Today is the first posting in our series on "Staying Local, Going Global." Throughout the next few weeks we want to explore the things that must be done and could be done to make communities more competitive in the global economy. This is not a lost cause by any means. American communities can position themselves to enjoy the benefits of the global economy while still providing an excellent quality of life right here. The almost predictable response to this kind of optimism has been "we need more manufacturing jobs." Well that would sure help but there are not enough of the "big fish" auto factories to go around. So now what?
Today I am suggesting that we look at Jim Collins' great work on the hedgehog and the fox or what we call it at the Pew Partnership, asset-based vision. In essence, Collins says that you have to know a few things about yourself before you can move forward: 1) what are you best at? 2) what are you passionate about? 3) what drives your economic engine? The intersection of those three circles is the answer. In personal terms, it is doing what you love and are good at. Too many of our communities are too narrowly focused to answer these questions. I have heard recently from a group in Arkansas that is positioning itself as the "go-to" region for recreation. They are passionate about preserving their streams and woodlands but they need to develop an economic development track. They don't have all the answers yet but they are thinking in the right way. The Medelia model is another example of a new approach. That is the key here: a new kind of thinking.
We have traditionally thought of vision and mission as what we want not what we have. This approach blends the two ideas and throws in passion to boot. How good is this?