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"The New Localism": Local Geography and Community-based Collective Impact

Posted by Joe Antle on April 1, 2019 6:40 AM EDT
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After reading Thomas' recent blog (and having read both books myself) about concepts that reading the two books, "It Takes A Family" by Debra Jay and "The Prosperity Paradox" by Dr. Clayton Christensen, I have to say.....

...I couldn't agree more with Thomas' observations. In fact, I think it's one of the best blog entries that Thomas has posted on this platform.

That said, it missed a couple of ideas that we collectively think are key elements to driving healthier populations at scale.  Thomas, Chip Block and I all feel that there are a number of factors or elements that can drive healthier populations and thus lower the overall costs of healthcare.  Clearly, improving the quality and the cost of healthcare itself and in helping people reduce their health risks over a sustainable period to time are among those. 

There are at least three other essential elements that the three of us have written and championed over many writings.  Those three are the following: the power of community-people helping people help themselves, the centricity of geography-not just as a dimension of "community" but as its own driving force and context for healthier living and even recovery and the idea of collective impact-collaboration, coordination and resource-sharing across multiple sectors of a regional economy.  

And of course, the galvanizing "glue" or "fuel" of innovation applied to all of these factors for positive, dramatic and sustained change.

I would like to add another book to the mix of the two that Thomas has so effectively and eloquently described in his blog.  The book I am referring to is titled "The New Localism" by Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak.  Both are strong researchers and Katz has the power of the Brookings Institute and its world-renown cities research behind the work.  The book is well-written and has a strong hint of academia in it.  It is thus both credible and trustworthy.

Like Thomas said in his recent blog, the goal here is not to provide an in-depth review, but simply to note how its central tenets support the three issues cited above and the key points in the two books Thomas wrote about.  While the focus of the book is based largely on the role of urban development, the political, socioeconomic and commercialization of cities and metropolitan areas, a focus that Brookings Institute is famous for being an expert knowledge resource, the book offers many specific examples of the model the authors call "The New Localism".  Hence, this is a book based on research, clear thinking about ways to apply the research and it's also well-titled.

However, as I read the book, I could not help but draw the comparisons to the exceptional work done by Stanford University around "collective impact".  We are great believers in the model of "collective impact" and thus this book reminded me of that model of collaboration across regions and focused on socioeconomic issues important to a given place, region or country.

In "The New Localism", the focus is on emerging models of how cities specifically can recapitalize and reposition their physical assets to make the region a better place to live, work and play.  Much like Dr. Christensen's latest book, the goal of innovation fulfills the opportunity to create jobs and to build opportunities for the lower income segments of the population.  "The New Localism" model argues for rethinking organizational structure to improve strategic long term leverage of assets-so there are powerful arguments and examples in favor of a different form of governance and financial support models.  This differs in focus from the pure-play view of "collective impact".  It sets the locus on the centricity of the city and region as the point of leverage in bringing together government, universities, healthcare, private sector/corporations and citizens to finance, manage and execute against key projects that have both a long term focus but also create greater value for the assets owned by the city/region and thus benefit the taxpayers and residents in additional new ways.  In fact, in some ways, I see that the concept of "The New Localism" movement can be a compliment or supporting "infrastructure" for a host of collective impact projects that can be delivered locally, but may, in fact, be expandable to other regions and cities upon noteworthy and replicable success.  So, while creating a healthier population is a topic we care about, and it fits all regions and cities....stemming the impact of sea-level rise may only relate to coastal cities.  But there are many coastal cities that could benefit from the lessons learned and repeatable success an initial city may bring to that problem.

The combination of the lessons in the first two books, along with the key points in "The New Localism" can bring powerful new ideas for tackling issues related to the improvement of population health either broadly or around specific conditions based on prevention or recovery.

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