Five Good Ideas

Building a Movement

Published on 28/11/2007

Building a movement for social change takes passion, energy and resources. Social movements have a life cycle: they are created, they grow, they achieve successes or failures and eventually dissolve and cease to exist. In this session Mary Rowe will highlight this lifecycle by examining a variety of tools to encourage innovative, holistic approaches to building a movement. Mary’s long and productive career has focused on facilitating solutions to complex problems in the public realm. In particular she played an instrumental role in advocating for a new deal for cities in Canada as Director of Ideas that Matter and currently works with a US philanthropic initiative fostering self-organization in urban communities.

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(More Than) Five Good Resources

  1. Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience . Harper Collins, 1990.
  2. Kauffman, Stuart. At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-organization and Complexity . Oxford University Press, 1995.
  3. Johnson, Steven . Emergence: The Connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software . Scribner, 2001.
  4. Easterly, William. The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done Much Ill and So Little Good , Penguin, 2006.
  5. Goldsworthy, Andy (sculptor)
  6. Surowiecki, James. The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business , Economies, Societies, and Nations. Doubleday, 2004.
  7. Barabasi, Albert-Laszlo. Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What it Means for Business , Science and Everyday Life. Plume 2003.
  8. Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals . Penguin, 2006.

Mary W. Rowe

President & CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute

Mary is President and CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute. An impassioned civic leader with diverse experience in the business, government, not-for-profit and philanthropy sectors in Canada and the United States for over 30 years, Mary has been a steady advocate and champion for place-based approaches to building livable and resilient cities, and community-driven local economies. She has led campaigns, organizations, initiatives, and companies spanning a few months to several years. Mary was deeply engaged in the self-organizing initiatives that emerged in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, providing support to two dozen initiatives that focused on various forms of resilience. She also supported, in her role at MAS NYC, community engagement efforts during the recovery from Superstorm Sandy, and Rebuild by Design. Subsequently, Mary has led local, national and international urban initiatives from Toronto and New York City, including the initial development of Re-Imagining the Civic Commons, an initiative to strengthen elements of the urban fabric that create social cohesion and community resilience, including libraries, community centres, parks and other “third places.” Following her return to live in Toronto, in addition to her role leading CUI, Mary is a Senior Fellow with Evergreen and Future Cities Canada, Lead Facilitator for the National Urban Project¬†and serves on the Advisory and Governing Boards of the New Cities Foundation and The Bentway respectively. Mary is also Senior Fellow with Shorefast, a charity and social enterprise focused on building place-based economic development strategies that strengthen local communities and foster their resilience.