Thursday, December 14, 2006

Burgh Diaspora Joins Century Club

For the 100th post, I thought I'd look at the origins of this blog and how the theme has developed. I kicked off the blog proposing a closer look at what I called the "Pittsburgh Nation." I still think that the key to the region's economic development is connecting with the Burgh Diaspora. However, that goal does not mean enfranchising all the expatriates. My 99-post journey reveals to me that I am looking at a subset of Pittsburgh's far flung demographic, what UNESCO calls "Diaspora Knowledge Networks":

The implications of brain gain politics for managing a Nation’s human capital in the sense that management procedures are no longer restricted to efforts aimed at mobilizing resources located within State boundaries but imply, to the contrary, efforts aimed at reaching out over those boundaries to skills and resources located in other national contexts.

I've argued that Pittsburgh needs to look beyond its own region, to assets of mobile human capital that maintain some affiliation with the area. But I was thinking about all the people who left Pittsburgh, mainly the exodus of the 1980s. Diaspora Knowledge Networks (DKN) do not concern people pushed to move by an economic shock. These networks (DKN) are comprised of well-educated people pulled to places of innovation and creativity.

Jon Udell helped to clear up my original misconception, using the more precise term "intellectual capital" instead of the ambiguous "human capital" I've written:

When I met with Jeff Sandquist I had just finished this podcast with Jim Russell. It’s a story about migration and the mobility of intellectual capital, refracted through Jim’s experience with the Pittsburgh diaspora. Neither Microsoft’s nor any other vendor’s technologies are discussed. I’m certain that the ideas Jim lays out in this podcast will inspire new business models for social software, but it’s all rather speculative.

For now, the issue of development is about "Diasporas of Highly Skilled and Migration of Talent." Networking this community is task enough. I do think that the Burgh Diaspora should formalize the pathways of chain migration that already exist, but tapping into the "mobility of intellectual capital" is the best way to build "New Pittsburgh."


Jim Morris said...

"Diaspora" has too negative a connotation if its members are smart people who have been attracted elswhere. "Brain Drain" is better.

Adam Steen said...

Jim (Russell),

I’ve briefly glanced through your blog and instantly realized we may have similar missions.

One thing I’m trying to help my community in Iowa with is our Young Professional “problem.” Wherein, they leave and seem to never come back. I travel across Iowa and meet with people on a weekly basis many of whom have stated that they left and came back. My theory is that our state is focused on those leaving and not those staying or moving back.

Here’s my question/thought for you: Is there any validity in other cities in other states working together to make young professionals comfortable leaving our states? By this I mean, if I hear of someone moving to Pittsburgh from Iowa, I find out what they are interested in and call you to plug them into an existing network over there.

I don’t know what success measurements would be, but I think that person would feel that each city is doing their best to do the right thing.

Just a thought, but I’d love to hear your opinion!


Jim Russell said...


Such a system is common in situations of international migration, but developing countries actually facilitating "brain drain" is a new phenomenon.

I don't know of any domestic examples of developing chain migration. These networks surely exist informally, but no city, region or state does anything to help with outmigration. In fact, we are seeing a number of policies designed to stop it.

A network of places seeking human capital is an interesting idea. In this sense, you might help someone from Iowa choose a migration loser such as Pittsburgh, over a migration winner such as Charlotte.

We must accept that the best and brightest will leave home. But can we encourage them to go to certain places and spur some economic growth in the process?

I think we could.

In this sense, cities would act like universities do, using an established network to help graduates find jobs.

I could imagine an urban consortium of the migration-challenged, encouraging flows of human capital between those places. This would also help foster collaborative efforts between economic clusters that share common interests.

I've looked at Pittsburgh helping its people go wherever they wanted to go, but I didn't think about the possibility of influencing the destination.

I think you offer up a brilliant idea.


Jim Russell