The Canary in the Global Gold Mine - Revised 8/17/09
by Bill Dodge
Maybe regional cooperation is countercyclical! Since the beginning of the year, my dance card has been full, including participating in recent regional gatherings in
The community leaders in both regions know they need to cooperate.
Lots of good ideas were advanced for building the capacity to cooperate. One of the simplest was to keep bringing regional leaders, and citizens, together. Options suggested included pretending that there was a regional dialogue/charette being held next week and each week thereafter, creating regional leadership or citizenship programs to prepare individuals to be practicing regional citizens, and engaging community leaders and citizens in launching projects that demonstrate the benefits of regional cooperation.
Or, in other words, to keep bringing the "unlikelies" together to discuss the "unmentionables" until they do the "unheardofs".
Finally, the community leaders realized that two-day dialogues and three-day charettes will not forge lasting cooperation. They succeeded in bringing a considerable number of the region
More importantly, they concluded that it was difficult to sustain these interactions and take advantage of common opportunities to cooperate. Why? Because these, like other especially mid-sized, regions often lack the capacity to follow-up on even the good ideas for cooperation.
The Tri-State Alliance in the
The future success of the
Regions are the only governance units that cover real human settlements. They bring together the parts of human settlements that have already grown, are currently growing, and want to grow in the future. In the
Regions are the organic entities that shape our futures. Local, state, and even national governments provide key resources for fostering future growth, but all too often arbitrarily divide up regions. And divided regions cannot survive and thrive any more successfully than other divided organisms, such as roses or elephants. They will wither and die.
Regional cooperation is the governance canary in the global gold mine. If one wants to quickly assess our hopes for the future, measure the capacity of our regions to cooperate. The best investment that local, state, and national governments could make in rebuilding the national economy would be to strengthen the capacity of each region to cooperate in pursuing common economic, environmental, and social challenges.
Unless our regions, our human settlements, are confident that they have the capacity to address any emerging opportunity, or threat, they will have little chance of competing and succeeding. And, if they have this capacity, they will probably build the sustainable communities needed by this and future generations.
Bill Dodge assists community leaders and citizens to build their capacity to address regional challenges. He is the former Executive Director of the National Association of Regional Councils, author of Regional Excellence, and can be reached at WilliamRDodge@aol.com.