We are the Change We Seek: An Approach to Smart and Sustainable Growth

So for my Sustainable Design Class this quarter, I had to write a mini research paper on examples of sustainable growth. The two examples that I chose to compare and contrast were that of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative as well as the rebuilding of the XiaoLin Neighborhood after Hurricane Morakot.

We are the Change We Seek: An Approach to Smart and Sustainable Growth

On March 2012, the world welcomed the arrival of the 7th billion individual into Earth.1 The rapid increase in population compounded with the advancement in technology has made for some complex problems. One particular problem that stood out is that of smart and sustainable growth. There are various cases of smart and sustainable growth and each has its own unique approach. One particular approach is that of change brought about within the community. When the individuals within the community are burdened by the environment that surrounds them; these individuals stood up and pursued change and in the process introduced smart and sustainable growth into their community. Two examples of this type of approach to the problem of smart and sustainable growth are that of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and the rebuilding of the XiaoLin neighborhood in Taiwan.

Case #1: Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative

One shining example of smart and sustainable growth in communities in America is that of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Boston Massachusetts.2   Roxbury/ North Dorchester neighborhood just few miles south of Boston was one of the poorest communities in Massachusetts.3  In 1980’s; however, Roxbury/ North Dorchester went through a change. The neighborhood was able to transform from a poor, abandoned, and run down area into one of the nation’s ten most promising urban neighborhoods.4 Numerous sources credited change to that of the individuals within the community and the forming of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. Those individuals who live in the Dudley Street Neighborhood that grew up playing in its neighborhood parks; who saw the decline in the neighborhood; who own and live in the shops and houses in the area stood up and declared that they wanted change.

Case #2: Rebuilding of XiaoLin Neighborhood after Hurricane Morakot

Across the globe, various community stories similar to the success of Dudley Street Neighborhood can be found. One that particularly resembles that of Dudley Street Neighborhood is that of the XiaoLin neighborhood in Kaohsiung City in Taiwan. Before Morakot hurricane, XiaoLin neighborhood was an unknown area. The individuals living in the village were mainly indigenous people who live in an agricultural environment.  Younger generations were leaving the village for opportunities in populated areas and slowly the village was falling apart.5 On August 8th 2007, Morakot hurricane landed on the island of Taiwan and the destruction that it left behind were devastating; XiaoLin neighborhood was hit especially hard.6 Heavy rain along with gusting wind combine with the strength of mudslides left only one building unburied in one of the villages in the neighborhood. Those that escaped death banded and together with the funding from the government and private and non-private organizations rebuild a smart and sustainable environment.

Similarities between Dudley Street Neighborhood and XiaoLin Neighborhood

Before both neighborhoods became exemplary cases of smart and sustainable growth, they shared the similarity of having a weak economy, decrease in population, and both faced disasters. Pre 1980’s Dudley Street Neighborhood was a poor neighborhood. Due to sprawling, companies left and took with them jobs followed by the people looking for jobs. To make matters worse, fire was frequent in the neighborhood. Land owners of vacant buildings saw setting the building on fire as a better economic decision than keeping the buildings.7 Vacant lots and burnt down buildings became sites for illegal dumping and crime rate in the neighborhood increased. In comparison to Dudley Street Neighborhood, XiaoLin Neighborhood also suffered from a decrease in population due to the lack of jobs. Unlike Dudley Street Neighborhood however, XiaoLin Neighborhood was not devastated by fire but my strong hurricanes followed by mudslides that destroyed almost the entire neighborhood.

A second similarity between Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and XiaoLin Neighborhood rebuilding is the desire for change. Individuals in their perspective neighborhoods, after suffering the disasters, stood up and took charge in the rebuilding and revitalization of their neighborhoods.  From the perspective of the individuals in the neighborhoods, when they are able to speak out about what they desired in their own community and actually have their voice heard is a foundation of having a smart and sustainable growth.

The third similarity between the two neighborhoods is the source of funding. For both neighborhoods to achieve smart and sustainable growth, large amount of funding was necessary. The main sources of funding were: private groups, non-profit organizations, government subsidization and local donation.

With the funding, the first thing the individuals in the neighborhoods did was the approval of cleanup project. Dudley Street Neighborhood started the “Don’t Dump on Us” campaign while XiaoLin Neighborhood cleared the mud and debris. By cleaning up their neighborhood, they were able to remove physical objects that remind them of the past and give them strength to continue on with the plans.

