In a sign that the Great Lakes State is riding the wave of its young talent, a group of interns came to exchange ideas with state powerbrokers at the recent Mackinac Policy Conference. Jennifer Guracech, Chris Ando, and Christian Bielski offer up their takeaways from this gathering of Michigan's intelligentsia.
Christian Bielski: The Mackinac Policy Conference - "Spring Break", Or Not?
Being an intern who has never attended the Mackinac Policy Conference before, I understand that my impressions about the conference may be naïve, but ultimately are a topic worth discussing. Before attending the conference, I thought it would be a good idea to read about it. Many of the articles I read described it as a fluffy conference that never truly accomplished anything, and often described it as the "spring break" for Michigan policymakers. I took note of these viewpoints to see if these were true, and to my surprise I found that not to be the case.
The event is like a college seminar conference mixed with fancy meals. All day there were speakers, group discussions, and meetings. This setup makes it easy for newspapers and TV news show to analyze and criticize the main events at the conference, but what often isn't mentioned is the networking and problem solving that occurs behind the scene. Yes, there are receptions, speakers, seminars, and more casual events that take place at the conference, but does that translate into the conference being simply just a party?
My answer is no, but a better question is, have you ever been in an organization where leadership and members conceal their true feelings, but are waiting for the right time to confront those concerns? Well, the Mackinac Policy Conference provides that neutral territory and time that is essential to addressing looming issues that the state faces together. The conference allows the policy leaders of Michigan to reconnect with lost connections, bring partisans towards bipartisanship, and enables people to form new connections where sometimes staying local limits that necessary type of regional communication to solve the state's solution. We often complain that Detroit and the suburbs are in a constant battle, but in Mackinac they are on equal footing and have the opportunity to change that image. The conference allows many different parts of the state to ban together as a region to solve Michigan's biggest problems.
Though no legislation is written in Mackinac or grand commitments made, it is a conference that allows mobilization to take place. Once you have mobilization you can attract media attention and from there you can make money which leads to implementations towards change or a new goal. That is the ultimate value of the conference, but again for that mobilization effort to bear fruit we must carry the momentum created from the conference.
Now we need to make sure that momentum is carried and support the DRIC. From the young entrepreneurs in Fusion to the older policy makers of Detroit, we can do it. Just remember, the dialogue is continued when all return back to their local homes – or then the conference truly is a spring break.