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Building Vibrant Communities

Building Vibrant Communities

By Bench Consulting- Patronicity
A podcast for anyone interested in supporting and being a part of the future success of our cities and towns. From downtowns and high streets to main streets and small towns.

This podcast covers a range of topics including activating public spaces through placemaking, main street small business success and growth, community building and fundraising, and much, much more.

You’ll hear from main street directors, city officials, property owners, small businesses, designers, architects, artists, entrepreneurs and urban thinkers about what the future of our cities and towns may hold and how we can
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"Social Capital, Power, and Access - The value of connection in growing capacity." with Deborah Frieze

Building Vibrant Communities

"The Challenges and Opportunities in Embracing What's Weird" with Ryan Hamlett
CreatINg Places - The Challenges and Opportunities in Embracing What's Weird Joined by Ryan Hamlett, the Placemaking and Environmental Review Manager at the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, we talk about the challenges of managing a statewide #crowdgranting program, CreatINg Places. We also share what makes a project a good one. Hint - It's a good sign when a community embraces what's authentic and weird.
December 17, 2020
"Streets for Recovery" a chat about Pandemic Response Placemaking with Allison Burson.
Streets For Pandemic Response And Recovery A challenge facing communities right now is how to reopen while keeping residents safe through physical distancing. In a time when we’re required to maintain physical distance to protect public health, streets need to do more than ever.  Streets must be configured so that people are able to move safely and provide space so people can safely access food, essential services, and businesses. Bridget and Jonathan talk with Allison Burson of the The Lawrence and Lillian Solomon Foundation about how quick, affordable and flexible adaptions can make public spaces safer for people, while increasing mobility and carving out new space in streets, parking lots and other public places. In the summer of 2020, bench consulting partnered with the Solomon Foundation to assist with their "Streets for Recovery," a grant and technical assistance program for communities in implementing safe social distancing measures to reopen their local economies.  Read more at
October 15, 2020
What is Patronicity? A discussion with Ebrahim, Bridget & Mahala
The Building Vibrant Communities podcast was the brainchild of Patronicity and Bench Consulting, but what is Patronicity and what is bench? This week we’re asking co-founder Ebrahim and one of the first program managers Mahala, to tell you more about Patronicity. We chat about the early days of the start-up and how it has grown to have impacted more than 935 projects, engaged more than 100,000 patrons and generated more than $36M of funding for better communities. Beyond crowdgranting, they've also created Bench Consulting to take the learnings and experience from those projects to consult communities and organizations around the country on how to make more livable, lovable and supportive public places.
September 30, 2020
Supporting Your Main Street During A Crisis, an interview with John Bry
This week you'll hear from John Bry, the principal planner of Main Street Oakland County, the only county-wide Main Street organization in the country. You'll learn how John helped his Main Streets respond to COVID-19 with our Main Street Oakland County COVID-19 Small Business Relief Program. You won't believe how quickly these communities came together to support their small businesses or how much they were able to raise. John also shares tips for how Main Streets continue to adapt and build community in the current climate.
September 17, 2020
Expand the Tent - Insights from a Community Builder, a conversation with Bud Tymczyszyn
In this episode, we chat with Bud Tymczynszyn, a program manager at Community Builders, a company focused on creating livable communities. Bud shares his experience in helping communities solve real challenges and we dive deep into how it's not enough to ask your community for input, it's important to "expand the tent" and provide real leadership opportunities.
September 02, 2020
Taking Action - How technology is making it easier to be a Civic Champ with Geng Wang
We're sharing our conversation with Geng Wang the co-founder of Civic Champs, a platform designed to support nonprofits. He shares how their technology is helping organizations focus on what matters rather then getting bogged down in paperwork to make volunteering as seamless as possible. We also talk about what engagement means and Geng shares how Civic Champs is responding to COVID19 with their Helping Hands initiative.
