In June 2018, I joined Strong Towns as its Community Builder. My role, as the name suggests, is to help build and foster the Strong Towns community—interacting with readers and members through social media, our discussion board, and the good ‘ole one-on-one phone call.
I’ve worked with similar communities in the past. But at Strong Towns, I witnessed the undeniable difference my new colleagues had spoken so proudly of. And that difference is you—the Strong Towns community—who have wholeheartedly and enthusiastically committed to the vision of building strong places.
You’re here because you envision your town as a place where everyone can find an affordable place to live; where Main Street is filled with thriving local businesses; and where streets are designed for people.
Eventually, that vision can become so compelling that you choose to take action. But how? It’s one thing to read an article or listen to a podcast and nod along. It’s another to ask yourself the inevitable question we encourage all of our readers and members to ask: How can I apply this concept in my town?
How can I talk to my council about ending parking minimums? How can my council encourage more affordable housing? The questions are endless.
Our content stream alone doesn’t always—and frankly, can’t—connect the exact dots you want to connect, between a compelling story from somewhere else and what you can do in your unique place, once you’re armed with information and confidence, to make your own town stronger.
That’s why we’ve created a new platform that you can use to help you do it—no matter where you live. It’s called the Strong Towns knowledge base.
What is the Strong Towns Knowledge Base?
The Strong Towns knowledge base is a new platform dedicated to giving you—the citizen, the elected official, the city planner—the answers you need to take action.
Here’s how it works.
Say your city council is considering removing on-street parking in a mixed-use neighborhood to create a bike lane. From reading Strong Towns, you’re familiar with the concept that bike lanes benefit both the residents and the businesses.
However, when the council hears the proposal in a public meeting, a few of the small business owners on the street object, and the council considers voting down the project.
You’re faced with another question: “How can I show business owners that fewer parking spaces won't hurt their business?”
You can enter your question in the Strong Towns knowledge base and, if it’s been answered, find an article with advice on the exact situation you’re dealing with, so you can confidently take action.
How Can I Ask a Question?
This is a new platform; therefore, we’re starting small—this is Version 1.0. We’ve answered a few of our most frequently asked questions to get things rolling. Admittedly, that means we likely haven’t tackled your question yet.
That’s why the knowledge base allows you to join the conversation. (This is the most important feature of the knowledge base!) The question will be sent to our content team, who will get it answered, added to the knowledge base, and personally emailed to you.
When you’re submitting your question, remember that this is a public knowledge base. Therefore, ensure that your question is generalizable and helpful for others so they can use it to take action as well. (AKA: skip the hyper-specifics. If you have more particular questions—i.e. how can I make Green Street in Anytown, DE more walkable? rather than how can I make any neighborhood street more walkable?—hopping on our Slack board can be a great way to chat with other readers and get real-time feedback. You can even start your own city- or region-specific channel.)
Then, as we advocate at Strong Towns, we’ll incrementally grow the Knowledge Base to achieve our long-term vision: a platform where you can learn how to apply any Strong Towns concept to make your town stronger.
How Can I Help Answer Others’ Questions?
The Strong Towns staff is intentionally small, and we can only do so much in a work week. But our members and readers comprise a whole community of people with a collective wealth of expertise on how to make towns more financially strong and resilient—and how to get others on board. We want to crowd-source your insights and wisdom, not just contribute our own.
As you’re exploring the knowledge base, you’ll likely find an article that’s relevant to you. To take up our example of the bike lane again, let’s say you’ve had success discussing bike lanes with small business owners, and you used some strategies that we didn’t talk about on the Knowledge Base. We definitely want you to let us know!
At the end of every article, you can leave feedback—good or bad—plus, add a comment with an insight that could be helpful for other readers and members.
And here’s the best part: soon, submitted questions will automatically appear in Slack, where the Strong Towns Network can immediately share their insights—even before the answer is added to the knowledge base. You can stay up-to-date on all new features by signing up to get updates on the knowledge base blog.
Because the knowledge base is an ever-changing platform—with new and updated articles every week—your feedback and comment will be essential to helping us give you the answers you need to take action.
If we get a comment on a question that really nails it, we might just reach out to you and make your answer part or all of the “official” answer, too.
In true Strong Towns fashion, the Knowledge Base is intended to grow incrementally. As readers ask their questions and we get answers added to the platform, we believe the knowledge base can become the resource you need to translate your knowledge into action.
If you want to help your council understand why your main street matters; if you want to help your neighbors understand why we need to slow the cars on your street; if you want to help small business owners embrace bike lanes; if you want to build a strong town, then it’s time to get started.
Visit the Strong Towns knowledge base, ask your questions, and help us create a platform that can make every town in America stronger.
Top photo via Wikimedia Commons