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A Study of Strategic Thinkers, Core Themes & Critical Questions

in the Charlotte Community

CONNECTIONS

Do we have the imagination, the

passion, the drive that it will take

to make the most of what we

have as a city, as a region?


CONNECTIONS

by Tracy Russ
Russ Communications Group
for Foundation For The Carolinas
November, 2004

© copyright, Tracy Russ, 2004


Contents

Introduction 4

The 6 Themes

The Role of Intent and Vision 6

The Importance of Virtual Civic Space 8

The Importance of Physical Civic Space 13

The “Ordinariness” of Building Social Capital 18

Finding a Balance Between Individual Leadership and Process 20

Let Diversity Reign! 23

Perceptions and Roles: Foundation For The Carolinas 26

Recommendations 31

Bang for the Buck: What’s Happened 34

Executive summary 37

Bibliography 43

About the author 45


CONNECTIONS

I N T R O D UC T I O N These thinkers have included:

T
he Charlotte regional community is blessed • Danielle Allen, FFTC 2003 Annual Meeting speaker
with forward-thinking and dedicated leaders • David Chrislip, author, On Collaborative Leadership
and citizens. We are a banking center, yes, but • Richard Florida, author, Rise of the Creative Class
our human capital, people who have bold ideas and the • Claire Gaudiani, author, Sacred Text and Philanthropy
creativity, tenacity, skills and heart to move a community • James Gilmore, author, The Experience Economy
forward are our greatest asset, and we should invest in • Carolyn Lukensmeyer, AmericaSpeaks
them at every opportunity, every time, and every place • William McDonough, author, The Hannover Principles
we can. This document is one such investment, offered • Susan Crites Price, author, Instilling Philanthropy
to the community as a catalyst to light the imaginations in Family Legacies
of leaders and citizens in Charlotte and the region. • Robert Putnam, author, Bowling Alone

We are, citizens and leaders alike, in the midst of living Each of these people has provided opportunity and
history – a city and region of untold potential is bursting catalyst for our community to learn and reflect on core
up around us. We have great people, economic values and concepts. The community has asked for,
resources, a prime location. But, do we have the and received, a vast amount of information and
imagination, the passion, the drive that it will take to learning not only of data, but substance around our
make the most of what we have as a city, as a region? community identity, how we interact and make
Can we embrace our own future and get decisions, and where we are on a continuum of
comfortable with the fact that the engine we’ve built is modern civic practices.
powerful, and might take us for a wild ride once
in awhile, but can also take us to fantastic, wonderful But we have failed to set what we have learned in
places? Yes, we can, if we choose to. any kind of context, discovering and documenting
common themes and lessons learned from this
Over the last 4 years, Foundation For The Carolinas collected body of knowledge.
(FFTC) and the Charlotte community have invited a
number of leading thinkers in the fields of civic Further, our time spent with many of these thinkers
engagement, social trends, human studies and economic has led to a flurry of activity, each pursued without a
development to share their message, knowledge and strategic approach that considers how these calls for
observations. action might fit together within a broader community
context.

4 / C O N N E C T I O N S
Connections is intended to attempt to set these lessons
in a useful context that might reveal commonalities
and articulate what the community has learned and
Do we have the
done as a result of these learnings.
imagination,
the passion, the
The process of research for and writing of Connections included:

• reading and review of original texts by each of the


subject matter experts, including the speeches and
presentations offered to the Charlotte community
• telephone interviews with the subject matter experts
drive that it will
• interviews with 24 local community leaders chosen
to represent a range of backgrounds, interests and take to make the
most of what we
perspectives in the community
• individual and small group reviews of drafts in the
final stages of writing

It is hoped that this paper will provide a basis for


Foundation For The Carolinas to strengthen and
have as a city,
augment its role as a thought leader in the community
and region. Connections will be made available to as a region?
other “capacity” institutions in our community to
ground and catalyze future initiatives, strategies and
guide use of resources.

C O N N E C T I O N S / 5
Theme 1

Define our intent,


create our vision of our
community

R
ichard Florida ends his 2002 book, Rise of the Creative Class, by outlining a series
of key challenges to modern society. The most important challenge, he states, is to
answer the question, “What do we really want? What kind of life – and what kind
of society – do we want to bequeath to coming generations?” It is the first part of the
question that rings most authentic for reflection in this community – what do we, in
Charlotte, really want as a city and community? 2002 FFTC Annual Meeting Speaker
William McDonough told us that “design is the first signal of intent,” so to borrow from
McDonough, what are our true intentions as a city, and how can we design the ways we
make decisions, allocate resources and create change to realize those intentions?

6 / C O N N E C T I O N S
Our visiting experts have told us - it’s time for Charlotte to
call the question: what kind of community do we want?