August 12, 2020
"Changing the narrative - Placemaking as a tool for thriving and inclusive communities."
Our guest, Kim Van Driel, the Director of Public Space Management at Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., is no stranger to shifting environments and constantly evolving community goals. But, nothing could have prepared her team for the dynamic pivot that was required in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and civil unrest. In this episode, she shares her teams' ongoing mission to create a vibrant, dynamic and inclusive downtown, while providing valuable experiences for everyone in a 4-season city.  In the past few months, Kim and her team have focused on creating outdoor social zones to allow for safe downtown commerce, empowered the black community to create public art in the wake of destructive rioting, and have expanded on their public art installations to include a powerful mural program focused on women's voices. Their ability to be agile and adaptive, and to share and learn from others, is helping them change the landscape of this evolving Midwestern city.
July 29, 2020
Lessons on How to Create Space for Your Community to "Do Better Work."
Lessons on How to Create Space for Your Community to "Do Better Work"   When software start-up Lessonly began they found space in an old school house in downtown Indianapolis. As they have grown, they've worked to maintain a connection to their values. In this episode we talk with Karlie Briggs and Kimberly Best to explore how Lessonly's mission to "Do Better Work" inspired them to not only create physical spaces that support their company culture but connect them to the local community and how they are now creating those same connections with and for their customers.
July 16, 2020
"How a corporation can support Main Street?" A discussion with Bill Brunelle of Independent We Stand.
In our efforts to support Main Streets across the country, we heard about Independent We Stand a marketing campaign from gasoline powered equipment producer Stihl. We wondered how a large corporation like Stihl started a movement to support small towns so we reached out to Bill Brunelle the co-founder and project manager to learn more. In this week's episode you'll learn why focusing on what's local can be good for the community and the bottom line.
July 08, 2020
"What's Important About Place?" A discussion with Indiana's First Placemaking Manager.
When Carmen Lethig became Indiana's first ever placemaking manager she chose to work with Patronicity to develop the CreatINg Places program. In this week's podcast we dive into what's important about place, about how planners like Carmen can make better places, and what she hopes our future communities will look like.
July 01, 2020
Pay it Forward: How a Zoom call started a movement to support black & brown-owned businesses and feed the homeless
This is a story about 5 friends who came together to make a difference in their community. In March, as the impact of COVID-19 was disrupting life in Detroit, Melanie D’Evelyn, Godwin Ihentuge, Jeremy Lewis, Shelley Danner, and Sarah Craft jumped on a Zoom call to brainstorm ideas on how to support black and brown-owned businesses and how to help those most vulnerable in the city. Within days, they founded "Pay It Forward: Power a Business & Feed the Homeless," a crowdfunding campaign with Patronicity to support Detroit restaurants owned and run by people of color by paying them to cater meals to homeless shelters in the city. With an original goal to raise $10,000, news of the group’s intentions and the impact on both small businesses and people in need spread and they exceeded that goal in a matter of days.  The group increased their goal as more donations came in and were able to raise more than $52,000 from an astounding 546 donors.  This provided more than 7 weeks of daily meals to 4 homeless shelters, and helped keep more than 10 restaurants in business. These are the restaurants and owners that were part of the program. If you are in Detroit, make sure you seek them out. Detroit Pepper Company’s Marlin Hughes Norma G’s Lester Gouvia Yum Village’s Godwin Ihentuge Terri's Cakes' Garnet T. Gullet T’Mos BBQ’s Tito Dotson Rincon Topical’s Lizaida Moreno Lucki's Cheesecakes' Rhonda Crenshaw Morris Table No. 2's Omar Mitchell Black and Mobile - delivery
June 24, 2020
"Social Capital, Power, and Access - The value of connection in growing capacity." with Deborah Frieze
This week's guest is Deborah Frieze, an author, entrepreneur and social activist. In 2013, she co-founded the Boston Impact Initiative, a place-based impact investing fund that seeks to create systemic shifts in opportunity for urban communities.  Deborah shares her insights on how the connectivity of our communities to and with the systems that serve us play a vital role in development. We also explore how ownership is critical to achieving equity and that circulating dollars locally is essential to wealth building.
