Sweet Tammy's sells kosher baked goods to 21 stores in the area and has moved from Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill, from 600 square feet of production space to 11,000."We are now situated for growth as far as we can run," Tammy Berkowitz's husband, Daniel Berkowitz, said.The couple moved to Pittsburgh "sight unseen," sold on the city by a man they met overseas, he said. "We identified Larimer as a hot spot," an undeveloped neighborhood surrounded by development. "Our thinking has been validated. We're exciting about what's happening over here."
Ignore the bit about Larimer. The couple moved to Pittsburgh based on the advice of a stranger. A proxy for knowledge is information from a trusted source. This is, in academic parlance, chain or network migration.
Information + Trust = Knowledge
Keep that equation in mind. I'm sure you are familiar with GIS. How about mental maps? Mental maps reveal knowledge of place. GIS does not. A mashup project at Berkeley:
The conclusion to the Berkley students’ research project seems to be that there is much about a city that can still be effective in this process by using unconventional combinations of techniques and that ‘old school’ mind mapping continues to offers great access to 'local' knowledge of a given place, that only real people with memories, imaginations and creativity can provide.
Given an address, finding a restaurant is easy. Unearthing an eatery popular with locals is more of a chore. Urbanspoon and Yelp are trying to fill in that gap. Crowdsourcing only goes so far. Missing is trust. Do the reviewers really know the neighborhood?
I tried an experiment with the focus groups I conducted at the behest of Global Cleveland. I interviewed return migrants and trailing spouses. I started off the session asking the participants to draw maps of their neighborhoods. The results weren't good enough to use in the final analysis. But I'm encouraged to try again, this time making the mental map exercise the reason for the focus group.
The goal would be to capture the knowledge of place that could be used to entice others to move to Cleveland. Then you broadcast this message along lines of trust, following the pathways of network migration. This is how a city or rural community could engineer the repopulation of target neighborhoods.
Back to the Berkowitz migration to Pittsburgh ... There must have been something about the stranger that resonated with Tammy and Daniel. Why did they trust him and his advice? All the incentives in the world mean nothing if you don't have the right person making the pitch.