Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Social Media And Regional Economic Development

I had breakfast this morning with one of the members of the Youngstown vanguard involved in that city's stunning revitalization. We discussed at length the use of social media for purposes of economic development. I've noticed that this is a hot topic. But I've seen little in the way of forward thinking on the subject. It's all buzz, no substance. Reminds me of the Power of 32 regional initiative:

Launched in 2009, according to Kukovich the goals of the project are to create a shared vision and regional agenda; to instill a sense of realistic optimism; to inspire cross-sector leadership and to connect people, communities, and institutions. For the growth of the region, he says we have to look at building more livable communities.

“These efforts give us all a voice in the future,” said Kukovich. “In order for the project to be successful it has to be inclusive of everyone.” To get involved, which he defined as imperative, he says community conversations will be held over the summer. At that time assets, challenges and opportunities facing the region will be identified. During the fall, framing solution sessions will take place to develop and vet policy options to address the top challenges that were identified during the Community Conversations. In the winter of 2011 regional town meetings will provide a forum for thousands in multiple locations, linked by technology, to prioritize the policy options that will best address each of the top regional challenges. An online survey and online media programs are also designed to reach people at home, libraries and or community centers.

In principle, Power of 32 sounds great. In practice, it has been a disaster. Community conversations aren't magically linked by technology. Social media technologies are largely irrelevant. The platforms don't matter. The innovation we need is how to best leverage these tools. Power of 32 hasn't demonstrated such vision. Not even close.

In terms of economic development, Youngstown is a showcase for social media best practices. Bloggers there can point to results of their efforts. That's why I'm all in on the TechBelt. Congressman Tim Ryan appreciates the value of the social media talent in the Mahoning Valley. So does Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams. I can't say the same about Pittsburgh and the Power of 32.

1 comment:

joe said...

Yes, but it looks like Mahoning County is one of the 32 with the power, so I guess it's all a matter of perspective.

Very impressive the level of collaboration and input there in Youngstown. Seems the Power of 32 could play some role amplifying that experience, to the extent it emerges in the community conversations that happen there.

I attended a Power of 32 conversation in Little Washington earlier this month and spoke up about the diaspora as a resource. I think there's a role for social media there, at least in terms of keeping people connected to the sense of a place. What that means for regional economic development is another's really dependent on the connections and relationships that develop.