Understanding & shaping your city

Founding Mother, Chard & Stripes

“As we know, there are known knowns. …
We also know there are known unknowns. …
But there are also unknown unknowns.”

I laughed when the late Donald Rumsfeld, then secretary of defense under George W. Bush, made those comments. But the last laugh’s on me because that’s how I think now about shaping my city:

My #1 of 3 known knowns is that almost all I need to know consists of known unknowns and unknown unknowns. And that’s why Cities Decoded—which exists to equip us to shape the cities we love—has earned a spot on The Chard & Stripes List of National Treasures!

“I’m here to help you understand cities.”

Founder, Cities Decoded

I have a dream of starting neighborhood-based fresh food mini-marts…I think:

My #2 of 3 known knowns is that local zoning codes will almost certainly NOT be on my side.
My #3 of 3 known knowns is that navigating zoning codes is costly in time, money and energy.

But I won’t dwell on that because I might just forget about it in favor of dreams with less hassle.

Do you dream of shaping your city but stay stuck thanks to known and unknown unknowns?

City Decoded has free remedies for that:

The City Discovery Toolkit and a Five Steps Toward Meaningful Action guide.

And for those of you wanting buddies to delve into your city, Cities Decoded founder, Tiffany Owens, is hosting a Discovery Discussion group starting July 9th. Click here for more information.

Tiffany is a former journalist who’s lived in more than 20 cities.


Cities Decoded offers substantive and well-written articles to help you become a more engaged citizen. Download the toolkit and / or action guide to get articles in your inbox.

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Try out this article about the costs of adapting our cities being too damned high.


Dr. Mary-Elizabeth Harmon is a scientist turned storyteller and Founding Mother of Chard & Stripes, a “school” of prosperity making and word-of-mouth marketing platform for kind people, products and businesses in food, fashion & more. Subscribe to her newsletter here.