The streets.mn mission is:
To foster positive connections and inclusive conversations about better places in Minnesota.
I want to focus on just one adjective in that statement: “better.”
This site—streets.mn as an organization—is dedicated to improvement. There are different approaches to improving something, and certainly the mission statement leaves considerable room for people to disagree about what is, in fact, better.
But what the mission does not contemplate is defending or being satisfied by the status quo. Things can’t get better by staying the same.
If streets.mn is to achieve its purpose, I believe that every conversation and connection fostered here has to center a possibility for, an openness to, and ultimately, a striving for change for, the better. We’re here to discuss the who, what, how, and when of the change. Not “if.” Not to luxuriate in the comfort of the way things already are, or to valorize the morality or perceived necessity of individual choices in the context of how things already are. Streets.mn is for exploring changing how things are, so places can be better and people can make different, better, choices.
A lot of change resistance—particularly to change the magnitude of which is from time to time discussed here—comes from the psychological experience of sunk costs. I know what it feels like to confront a massive change, with its attendant losses, and to wonder if I really can approach the world differently. I sunk four decades of my life into trying to be a guy, seeing no other feasible alternative. My life could not improve until I let go of all the sunk costs, until I faced down the fear, friction, and inconvenience – and embraced change.
We all have this capacity: to allow ourselves to imagine the benefits of even massive, transformative change, and to not be deterred by the discomfort that change might require. Doing something one way for 40, 60, 80 years is not an excuse to avoid doing something better, starting today. Sure, a lot of people get benefits from and enjoy the status quo. That’s cool. But this site’s mission is to challenge the status quo, to seek improvements.
This is why I’m grateful to have been invited to participate on the streets.mn board. Streets.mn is a place and an organization that acknowledges that change is necessary—that the status quo can and should be improved upon. It’s a simple but powerful premise that creates a universe of new possibilities for how we organize our lives and build our environment.