June 17, 2020
“Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives," with Sarah Williams Goldhagen
This episode’s guest is Sarah Williams Goldhagen, the author of “Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives." She is an author and architect critic who has taught at Wellesley, Harvard and is currently a visiting scholar at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Sarah shares what "exactly situated cognition" is and why understanding that concept can lead to powerful understandings about how we operate in our buildings, our communities, and our spaces. We talk about “sticky moments” and how designers and placemakers can reconsider our values to improve our environments and our lives. For Bridget's review of Goldhagen's book, head over to our blog: Placemakers.
June 10, 2020
How can cities connect and cultivate a local creative community? A discussion with Sean Starowitz
How can cities connect and cultivate a local creative community? We ask this question and more to Sean Starowitz who is not only an artist whose work is focused on social justice and community engagement but who is also a leader who currently serves as the Assistant Director for the Arts for the City of Bloomington, Indiana. Sean shares his thoughts about using the term "placemaker" and how having artists at the table is critical. His thoughts about representation and access are timely and describe the need to evolve.
June 03, 2020
Jaime Izurieta- A Passion for "Memorable" Storefronts
Jaime J. Izurieta is an architect and urban designer based in Montclair, New Jersey. He has been identifying patterns in the design of beautiful storefronts since 2003. He works as an urban designer and zoning code analyst and recently published The Ten No-B.S. Rules For Successful Storefront Design, a guidebook to help small businesses design memorable storefronts. You can connect with him on Instagram at @storefrontmastery.
May 27, 2020
"All in This Together - Creating a Sense of Community in our Connected Systems." Interview with Ted Howard
Bridget and Ebrahim chat with Ted Howard, President of The Democracy Collaborative, an action-oriented progressive think tank. Ted is the co-author of “The Making of a Democratic Economy: Building Prosperity for the Many, Not Just the Few".  Join us as we dive deep to discuss how grassroots movements prosper and how we can build a community structure that facilitates community voice. This conversation is a timely reminder that we "are all in this together".
May 20, 2020
Public art, placemaking and community engagement during a pandemic? "Just do it," says Hannah Berry.
How can you make art, hold events and unite communities during a pandemic AND get funding for it? You just do it. Hannah Berry, creative director and owner of Lions & Rabbits and the force behind Creston. After Dark, chats with us about public art, economic development, placemaking and how to engage neighbors to create better communities. Forced to reconfigure their goals for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she shares her philosophy that "creative placemaking equals creative problem solving," and to move forward, "you make a plan and you figure it out."  She'll talk about murals, parties and how the creative community can spark a hyper-local renaissance. Involved in Grand Rapids, Michigan's downtown development, Hannah has been a pivotal player in the vision and execution of the Rad Women project, a public art and walking tour, in addition to spearheading the After Dark series of neighborhood improvement projects and events slated to launch later this year. 
May 12, 2020
6 Minutes from Toilet Paper - Why Where You Live Matters. Interview with Zach Benedict.
We’re joined on this episode by Zach Benedict, a principal architect at MKM architecture + design, inc in Indiana. Zach’s work has been focused on how design can impact the well-being of people of all ages and abilities. We talk to Zach about the power of data and how it tells the story of access, inclusion and illustrates why where you live matters.
April 29, 2020
What Can Property Owners do to Support Small Businesses? An interview with Noam Ron - Hudson Group
On this episode we interview Noam Ron, Partner at Hudson Group, a Boston based real estate investment and development firm to talk about how they're working to support their small business tenants during the COVID-19 shutdown.  We also dive into a bit about Noam's perspective on the importance of small business retail tenants to the overall success of a neighborhood and, in term, a property owner. 
April 22, 2020