It's as if we're constantly searching for solutions to the same old
issues that have haunted us for the past 50, 100 years. Why don't
we have transit? Why are we so segregated? Why is education not
valued? Why is the media so negative? Why are insurance
rates for city residents so high? Why can't we expand or even renovate
Cobo Hall? Why can't we appreciate who we are as a region? Why can't we hold ourselves, our leaders accountable? Why are
we so caught up in entitlements? Why can't we live united in the
dream of a city and region of opportunity? Why can't we expect
Yet, a lot of solid solutions to these problems have
been proposed over the years. And a lot of solid solutions are
continuing to be proposed. So, could it be that the issue is not
with solutions, but rather the execution of those solutions?
Regional solutions need regional execution. Unfortunately, we
tend to isolate ourselves when the going gets tough. Rather than
uniting behind executing solutions, we point fingers and hide behind
our barriers and fears. This failure to implement solutions across
borders is a regional liability, resulting in a lack of regional vision,
lack of a regional plan and a lack of regional leadership that inspires
and conveys opportunity.
To me, nothing steers young persons away from the region more than the
perception that there is no opportunity here. Perception remains
an important piece of attracting and retaining young talent. Branding
campaigns and initiatives; incentives to live in urban areas; networking
events and a vibrant nightlife – sure they help. Nonetheless,
when they're not supported by effective, meaningful policy that is executed
at a regional level, they're merely icing on the cake.
Well, don’t forget that lot of great solutions are happening
at the grassroots, civic and not-for-profit level. From Focus
Hope to ACCESS to United Way to One D to our work at the Michigan Roundtable,
we're talking and innovating in ways that we never have before. We're building a foundation of collaboration that includes various perspectives
and innovative ideas.
But, maybe, could it be that a central
piece to overcoming the stigma that there is no opportunity in Southeast
Michigan is ensuring that young talent is welcomed and engaged in finding
and executing solutions to regional problems. It's essential to
find avenues to get young talent invested and engaged in their communities,
and much of the work around regional transformation that is occurring
provides the perfect opportunity to create those on-ramps to meaningful
That's the key – meaningful on-ramps to community engagement.
Engage young talent in the policy making and policy executing process.
Rather than ask "hey, young talent – where's the next cool bar
where we can host a happy hour and networking event," maybe we
should ask "hey, young talent – what are the amenities that will
keep you in this region" and "hey, young talent, how can we
co-create and co-execute policy that will enable you and your peers
to grow and flourish in Detroit."
Of course, as young talent,
we must take it upon ourselves to define our vision for the future,
know about and understand the current regional transformation initiatives
underway, learn from the successes and failures of current stakeholders
and, most importantly, learn to walk that fine line between being patient
and demanding results.