Wake up, everybody! A vignette on the principles of equitable development
In 2012, an interdisciplinary group of professionals from the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) co-authored The Principles of Equitable Development. We intended this as a checklist to measure progress in boosting the economy and simultaneously protecting the environment and human resources. While these principles may not be explicit in tools like LEED, their essence is inherent with the goal of moving us toward an economically, ecologically and socially sustainable future.
The first two principles focus on external opportunities. Housing choice highlights disparities in wages and living costs that historically evict disenfranchised groups from gentrified ghettos. Transportation choice focuses on effective decision making, addressing the unique needs of different socioeconomic groups. But social sustainability must move beyond ‘stuff’ to incorporate people’s actions into the equation. The principle of personal responsibility encourages people to serve as change agents, while civic engagement fosters tactful assembly to denounce environmental injustice, and insists that citizens become engaged in policy making. Once we’ve taken personal action, the focus shifts externally again to capacity building - effective outreach and education toward fostering inclusive, healthy communities, which connects physical activity, nutrition, safety, and quality of life in cities.
Sustainable communities must move beyond the built environment to meet people’s basic needs – starting with access to high quality, healthy foods. Heritage preservation considers the value of historic buildings, landmarks, and monuments while also honoring the narratives, the institutions, and cultural assets that contribute to a sense of place.
Stewardship encourages us to protect and pass along community assets to the next generation, while entrepreneurship fosters independence and innovation to yield new jobs and an injection of dollars into a community. If citizens remain gainfully employed, then money management challenges necessitate sustainable wealth creation, providing individuals, families and communities with the tools for making sound financial decisions in order to help carve a path out of poverty.
As designers of the built environment, we must first ensure that our decisions do not endanger human resources or jeopardize the ability of future generations to support their own needs. But we must go further. We must wake up to those basic principles that promote an enduring, socially sustainable future for all – regardless of color, class, creed or means.