In 1831 a French count, Alexis de Tocqueville, visited the United States. The account of what he experienced and thought can be found in his book, Democracy in America. More than 200 years later, this small book has become standard reading in the fields of political science, history and social science.

In his commentary of this newly forming society, he notes the uniqueness and power of small groups of citizens coming together to form organizations that solve problems.

He noted three interesting features of these groups:

  1. These groups decided they had the power to decide what was a problem.
  2. They decided they had the power to decide how to solve the problem.
  3. They decided they could be a key actor in bringing about this solution.

This type of community, Tocqueville notes, was a revolutionary and uniquely powerful instrument being built in the United States.

I often ask myself, "Where did this type of community go?"

Well today I have to look no further than my own backyard in North Minneapolis. Too often the question we ask about North Minneapolis is "What can we do for North Minneapolis?" but today a more appropriate question might be, "What can we learn from North Minneapolis?"

This Thursday January 7th marks the groundbreaking of a unique cross sector partnership in the Hawthorne neighborhood. The Hawthorne Eco-Village is part of the Northside Home Fund cluster strategy and is being developed by Project for Pride in Living (an amazing nonprofit organization with 40 years of history in the Twin Cities), in partnership with the City of Minneapolis, residents of the Hawthorne neighborhood and the Home Depot Foundation.

"The Hawthorne EcoVillage development represents shared a vision among Hawthorne neighborhood residents and leaders, community agencies and the City to respond pro-actively to area toughest issues: crime, poverty, rising foreclosure rates and vacant housing, unemployment, and overall resident health.

It is one that uses best practices in community based development, neighborhood revitalization, and sustainable green development which will create a model for more healthy, stable, and livable communities." - From the Project for Pride in Living Website

Too often revitalization efforts in urban areas represent a top down approach that pay little attention to the needs and desires of the existing community members. The Hawthorne Eco-Village represents the opposite, a neighborhood based project being built from the ground up with neighborhood residents playing a central role in the redevelopment process. Uniquely tailored to the needs and conditions of the area, the Hawthorne Eco-Village serves as an example of how neighborhood revitalization efforts should be done.

On Thursday January 7th at 2:30 pm come celebrate the kick-off of the overall development and the beginning of construction on the first two homes slated for completion in 2010.

There will be a brief outdoor ceremony at the site (400 31st Ave. N.), followed by an indoor reception at Farview Park, 621 29th Ave. N.