Saturday, October 5, 2013

Redefining Regionalism

Regionalism -- like many "isms" -- is a word that raises many fears. Regionalism usually conjures up thoughts of control and consolidation. Someone from "over there" is going to show up and tell us what to do.

If possible, I'd redefine regionalism to be about creating value for communities by helping them strengthen their assets and their connections to the regional economy.

Such a definition is rooted in these basic assumptions:

  • Economies are regional
  • Communities have assets, not economies (See my earlier post on why I hate "economic development")
  • Growing, opportunity-rich economies have strong, well-connected assets that generate innovation, entrepreneurship and inclusion.
Regionalism therefore should help communities attract, develop, retain and engage diverse, talented people who have access to the resources needed to innovate products that create more opportunities for residents, existing companies and new enterprises. 

That's a long way from regionalism being about the consolidation of local governments. 

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