“We take peace not as a dormant situation, but as one to be fought for – like winning an armed conflict. We try to be aggressive in order to bring about that goal.”
-Jimmy Carter, Interview in The Rotarian, February 2018
Those working to move their communities forward are often seen as agents of change. Economic developers certainly fit into this category, whether they are trying to change a neighborhood, affect public policies to foster economic growth, or working to help companies expand or locate.
What is less visible is the time that economic developers spend on setting and holding onto the conditions within a community that allow positive collaboration. An economic developer’s work is not to preserve the status quo, but to generate economic opportunity, and they must take time to facilitate the conditions that allow business, government and other civic leaders to come together, solve problems, and generate new ideas that improve the community. This is no easy task given that leaders are constantly changing, there are often competing financial interests, and there are disruptive economic conditions.
A dilemma of our modern world is how to take a long term, principled approach in an era of breaking news and quarterly earnings. Are we working hard enough – waging war, if you will – on facilitating the civic conditions needed for collaboration and dialogue? Do we value enough the hard work required to facilitate a real exchange of ideas and perspectives? These conditions of “peace” are powerful, but often taken for granted. In their absence, deeper conflicts and fractures arise, and may take years or even generations to repair. When “peaceful” conditions do exist, new windows are opened and win-win solutions are often created.
It is likely that your community isn’t in perfect equilibrium, but rather is aligned in some areas and in conflict on others. An action we can all take this year is to work on opening these dialogues and waging war to define and preserve the conditions that allow us to grow and improve. The future of our communities depends on it.