Other similarities include affordable housing and the building of a community. Both neighborhoods acknowledged the positives of affordable housing and fully embraced this ideas.8 Dudley Street Neighborhood followed the plan of cleaning up the environment first followed by the revival of affordable housings and building a community. The plan also calls for various actions to achieve a sustainable future.  XiaoLin Neighborhood reconstruction plan can be broken down into four segments, the first is the reconstruction of houses; second, the revival of home; third, planning the community, and lastly, have a colorful sustainable community.9

One final similarity between the two neighborhoods is that of networking. To revive a neighborhood is one thing; to bring about population, culture, and economic growth is another. Roads and transportations were examined and in the case of Dudley Street Neighborhood, new stations were opened, bike routes put in place, street front stores reconstructed and local jobs created. This is also the same in the case of XiaoLin Neighborhood reconstruction. New roads and bridges that can withstand earthquakes and hurricanes were constructed, electricity and water lines were examined, local industrial jobs were created, and a strong tourism community was founded.

Differences between Dudley Street Neighborhood and XiaoLin Neighborhood

Although funding was mentioned as a source of similarity above, the amount of money coming from each source is different between the two communities. Dudley Street Neighborhood obtained most of their funding from private sector as well as government support. On the other hand, XiaoLin Neighborhood’s funding came mainly from government responses to the hurricane as well as non-profit organization’s donation.

Other differences between the two cases include a focus in the building of organic farmland in XiaoLin Neighborhood as well as investments into tourism. Furthermore constructions in XiaoLin Neighborhood also had to be fortified in anticipation of future natural disasters.


In 2008, during the democratic primaries, than Senator Barack Obama said on Super Tuesday, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” and he continued by saying, “We are the change that we seek.” 10 Both the rebuilding and replanning of Dudley Street Neighborhood and that of XiaoLin Village are examples of change that were brought about by the strength of the people that live in it. Their commitment to the neighborhood that they lived in have not only improved their own surrounding but are also models of smart growth for other communities. Both cases are truly examples of smart and sustainable growth.2, 11


  1. Census.gov (2012). World Population Clock – U.S. Census Bureau. [online] Available at: http://www.census.gov/population/popclockworld.html [Accessed: 12 Sep 2012].
  2. Benfield, F. K., Terris, J., & Vorsanger, N. (2001). Solving sprawl: Models of smart growth in communities across America. New York, N.Y: Natural Resources Defense Council.
  3. Census.gov (2012). Census Bureau Homepage. [online] Available at: https://www.census.gov [Accessed: 12 Sep 2012].
  4. Wyly, E. et al. (2010). Ten “Just-Right” Urban Markets for Afforadable Homeownership.
  5. Citypopulation.de (2009). Taiwan: Counties, Cities, Urban Townships & Urban Areas – Statistics & Maps on City Population. [online] Available at: http://www.citypopulation.de/Taiwan-Cities.html#Stadt_alpha [Accessed: 14 Sep 2012].
  6. Chinapost.com.tw (2009). 600 believed buried alive at Siaolin – The China Post. [online] Available at: http://www.chinapost.com.tw/taiwan/national/national-news/2009/08/14/220414/600-believed.htm [Accessed: 12 Sep 2012].
  7. Lipman, . (1996). SEE RANK Holding Ground: The Rebirth of Dudley Street. [Accessed: Sept 14 2012].
  8. Dsni.org (2010). No Child Goes Homeless | DSNI. [online] Available at: http://www.dsni.org/no-child-goes-homeless [Accessed: 14 Sep 2012].
  9. 88flood.gov.tw (2012). 行政院莫拉克颱風災後重建推動委員會. [online] Available at: http://88flood.www.gov.tw/ [Accessed: 12 Sep 2012].
  10. Nytimes.com (2012). Barack Obama’s Feb. 5 Speech . [online] Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/05/us/politics/05text-obama.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all [Accessed: 14 Sep 2012].
  11. Taiwanembassy.org (2009). Australian scholar hails Taiwan’s post-Morakot reconstruction work – Press Releases – Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U. S. 駐美國台北經濟文化代表處. [online] Available at: http://www.taiwanembassy.org/US/ct.asp?xItem=276815&ctNode=2300&mp=12&nowPage=5&pagesize=15 [Accessed: 18 Sep 2012].




About t5huang

Masters in Environmental Science at UPenn Candidate
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s