent Community: Tallinn, Estonia. It is part of a new podcast series that is my attempt to begin to get to the raw, poignant and seemingly intractable issues our communities continue to grapple with in this Era of COVID.
In Estonia, where the primary challenge for police in its cities seems to be traffic tickets, you will hear a different view on policing, digital trust and cyber security than you might be accustomed to hearing. In Estonia, where in 2019 six people lost their lives through acts of violence through the first five months of the year (there were twenty-five violent deaths the entire year), there is a common sense policy in place if you want to own a weapon. There is a mandate to have a mental health interview AND a medical check-up! And in a city that is constantly fending off attacks from Russia and elsewhere, there are background checks using a sophisticated registry system. Few nations have more IT power and trust of their digital space than Estonia.
Yes. All places are different.
By contrast, in Chicago, Illinois (USA) during the 2021 Fourth of July weekend, the streets of the “Windy City” were jammed with EMS vehicles hurtling through red lights to retrieve the 104 people shot the weekend the American republic celebrated its birth. (Nineteen of them died.) Among those wounded were 13 children and 2 Chicago police supervisors. Five children were shot within 9 hours of one another.
So let’s stay in our lane here at ICF and ask, “What can broadband and knowledge workforces and innovation and all the rest of our Method factors do about situations like this? Because if there is no public safety, attempting to raise an Intelligent Community will be as successful as petting a hungry shark. There may be good intentions, but you’ll still find limbs missing.
The ICF Method is a proven means of making cities run more efficiently and, in the case of places like Tallinn and Taoyuan, it has made life demonstrably better. Places as diverse as Canada, Taiwan and Brazil trust the Method. We want more of them doing that.
We are battered with plagues in the form of violence, deteriorating mental health and an inability to find a civic path forward amidst toxic politics. Today’s worst trends spread like a virus thanks to social media. The permeating sense of mistrust and disunity of obviously important tools of progress like science, medicine, governance and ethics has shredded us psychically. Only local governments remain trusted. Marginally. But something to build on.
We are terrified and mistrustful. Sadly, as they say, it’s all in our heads.
To identify and solve deeper human conflicts is an act of courage and requires taking a step back. It does not ask for more acceleration.
“The purpose of life,” Gandhi once said, “is NOT to increase its velocity.”
We know for a fact that if we rely solely on technology and cheerleading about the number of science parks we have, we solve little in spots where the pain comes back to haunt future generations. In the broken places. To produce what one ICF Jurist once referred to as a “Mensa Society” of elite communities is neither the goal or the mission of ICF. It puts pressure on the Intelligent Community programs in cities and asks of them more than they can possibly deliver. We need to go deeper. And the Method takes us there, too.
Connectivity will not eradicate all of life’s problems. It is obvious that our newest discovery of fire, the digital platforms that amplify us without filters, has revealed us for what we really are: complex creatures. A mixture of fire and ice. Alternatively rational and irrational. Capable of great acts of reason but also constant rationalization. And denial. You can keep your nose in that phone, but it may get broken when the next riot starts on your streets.
We believe strongly that within the ICF Method and approach there is a genuine way to bring people to a common place and to improve and even redefine the notion of community.
So through our podcast, I have started down the path to what is at present a pathless land. I am asking questions based on gut instincts and observations that reflect our whacked-out time; a time when we all seem on the verge. We are exploring mental health, policing and the “moment of truth” when cities turn around for good – or flip the wrong way. ICF is shaping the narrative of the community again.
Connectivity can play a role as a tool for reattaching our emotional broken parts, as an outstanding podcast session with author and psychologist Lisa Wolf revealed. In addition to being a pain in the ass, Zoom can be a healing tool.
Relieving the pain and humiliation of homelessness on our streets is taking place in at least one Intelligent Community with humanity and compassion. In our podcast with Hamilton, Canada’s Sgt. Peter Wiener we learned about the “Social Navigator,” which is one of the more innovative approaches to policing in North America. His proposition is simple: “If you can lock your door behind you and go to a place that is yours at night, things begin to fall into place.” But like our societies, the “Social Navigator” is a complex tool that involves collaboration from many agencies and organizations. It too is a “pathless land” because it is new. But the caring and love at its core is timeless and is a sense of vocation.
And that is powerful.
On we go. In a remarkable new book (sent to me by another ICF Jurist) called The Heart Aroused, author David Whyte says that “work makes us feel safe.” But he adds, “the soul is safe already.”
How does a community find this elusive point of assured safety? Stay tuned through the summer and fall. It’s going to get exciting as we get closer to the verge of answers.