—Michael H Peters, 202-802-8072
NIMBY is the natural psychological phenomenon of ownership and influence. Short for “Not In My BackYard,” Nimby is shorthand used to describe the nearly-automatic opposition by one or a few, of any project of any nature, in any industry. Often based in the true and unfortunate experiences of those opposing the development, the Nimbyism arises as the motives or methods or product are questioned or attacked, often with great vigor.
This notion of Nimbyism is intrinsic to mankind and has been echoed throughout human history as a barrier to change and development. For example, circa AD 30 in the Middle East there is a record of Jesus stating that when “New Wine” was being offered to any group of people, requiring a “New Wineskin” — some will insist that change is not necessary. “Not in my backyard.” “The old is better, the old is better.”
Put another way, NIMBY is a human condition, seemingly hardwired psychologically, where the threat of the unknown, or of change, or loss of control, seeks an outlet by rational or irrational hostility. “If I didn’t think of the idea myself, then I must level the playing field and protect my esteem by firing missiles at those who offered the development or innovation.”
NIMBY is sometimes used as a strategy, a tactic, by competitors to undermine the position of the innovator or developer. Well-documented are the scenarios where critics or cynics are planted in a crowd, stirred up unknowingly, or financially incentivized knowingly, to create discord and doubts within the decision-makers or stakeholders to achieve parity or advantage in a competitive process.
As NIMBY relates to the development of space and neighborhoods, the motives of developers are often and rightfully called into question by residents adjacent to, and effected by any development. Why? Why here? Why now? What are you standing to gain by doing this in MY backyard? You don’t know me, and you don’t care about me, so whatever you may suggest I have reason to oppose, even if I know nothing about it.”
Should that development involve disparaged groups by race or economic status or age or social standing, it is virtually guaranteed that often legitimate concerns, as well as fear-based objections or financially-based objections, NIMBYism, will quickly grow in volume and frequency. “This will ruin the schools. This will ruin property values. This will cause traffic congestion. This will increase crime. We don’t need that in this neighborhood.”
Often, legitimate hard data facts are dismissed by those emotionally or financially committed to Nimbyism. The fear, or sometimes unspoken personal motives, has a blinding effect to facts, at times. It is a psychological barrier, not a rational barrier.
For example, consider an Affordable Housing project with amenities to help the underserved in a community, under discussion for a neighborhood. This is a classic Nimby scenario. While there are hard data points, presented by Harvard University and other researchers, to dismiss the notion that there is reason to fear, NIMBY will always emerge, at least for a time. It has been proven that Affordable Housing developments, mixed income, mixed use, generally increase property values from its current condition and state, decrease crime, and subsidize rather than burden the schools, and generally has little impact of traffic congestion if the property and area are developed intelligently. Nevertheless, all of these emotionally charged objections must be voiced and discussed to resolve the psychological barriers, Nimbyism, inherent in human nature. “If it wasn’t my idea, and I don’t trust your motives, there must be a con game happening here where I will be taken advantage of unless I stand up for myself and my family. Their ‘facts’ (even if from unbiased sources) are only a smokescreen to hide the true motives and implications of the strangers invading my space with their plans to change it. It’s a conspiracy.” NIMBY, Not In My BackYard.
In its essence, assuming no insidious motives, NIMBY is a hard-wired primordial protection mechanism. “If you want to put a pot of gold in my backyard, since it wasn’t my idea I don’t want it because I don’t trust your motives. I don’t care how good it sounds, if its not my idea, I will fight you on it.”
Consider this social experiment, discussed in an Ohio State University School of Design class. A wallet stuffed with cash was left on a busy London pedestrian sidewalk with a chalk circle drawn around it. Since it clearly was “someone else’s idea,” the wallet and money were left untouched, as shown in a video with hundreds walking right by it and choosing to leave it. On the other hand, if there was no chalk line around the wallet, a pedestrian would feel discovery “ownership” and would take some of the money, or pick up and turn in the wallet for the reward of ego status. NIMBY is a psychological barrier to approval and participation at the core level of subconscious behavior.
Thus, predictably, according to some studies, the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, is measurably damaged by Nimbyism (example: http://www.citylab.com/housing/2015/06/nimbyism-is-a-huge-drag-on-americas-economic-growth/394925/) as projects and transportation and diversity are adversely influenced by often irrational behavior due to Nimby.
What is the solution, or what are the tools to assist in resolving this NIMBY impediment to creation, innovation, change, improvements, and development in industry, manufacturing, software development, leadership of cities and nations, real estate, technology, and every human endeavor?
Innovations in Charrettes and Techarrettes, and communication between diverse parties with sometimes different or even competing priorities, have proven highly successful in bridging gaps of understanding and mutually agreed upon value creation. Newly developed Technologies, such as NEMBY.com, offer means of creating buy-in partnership at the earliest stages and at the deepest levels of development and innovation in technology and real estate and government policy.
—Michael H Peters, 202-802-8072
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