After three successful years of programming, the Urban and Regional Policy program (URP) traveled to Detroit, MI from May 15-16, 2013 to host the final meeting for the Cities in Transition Initiative. This meeting brought together participants from all three years of the program and included a mix of small and large group discussions, presentations by URP fellows, and peer exchange and review. The cities of Detroit and Flint, MI, Cleveland and Youngstown, OH, and Pittsburgh, PA, were all represented.
URP non-resident fellow, Alan Mallach, gave a presentation on how the themes of all three years of CIT programming relate to each other and what this means for urban regeneration strategies. Alan clearly outlined the three dimensions of regeneration: changing the city’s physical environment and market conditions, building an export oriented economy, and improving the city’s social and economic conditions for city residents so that they can benefit from the economic and physical changes. Economy, people, and place are all interrelated and work within both the city and regional scales. Connections between these elements often do not happen organically; therefore, intentional collaboration across traditional silos is needed to achieve urban regeneration that is equitable and inclusive. The presentation sparked a lively discussion among network members who are working towards this goal and are using platforms like the Cities in Transition Network to work across sectors within their cities.
URP fellows Lavea Brachman and Linda Fowler engaged with program participants to receive feedback on their respective policy toolkits, which will be two main products from the CIT program. Lavea Brachman is preparing a toolkit on the strategic reuse of vacant property commercial property to support local economic development objectives. Linda Fowler is preparing a toolkit on the “educonomy” to facilitate connection and collaboration across workforce development and economic development actors in order to reinforce alignment of these issues behind regional economic development goals.
The crux of the meeting agenda focused on an innovative coaching model developed in collaboration with the Transatlantic Leadership Initiative at GMF to encourage CIT program participants to advance ideas stemming from their experiences and involvement with the CIT network. Participants first identified concepts from the CIT experience that would help advance urban regeneration actions in their cities. Then GMF and TLI staff coached the participants in developing these projects further by exploring several critical issues: envisioning their role as a leader in implementing the project; developing the message or communication strategy; leveraging their networks to advance the project; identifying cross sectors teams to support project buy-in; and, defining what resources they possess or need to advance their idea.
Network participants worked through ideas such as: helping to continue engagement in the network, integrating workforce development in secondary education in a meaningful way, developing an extracurricular school lab based on the Kitz.do model from Germany, and developing a business incubator based on the Barcelona Activa model. As network participants worked through the coaching model with the help of GMF staff, many of the participants began to understand the crucial role they play as a leader in their city and how they can tap into their networks to help spread their message, garner support for their idea, and even access resources that they thought were out of their reach.
The coaching model helped network participants outline an idea action plan and clarify the next steps in moving their ideas forward. After two intense days of workshop activities, network members left renewed as city leaders and invigorated to remain an active part of the URP network.