Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Economic Development’ Category

Seattle Area Group Continues Mission Work In Drug-Ravaged Guinea-Bissau

by April 30th, 2010

From Chris Collins, who was raised in Shoreline, just north of Seattle, and now works as a reporter for the Fresno Bee. With his family, he’s long been involved in mission work and would like to share this:

Flame is a Christian Seattle-based nonprofit that runs a school in Guinea-Bissau, one of the tiniest and poorest countries in the world. The West African country is quickly gaining an international reputation as the continent’s first narco-state. As the United States cracks down on the cocaine trade, Latin American drug cartels are increasingly turning to Guinea-Bissau and other poorly-governed states in West Africa as places where they can ship their product in bulk and then smuggle it into Europe. It’s estimated that the drugs that flow through Guinea-Bissau each year are worth more than the country’s GDP. As a result, many of the unemployed and poor in Guinea-Bissau are turning to this lucrative new trade instead of contributing to their country’s economy and society. Cocaine addiction among Guineans is a rising concern.

Flame is trying to help counter this trend. The trade school it has built in Canchungo, the country’s third-largest city, offers a post-secondary education that gives its students piratical skills that translate into jobs. It offers classes in sewing, computer basics, auto mechanics, and English. The school’s administrators and teachers are all native Guineans. The school has been open for more than two years and has more than 100 students. It has become a critical asset in the community. Eventually, Flame hopes to build similar schools in other cities in Guinea-Bissau and throughout West Africa.

Flame will host its annual fundraiser this Saturday, May 1, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Christian Reformed Church (14555 25th Ave NE in Shoreline).

Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000: Seattle Database For Tracking Building & Land Use Permitting

by April 21st, 2010

Here’s the audio file of my latest regular weekly appearance as the Public Data Ferret, on KOMO 1000 AM/97.7 FM with “Nine2Noon” show co-anchors Brian Calvert and Nancy Barrick. Our topic today was how citizens, advocates and community journalists can use an information-rich and customizable City of Seattle online database and mapping tool to track building and land use permit activity, and report on or add their voices to the decision-making process. Here’s the original Ferret write-up including related links, posted at the Public Data Ferret hub – that’s our own special searchable database of neutral, blogged synopses of important public documents, databases and data sets. And here’s the full transcript of today’s Ferret radio segment.

Co-anchor Brian Calvert: “Lots of people in the Capitol Hill neighborhood waking up to news this morning that their neighborhood is going to be a lot louder because of a Sound Transit construction project, especially in the first parts of next year, and there’s not a whole lot they can do about it because the city’s signed off on it. But have you ever wanted to find out more about what’s being built in your neighborhood, perhaps before the bad news is leveled, before it’s too late and you can’t do anything about it? Matt Rosenberg, the Public Data Ferret at, joins us. Matt, you actually came across an online database and mapping tool that helps us figure out what’s going on in our neighborhoods, right?”

Matt Rosenberg: “That’s correct. The Seattle Department of Planning and Development has an absolutely great database and mapping tool called the Activity Locator, and it can let you get a real jump on what’s going on in your neighborhood.”

Co-anchor Nancy Barrick: “And I see these signs every so often, the land use action, always wondering, does anyone listen if I care to make a comment about this?”

Matt Rosenberg: “Well they really do. There’s a pretty robust public participation process, but you do have to get keyed in. The city issues about 6,000 building permits a year, for property improvements valued at $2 billion, that was last year, in ’09. But you know, there’s a real balancing act involving economic interests plus concerns we all have about the environment, aesthetics, and traffic congestion. So, the permit Activity Locator, at the department’s site, makes it easy. What you do is, you go right in there and you can start looking at a lot of things real fast. You might want to check out how many multi-family residential developments have been approved in Seattle or in your slice of Seattle in the last few years. You might want to look at pending permit applications for major commercial or mixed-use projects in your neighborhood’s business district. There’s just a whole world of stuff there and you can just jump right in. And then, the key piece, Brian and Nancy, is that you can drill down. For each project, you can actually look at a permit summary, and see what’s being proposed, what’s happened so far – what the permitting history is, who the owner is, and even their address.”

Brian Calvert: “I would imagine, Matt, not only is this handy for people who live in the affected area currently, but if you’re thinking about buying property, or maybe you’re a business owner and you’re about to lease some office space, this might be great information to have before you make the commitment, right?”

Matt Rosenberg: “Totally. It’s very customizable, too, which is important for folks these days when they’re using online resources. So, you may want to get a feel for what other sorts of commercial and mixed-use projects are going on. You might be an environmental advocate and want to take a look a how much high-density development is really occurring, and where, and is it near transit stops, for instance. You might just be concerned about whether there are, you know, more town home developments going in, because you’ve got a bone to pick with all the traffic that seems to result from them. Or you might think that’s a good thing, and want to see what kind of progress the city is making in that area.”

Nancy Barrick: “Alright. Good stuff. Matt Rosenberg, the Public Data Ferret, at

RELATED: KOMO-AM 1000 broadcasts are live-streamed here.

Is All Entrepreneurship “Social”?

by March 11th, 2010

Ashoka, a prominent global non-profit focusing on social entrepreneurship, identifies some archetypal social entrepreneurs:

Susan B. Anthony fought for Women’s Rights in the United States, including the right to control property and helped spearhead adoption of the 19th amendment. Vinoba Bhave (pictured, left) was founder and leader of the Land Gift Movement, he caused the redistribution of more than 7,000,000 acres of land to aid India’s untouchables and landless. Dr. Maria Montessori developed the Montessori approach to early childhood education. Florence Nightingale was founder of modern nursing, she established the first school for nurses and fought to improve hospital conditions. Margaret Sanger was founder of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she led the movement for family planning efforts around the world. John Muir was a naturalist and conservationist, he established the National Park System and helped found The Sierra Club.

Ashoka says social entrepreneurs are about “creating solutions to change society for the better. While a business entrepreneur might create entirely new industries, a social entrepreneur comes up with new solutions to social problems and then implements them on a large scale.” The vitally important work of people such as Vinoba Bhave, John Muir or Florence Nightingale was both social and entrepreneurial, true. But cannot traditional entrepreneurs also contribute mightily to addressing social problems? Writes Carl Schramm in the Stanford Social Innovation Review: