A great deal of talent left the Pittsburgh region over the past 30-40 years. They took with them their education, Pittsburgh's investment in human capital. If your school district does a good job of educating your kids, they will become mobile knowledge workers and explore job opportunities in other regions. During this odyssey, your children will encounter new cultures and ideas. And they will expose others to the essence of Pittsburgh. The result is a more resilient and productive society. How might Pittsburgh benefit from these rich exchange networks?
The established answer is to attract the educated children from other regions. But Pittsburgh is having trouble pulling non-native knowledge workers to the area. Pittsburgh is not a dot on the mental map of the Mobile Class. Given the Balkanization of the political landscape, every township and neighborhood for itself, this is unlikely to change. Without any replacement knowledge capital, Pittsburgh is indeed experiencing a brain drain and the return on investment for education looks like a bad bet for the region.
An alternative solution to this problem is emerging. Sorry, I'm not talking about a Boomerang Burgh effect. These rich exchange networks are appearing online, the driving force behind Web 2.0. "Trust circles" and "content connectors" are weaving together a knowledge production engine that would rival any research university. The term "trust circle" is new to my lexicon, by way of Jon Udell. His blog is my means for staying on top of the Web 2.0 revolution. He imagines a searchable database of trusted experts. In other words, he wants an archived rich exchange network.
Likewise, the Burgh Diaspora could enable an online rich exchange network, including people within the geographically defined Pittsburgh region. Then, Pittsburgh could begin to benefit from the experiences of its expatriates and see some return on its investment in the education of its children. The Pittsburgh region is already networking, but there is little evidence of this among emigrants, save the Steeler Nation. The means to do this are already in place.