An Urban Change Novice walks into TURBO…

I have no knowledge of municipal code, how to obtain a permit, or really anything related to local government. I’m not even from Nashville. So how did a non-civic minded outsider end up volunteering with a group of tactical urbanists?

I’ll back up a bit. I’m a recent transplant from Atlanta and I work as a freelance advertising copywriter, which is a lengthy way to say, “I write words for a living.” It also means I work alone (a lot) so I started volunteering with Creative Mornings—a free, monthly breakfast lecture series—soon after I got settled in Nashville.

The speaker for February’s lecture was Gary Gaston, the Executive Director of the Nashville Civic Design Center. I went into that month’s meet-up with literally zero knowledge of what Gary did… and ended up learning an incredible amount about my new home city’s history and it’s unintentional division due to the interstate system that created enormous barriers between neighborhoods.

In his presentation, Gary spoke briefly about the work that TURBO is doing on the ground to mend disconnected urban areas and bring beauty and community back to the city. I was inspired by what they were able to accomplish with seemingly huge obstacles. I mean, here’s this group of people who see a problem with the urban landscape, find innovative solutions, and actually implement them—putting their vision into action. I imagined them as this group of civic and environmental activists, which is certainly not a way I’d describe myself so I second-guessed whether I could actually contribute to their mission.

But I was interested in their work so I looked them up anyway. They just so happened to be having their monthly meeting shortly after I got in touch.

And an awesome thing happened at that meeting: I met this amazing collection of individuals from all sorts of professions who are not only extremely welcoming, but are dedicated to healing injuries that urban development has caused to the city they love. Everyone brings their specific skill set to the table to reach the goal, whether it’s knowledge of city ordinances or the ability to write a captivating blog (hey-o!).

And even though I was initially concerned about lacking DIY skills and having very little civic knowledge, that apprehension faded within minutes of meeting everyone at TURBO. The team is truly committed; their passion and positivity are infectious. They saw ways for me to apply my skill set that I hadn’t even thought of—plus, I’m gaining a whole new perspective of this amazing city, it’s neighborhoods, it’s challenges, and it’s culture that I would’ve never gotten otherwise.

I’m overjoyed that I stumbled into finding this great organization and can’t wait to get started contributing, in a small way, to Nashville’s future with the great projects TURBO has planned.