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Civic Acupuncture

Peter Kageyama, Partner, Creative Cities Productions

Plexus and civic acupuncture—key words for Tampa, Florida—are two tools used to craft a more creative and exciting community geared toward attracting millennials and twenty-first century growth. 

Peter Kageyama, partner in Creative Cities Productions and one of the founders and directors of Creative Tampa, shared the steps taken in achieving these goals—and some of the things they would have done differently if they knew then what they know now.

Creative Tampa is a 501c3 organization created in 2004 with no offices, no budget, and no employees.  It is a strategic network that connects the connectors.  Plexus, as defined in the dictionary, refers to “any complex network or interwoven structure.”  And civic acupuncture is a phrase first used by Hymi Learner referring to utilizing small projects to institute large change.  Having little or no success in getting adults to recycle, he taught the children, who then went home and taught the adults.  Peter cautioned communities against using their resources like hammers rather than pins.  Very often pins are more effective in the long run.

Inspired by the work of Richard Florida, Creative Tampa set out to attract the creative class by using these tools.

Very often communities create silos within each department, each community group seeing only their own interests and failing to perceive their place in the community as a whole.  For example, traffic engineers often work against the desired sense of place as they see their only purpose is movement. 

Taking notesReferring to “The Long Tail” philosophy discussed by Paul Schutt at the previous forum, Peter shared his belief that most municipalities are already doing the “tall stuff” (streets, utilities, etc.), but need a long tail strategy, which is where the new growth and development will start.  Talent is the fuel—the building block that will move the community along—and it will be found most frequently in the long tail.  But remember, each community has to be unique—Berkley cannot be Detroit and should not try to be.  Detroit and Grand Rapids are at the front of the curve; Berkley and other small communities are in the long tail with great potential.  However, it is important to remember that as the “psychic center” goes, so goes the region.

It is important to establish a network that includes not only municipal functions but also the business community, the cultural community, and the philanthropic community.  It is important to keep those at the table clearly balanced, as too much arts and culture can drive away the business community if they feel their concerns are being ignored.  And be sure to include the millenials—in fact, Peter suggested including them in one of our forums.

It is also important to measure both where you are now and your progress as you move along.  For starters, Peter recommended a new matrix.  Search Google for the phrases “I love (your hometown)” and “I hate (your hometown)” and figure the ratios.  The City of Detroit, for example, is 4-to-1 in favor of “I love Detroit.”  In Chicago, the ratio for “I love Chicago” is 39-to-1.  Another measurement he commonly uses is  observing the number of families with kids in strollers.

Programs that have been useful in other communities to improve their success matrix are:

  • Encouraging mom-owned businesses—how easy is it for mothers to start their own business?  (Al McGeehan noted that Holland not only allows home-based businesses but encourages them.)

  • Engaging different people in different capacities, e.g. artists as planners, kids as consultants, and designers as civil servants.  This often results in real change as it breaks down the traditional silos.

  • Initiating different programs—for example the “Civic-in-motion Lab” in Cleveland.  This is only for individuals—no corporations.

  • Looking for unlikely partners, such as millennials and baby boomers.

Peter also shared some advice based on things that missed the mark with Creative Tampa

  • Don’t try to be another kind of organization.  Creative Tampa hired a part-time executive director and found it changed the whole dynamic of a purely volunteer organization when there was someone to whom they could assign things.  The volunteers disappeared.

  • You don’t need more organizations; establish more connectivity between those that exist.

  • More activity and less board meetings.

Challenges facing organizations such as Creative Tampa include the need to:

  • Be more open.

  • Utilize more technology and use it better.

  • Create more communication—and be aware that it may be a very different style than in the past.

  • Take more risks.  Occasionally fall on your face—it is rarely fatal.

And Peter left us with two final thoughts:

    • Competent failure vs. incompetent failure.  To have a program or project fail after you have done your homework and tried everything is a learning experience.  Failure because you haven’t tried is unacceptable.

    • Creativity happens at the edge of competency.


    If you have any questions, please contact: 
    Colleen Layton, or Arnold Weinfeld, .




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