Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Domestic Diaspora Model

Pittsburgh already has a working diaspora organization, Steeltown Entertainment Project. There may be other projects in operation or in the works, but I'm still trying to piece that story together. I'm anxious to replicate the Globalscot model in Pittsburgh, but perhaps East Coast Connected offers a better guide:

"Just because people have moved away doesn't mean that they may not come back or that they don't want to be involved. Ex-pats have moved away but they still think of themselves as Atlantic Canadian," [East Coast Connected founder Chris Crowell] said.

Keeping connections open with those who leave home for jobs elsewhere makes it easier to bring those people back when opportunities come up, he said. By maintaining their relationships with those back home, roots stay firmly planted.

"The worst that can happen is that people move away and forget where they are from," Crowell said.

In the short time it has been around, East Coast Connected has attracted 1,600 members and held many events, from kitchen parties to a business summit.

While I've been somewhat reluctant to embrace the boomerang model, I think we are seeing the beginnings of a significant demographic trend. But I'm still wary of mining prospects for return. Those highly motivated to move back would make excellent entrepreneurs and help spur job creation. Otherwise, there may not be enough jobs to afford substantial in-migration.

What about people who are happy where they are and don't want to come home? This consideration makes Globalscot the superior approach to cultivating a diaspora network with the goal of economic development. I'm sure Atlantic Canadians would prefer that friends and family return, but a willingness to invest in opportunities in the region is just as good (if not better). The Pittsburgh Diaspora Illuminati is ready to do business. I envision Silicon Valley venture capital, with a few well-positioned Yinzers, financing a start-up in Pittsburgh without the need to relocate it closer to the money. Also, given the shortage of executive entrepreneurial talent, might the answer be among dislocated Pittsburghers?

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