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The single greatest ally of those who would wreck the West is the idea that the West is homogenous.
Charles Wilkinson

The 5 Principles


Community Heritage Group Principles:

Underlying It All

The concepts outlined here are central to, and interwoven into, everything CHG does. Follow the links to learn more about, and find examples of, the Principles, and how they relate to CHGs Programs.


  1. HERITAGE: History, traditions, cultures, and stories are central to community health and identity. Its important, first of all, that we learn from the past from our successes and mistakes. Also, planning decisions often reflect local values, and thats a cultural matter, not a technical point. People care about and relate to heritage, providing the raison dêtre other initiatives often lack. Heritage is also a touchstone, preserving community memories and helping to clarify present-day issues. Also, "sense of place" is a component common to most community-building efforts, and an integral piece of place is heritage; hence, its a useful tool for blending best practices from different urban, rural, and regional planning techniques. Finally, differentiation helps places compete for tourists, jobs, and other assets; and showcasing your heritage is the best way to differentiate your community.

  2. CONNECTIVITY: Communities can no longer afford to plan in linear, one-dimensional ways. Similar to ecosystems in nature, communities are comprised of environmental, economic, structural, political, and cultural webs all of which interrelate. Like the pebble dropped into a lake, a seemingly benign community action can produce far-reaching, overlapping ripples. Thus, a comprehensive, multi-dimensional approach to planning is needed if citizens are to fully appreciate the consequences of their choices. "Communities of Character" are, foremost, healthy social ecosystems.

  3. EQUITY: Precisely because communities are interconnected webs, one element is seldom intrinsically more essential than another. Damage one part, however insignificant, and the entire network can be affected thats the nature of ecosystems. The equity principle suggests all points of view are considered, all built and natural resources possess "rights," and no single community ingredient the economy, environment, buildings, culture is inherently privileged over others. "Communities of Character" weigh issues fairly.

  4. DIVERSITY: Healthy communities welcome diversity in all its stripes. From a physical or resource perspective, that means variety in building styles and home prices, the nature of jobs and businesses, and regional design. Socially, CHG encourages multiple cultures, values, and points of view. Homogenous malls, single-industry economies, unvarying subdivisions, and lopsided politics dont foster "Communities of Character." Sure, diversity is messier, but it can also be more socially vibrant and economically robust.

  5. APPROPRIATENESS: "Communities of Character" look beyond copycat approaches and best practices that appear to work elsewhere, and build upon their inherent resources whether natural, cultural, or constructed. Few one-size-fits-all schemes succeed because each place has its own identity, its own resources. Citizens should ask, "Is this choice right for my community?" and analyze what "right" means from a variety of perspectives. Start with what makes your place special and allow that to develop organically, rather than imposing practices from elsewhere in a top-down fashion.

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