"Given the many problems we face, only community will save us." Thanksgiving Day thoughts about cooperation, collaboration and community motive as necessities for humanity’s future.

November 22, 2012

Dear Reader –
Promoting regional planning and cooperation among the 20 local governments of Virginia’s Northern Shenandoah Valley was my work from 1973-2008. Many people chuckle at the notion that local governments would cooperate. A businessman from California once asked, “Do you have any customers?”
The truth was that the Planning District Commission chartered in 1970 by the member local governments did, over time, have value. They owned it, having taken the funding incentive that doubled their money and made them eligible for other grants, but had to learn how it might be used.
Serving alternately as a as staff person and director of the Lord Fairfax Planning District Commission, now the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission, the region did achieve many accomplishments including an adopted District Comprehensive Plan; a regional solid waste management plan that was regularly updated and which become the basis for a regional tire shredder; regional water resources planning that involved an Instream Flow study for the North Fork of the Shenandoah River; to mention a few.
This region was having achievements at a time when academics claimed regionalism had failed in the U.S. My work experience as a regional planner led to the thesis: “community precedes cooperation.” If you want to solve a problem, build community of those whose cooperation can solve/if not improve on the problem.
Based on that idea, the Regions Work Initiative was launched in Chicago at the World Future Society, July 20, 1998. The action plan I set out then has guided my exploration and led to many product prototypes such as global geocodes and the Delicious tags which indicated both geographic location and topic. The goal was to make organized regional alignments, such as Planning District Commissions visible nationwide. The code issue required a global approach.
With 2008, the financial crisis brought to light the weakness of many economic theories. They were incapable of predicting what had happened. Massive private debt and the frauds that enabled it to ruin lending was invisible to most economists. This led to my consideration of the “profit motive,” which we are taught is what brings regions and their localities all things good.
I first expressed the idea of a “community motive” in an online discussion February 25, 2011 as follows:
The profit motive is strong, but it can only play out in a community. The community motive has led to civilizations which have economic relationships, internally and externally. Community infrastructure takes a long time to build. Human capital also takes generations to build. Both can be easily destroyed in war or natural disaster.
Community economies are not quickly built. One can learn from another, perhaps speed up the process, but the profit motive is very short-sighted unless it is tempered by cultural and religious values.
Thinking there might be some research along the lines of “community motive,” a later search only found one comparable use. That was from Aldo Leopold, the environmentalist who, in 1944 wrote: “Acts of conservation without the requisite desire and skills are futile. To create these desires and skills and the community motive is the task of education.”
No use of this term in relation to community development or in contrast to the “profit motive” was found. Community is, more or less, assumed to exist for localities with long term perpetuation of the community an implied goal.
In this age, the “profit motive” is both the goal and driver for all economic activity. Huge problems are simply those things that attract economic attention by business and industry. At least, that is what the economists tell us.
The concept was developed further in the presentation of my working paper: “Community Motive: The Untapped Identity Factor for Regional Development” at the Regional Studies Association Global Conference 2012 in Beijing, China on June 24, 2012. It was at this conference I also suggested we have a 300 year planning horizon.
Recently, when discussing the many economic, environmental and social challenges ahead, I  offer, “Only community will save us.” No one has disagreed yet. People seem to respond intuitively to the idea of “community motive,” knowing it does include them. They agree we won’t be saved by a “profit motive.”
Given the good reception to this idea, I've chosen to focus on going forward. The blog will become the space where I weave together the lessons and perspective that my years of experience, reading and observation now offer.
I will continue to scan for news items, saving links to Delicious: Links   RSS Feed  
Key items and conference/ meeting announcements will go to: Twitter
Blog posts will go to the Group: Regions_Work Subscription at Yahoo Groups
Happy Thanksgiving
Tom Christoffel, FeRSA, AICP
Regional/Greater Communities Motivation

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