Tuesday, March 28, 2006

New Approaches to Economic Development

We need to cultivate practices that create open conversations leading to new levels of collaborative behavior. The last two days I participated in an economic development program at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio. The conference was put on by the Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open). The conference was principally held to delve into new approaches in regional innovation.

What was so exciting was the breadth of experiences, positions, backgrounds of the twenty-four who elected to participate. There were people from Cleveland; Jefferson City, Missouri; Wayne County; all over Cuyahoga County; Nashville, Tennessee; and Indianapolis, Indiana. There were people who work for the City of Cleveland, TVA, Cuyahoga County, various non-profit organizations, the Cleveland Institute of Art, Case Western Reserve University, Myers University, the Cuyahoga County Library.

There were people who are economic development directors, librarians, students, unemployed, non-profit administrators, small farm supporters, network builders, community development leaders, car restorers, technology directors, bio-fuels engineers, agricultural innovators. There were people in suits, people in jeans, and people in skirts.

We got involved in the discussion of first curve versus second curve innovation strategies, quality connected places, building connected networks, building innovation networks, growing regional economies, appreciative networks, authentic engagement, network weaving, collaborative projects.
All of these people came to the table and participated in open conversations building trust, finding common ground, and building new collaborative networks. We developed new ways to help focus our actions leading to bring innovation to our communities.

Overall, we looked at ways and committed ourselves to teach and encourage new behaviors in regional innovation and economic growth. There will be another conference in June at Baldwin-Wallace and I hope that more will be there because the depth of the experience depends upon the participation, stories, and comments of those at the table.

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