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Inspiration for Action
The Newsletter / Edition 007
From Sylvain Labs, this is Progress Report.
In our monthly Off-White Papers, we provide practical guidance on how to respond to our rapidly-changing world. This weekly newsletter explores those topics in real-time, with information and action steps on how to make progress now. 

In today’s newsletter…
  1. On the 15-Minute City from Osei
  2. Rising out of the shopping mall ashes from Gretchen
  3. Working harder for working parents from Cole
  4. Pitbull teaching know-how lessons from Cristina
And as always, our illustrations from Katie Sadow.
From the Field

01 / Fifteen Minutes to Save the World 

From Osei Kwakye
A coalition of global cities called C40 is embracing a progressive urban design model that some experts believe will be essential in rebuilding areas economically hard-hit by the pandemic. Dubbed the “15-Minute City,” the ambitious idea calls for communities to optimize for ‘micromobility’ where residents can meet all of their shopping, work, recreational, and cultural needs within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from their home.
Why It Matters
The rise of remote work has hollowed out central business districts, leaving local economies in those districts that are dependent on the physical presence of customers hemorrhaging. If people no longer need to gather in central business districts, then small businesses in a C40-like model have a better chance to weather crises because of new behaviors built around doing hyper-local business.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Recalibrate spending to leverage local relationships.
While it will take an enormous lift to realize the “15-Minute City,” businesses have every incentive in the current moment to develop a local bias. In consumer economies, keeping money circulating is the key to vitality. So in the absence of centralized business districts, spending your dollars with local vendors and collaborating with other businesses in close proximity to you can help everyone weather the storm.

02 / Mall Madness  

From Gretchen Devero
Reliable anchor tenants in malls are going bankrupt (e.g. JCPenney, Sears,) and COVID-19 health protocols are challenging operations. Therefore, real estate companies are converting select stores into fulfillment centers (see: Amazon and Simon Property Group’s potential partnership, Amazon’s current use of abandoned malls in Ohio, FedEx Corp. and DHL International GmbH have also done the same). This is a win-win situation for all parties involved: mall owners restore reliable—and cash-rich—anchor tenants, and companies like Amazon, DHL, and FedEx can more efficiently deliver goods.
Why It Matters
Malls played a vital role in our communities, but have nonetheless experienced a steady decline for years. COVID-19 has exposed an economic weakness of malls; large spaces with high rent designed for retailers with large inventory don’t make sense in a growing digital and DTC economy. Now, this pre-existing problem is rapidly accelerating. Converting stores into fulfillment centers is a practical solution, but some malls are reinventing what a mall can be for a modern community—and by designing for the root issue, they’re thriving (see also: Mexico Malls, CBL & Associates Properties, ‘Hispanic Malls’).
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Leverage this time for reinvention, not restoration.
There’s a lot of “reset,” “recover,” and “restore” language circulating in the media at the moment, but the one blessing we have from COVID-19 is the opportunity to rethink how we do business, and perhaps more importantly, how we can balance financial gains with societal wellbeing. If something isn’t working, ruthlessly ask why (see: 5 Whys Exercise) and make sure you’re getting to the root of the problem; otherwise, you’ll be solving for symptoms.

03 / The Unstable Economy of Parenthood 

From Cole Nielsen
The emotional toll of working, parenting, and educating from home is well documented. But a recent WSJ article is shedding new light on the financial strain the pandemic is levying on working parents. While many parents cobbled together solutions for the final months of last school year and the long summer months since, continuing to replicate those efforts indefinitely no longer seems tenable. Parents’ performance at work may not be able to stand it—and neither may their sanity. But with childcare costs outpacing the rate of inflation by nearly 2x since 2000, the truth is that many wallets may not be able to handle it either.
Why It Matters
Many working parents whose lives and budgets are constructed around free or reduced cost childcare via schools are facing tough decisions around how to move forward. The tangled influences across home and work can no longer be seen as separate, and the expectation that ‘working parents can keep up full pace with work’ is a prime example of the workplace inequity we’ve discussed before in the newsletter. It’s time for leaders to address this holistically, or face costly consequences.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Invest in working parents’ ability to continue working as parents.
  • Mangers, leaders, coaches: check in on your working parents—especially single parents managing the crisis alone. 
  • Host meetings for parents to freely discuss the challenges and obstacles they’re facing amidst the pandemic. 
  • Investigate child care stipends for parents the way many companies invested in work-from-home setups for their employees at the beginning of the pandemic. 
  • Partner with local child care facilities to subsidize PPE and other COVID safety protocols—what may be a minor investment for a larger corporation could be the difference between surviving and shuttering for local sub-economies that serve your employees, and in turn their ability to serve your company. 

04 / Mr. Worldwide and Your CEO Can’t Travel 

From Cristina Pansolini
Last week, Mr. Worldwide (Pitbull for the uninitiated) admitted on WSJ’s The Journal that he hasn’t left Miami in months and feels his nickname is being threatened. While sad for Pitbull, The Hustle recently covered a Harvard study that discussed the economic importance of professional travel, and the impact travel restrictions and reduced travel could have. When professionals travel to new places, they share advice or ‘know-how’ that stays within new circles of influence. This is also reflected in countries that neighbor a country with specific industrial “know-how”, such as Germany and the auto industry. Proximity to “know-how” results in economic growth. 
Why It Matters
As domestic and international travel declines, our perspectives could shrink. While digital tools can keep us communicating, there’s a reason we had business travel: 1-hour Zoom calls and email threads cannot replicate in-person, unstructured conversations, happy hour cocktails, or pre-and-post meeting chats. While some of this ‘know-how’—existing only in our brains and transferring from brain to brain through lived experience—can be captured virtually, it will require effort and rethinking our approach to earn the same benefits without in-person interactions.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Find new ways to gain exposure to fresh perspectives from a safe distance.
  • Actively diversify your media diet—for example, newsletters, podcasts, or publications about new industries or from diverse opinions.
  • Follow and support reputable journalists with expertise in specific categories or global affairs.
  • Invite serendipity by asking friends, clients, or acquaintances for introductions to people in their lives that they find interesting. 
  • Read Progress Report every week and share it with a friend‽

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