After a recent post, Wake-up Calls for Economic Growth Demand Action, we received the following question from a reader, and because it is one receive fairly regularly, we asked a few friends of ours to answer it:

I’ve read several similar articles recently about Memphis, and it has made me want to do more to get involved.  I’m a transplant to Memphis from the Mid West, and am a fairly highly educated (MBA) professional.  I moved to Memphis out of college for a job, then out of Memphis for work, and chose to seek a job back that brought me back to Memphis.  I’d like to get involved and look into how we can make Memphis a city that attracts more young, educated professionals, but I have no idea where to start.  What are the best ways to get involved in moving the city forward?

Here are some answers (more to run in our next post):

Margot McNeeley, Project Green Fork:

When I moved here 22 years ago, I wondered the same thing. So, I met the P&H Cafe! Not saying bars are the only places to meet people but it was a start.

I would encourage your reader to cheek out some volunteer opportunities with organizations they are passionate about. Farmers Market, Zoo, Museums, Launch Your City, Theaters, Memphis Heritage …. They should get on mailing/email lists of organizations that have gatherings to learn more about Memphis whether through FB, twitter or just signing up on local interests websites.

And most importantly, talk to people. I learned that Memphians love to brag about their city and help newcomers.

Tommy Pacello, Mayor’s Innovation Team funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies:

This question comes up a lot when we present on our Team’s work or talk about the role of Tactical Urbanism in creative placemaking. As a side note, I think that part of the reason Tactical Urbanism has become so popular is that formal channels for how to engage are not clear. Time is a luxury and people become frustrated if it is not clear how to engage or they don’t feel like their voice is heard. TU becomes sort of this constructive “city hack” for having your voice heard – make a point while actually addressing the problem.

I don’t have a clear answer for this question – it is something that we need to work on as a community. Below are a few things that for some people might be places to start.

»        Understand the Issues – Cities are complex places and there are rarely simple solutions. City staff is stretched thin by budget cuts and current city resources are anemic. We need to understand the realities of the new economy and the need to adjust. We must understand the history then look to how other cities are talking about the same challenges. If possible, travel and study the places you love most and bring ideas back to Memphis.

»        Demand Better – Not just of elected leaders but also of local businesses, neighbors, and ourselves. If out at a restaurant and it is dirty or the food is bad say something constructive to the staff. If a neighboring business or resident is not maintaining their property say something to them and offer to help them. If you see trash on the sidewalk or in the gutter stop and pick it up. Be a good neighbor and lead with a carrot. If that doesn’t work look to other options.

»        Organize, Take Ownership, and be Creative – If you and your neighbors see something that needs to be addressed in your neighborhood devise a collective solution and address it (see the Tactical Urbanism manual –  can help crowd resource community solutions to community challenges.

»        Get Out and Support – Ideas, neighborhoods, businesses and leaders behind them. Show up at meetings and community events. Make them fun – There is no reason that rebuilding a city shouldn’t be fun.

»        Serve on a Board – Non-profit, community/neighborhood association, or government agency. Find something that you are passionate about, get educated on the options and seek out how to be part of the decision making body.

Darrell Cobbins, Universal Commercial Real Estate, and Chairman of the Board of the New Memphis Institute:

In my opinion, the best way is to seek out the organizations that are focused on making Memphis better through the lens which you are most passionate (youth, politics, poverty, mentoring, young prof connections, etc).  This is where you have the opportunity to learn more about the present state of affairs, in whichever area(s) you have a curiosity or interest (becoming informed and educated on Memphis)…as well as build the relationships w/ those like-minded Memphians who may share the same passion, interest, and curiosity.  This is what leads to dialogue, idea-sharing, and solutions/action.  In every endeavor I’ve been involved typically happens through this informal/organic process.