O
r, on the darker side, do we already do to Strangers”) tells us that a sense of reciprocity is a
exactly that, either by choice or incident, key attribute of healthy societies, meaning that a
creating a future while wearing what Jane sense of sacrifice is required as people in societies
Jacobs (author of the landmark 1961 book, The give up some portion of control or power. Can we
Death and Life of Great American Cities), calls “the acknowledge that truly communal decisions benefit
dishonest mask of pretended order, achieved by some citizens at the expense of others, even when the
ignoring or suppressing the real order that is whole community benefits, and that some of us will
struggling to exist and be served.” have to sacrifice (power, access, money) to create a
mutually beneficial shared future?
The question Florida raises was at the front of the
minds of the 21 participants in the Charlotte Our timing for thinking about our future is good.
Grassroots Civic Lab project (the precursor to the Modern theories of evolution point to long, slow
Crossroads Charlotte project) as they asked, “what periods of relatively static existence for most organ-
course will Charlotte-Mecklenburg chart over the isms, interspersed with often cataclysmic, dynamic
next 10 years as it deals with issues of access, equity, bursts of adaptive change. In the midst of change,
inclusion and trust in the community?” We are some organisms thrive while others slowly falter in
blessed to be a thriving city, in a region projected to the cycle. In Charlotte, our physical, demographic,
continue its prosperous path, but our intended social and cultural growth tracks this natural pattern
destination remains unclear. – we are in the midst of rapid change, but instead of
merely being adaptive (which we must be) we have
We, as a community, have thus far failed to success- the opportunity to choose our next evolutionary
fully construct the needed virtual civic space state, or to at least choose the degree of deliberate
(discussed later in this study) to attempt an answer to influence we exert on that state.
this question, and as a result, both leaders and grass-
roots citizens are unable to articulate a common Leaders and citizens alike sense a lack of common
vision of our future together, either within the vision and purpose for the city’s future, yet recog-
City of Charlotte or in a broader regional context. nize that we are at a decision point on our historic
David Chrislip, author of Collaborative Leadership, timeline. Generally, we look down the road and
advises us that “if there is no agreement about the remain confident in our community’s continued
vision for the city or region, create an initiative prosperity despite growing pains that have included
whereby citizens can explore and agree on future environmental degradation, a tangling of traffic
needs and directions.” congestion, struggles over demographic and cultural
diversity, a chasm between new and old Charlotte
But our work isn’t done when we create this vision. social and cultural institutions, and a conflict
If we were to find a way to assemble a vision of our- around our system of public education and its place
selves in the future, a set of “needs and directions” in our priorities. Our visiting experts have told us –
that could guide our decisions, what then would be it’s time for Charlotte to call the question: what kind
the challenge? 2003 FFTC Annual Meeting speaker of community do we want?
Dr. Danielle Allen (her speech was entitled “Talking

C O N N E C T I O N S / 7
Theme 2

The importance of
virtual civic space

T
he concept of “civic space” is oft repeated in the study materials and during interviews
conducted for Connections, whether by direct reference or inferred. Civic space is
where divergent and often conflicting ideas meet for airing and perhaps resolution,
where the capacity for good information, processes and facilitated discussion can connect
with the means for outcomes of those discussions to create change in the community.

This space may reside within, but is not the same as, shared community physical space,
public buildings and venues. Yet, the lexicon of civic space borrows from the physical.
How many times do we speak of “being at the table”, or “opening doors” of access to decision-
making, or “stakeholders” being “connected” in our attempts to assign physical attributes
to processes of relationship and trust building? We recount being “moved” by a powerful
speech or discussion; our “wheels start to spin” in an engaging conversation.

8 / C O N N E C T I O N S
Can we improve the quality of civic space so that more
citizens participate in charting their futures?

T
he interplay between physical and civic more than this, which is why the sum total of the visit
space is powerful and symbiotic. We “pull is described as “transforming” by many. What might
the lever” in the voting booth, but the result as the sum total of these experiences? We have
phrase connotes, of course, not just the physical yet to see.
booth, but the concept of participatory democracy
brought to life in a physical sense. In spite of declining Civic space cannot be built without community
voter turnout, let’s remain cognizant that millions stewards; institutions, organizations, and people
upon millions of people across the U.S. continue to whose role it is not only to actively create and main-
vote in elections because they feel a visceral connection tain the civic space, but to advocate for its use to
to guiding their individual and collective futures – address the community’s most essential issues.
they are actively engaging inside civic space. This Further, these stewards must be catalysts for creation
point of view, of course, begs a question: can we of a shared community vision, guardians of its
improve the quality of civic space so that more citizens integrity, and orchestrators of its link to real imple-
participate in charting their futures? Experts like mentation (but they cannot be the implementers for
Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer of AmericaSpeaks answer reasons discussed below) – they do this in civic space.
with a resounding “yes,” and point to models like
the 21st Century town meeting as one path to go Virtual civic space provides the means to mitigate the
down for communities seeking to build just such traditional power relationship of “dominance and
improved space. acquiescence” as Dr. Danielle Allen put it in her
2003 Charlotte address, in favor of a “political
Civic space as an abstract concept meets very real friendship” (Allen) which invites both the powerful
literal transformation in many aspects of our local and the powerless to participate in a relationship of
history. The story of 15-year old Dorothy Counts reciprocity, each asking the other for sacrifice that
entering Harding High School in 1957 in Charlotte, leads to shared growth. Where does this happen?
thus beginning this community’s drive to integrate When listening, dialogue and action happen in an
public schools, is an excellent example. Counts’ environment of trust – here is where we find civic
experience was quite literally a dangerous physical space. It is where “connections between spiritual and
journey, but it was the metaphorical value of those material consciousness” meet.
steps that have enduring meaning and power.
Suddenly, the community was changed – the result Susan Crites Price, author of Instilling
of a struggle that had occurred in civic space and Philanthropy in Family Legacies, tells us that youth
manifested in the physical. and children should be actively sought to participate
in civic space, saying that “involving children early
The Levine Museum of the New South and the means that they will be much more likely to be
Community Building Initiative triumphantly tapped engaged as adults – these will be our next donors,
the power of this civic-physical transmutation in the board members and civic leaders.”
COURAGE exhibit – visitors were inside a physical
space, but what they experienced was much, much

C O N N E C T I O N S / 9
Theme 2

The importance of
virtual civic space

C
ivic space works best when it is created
intentionally, providing the means and
NAME NEXUS OF INITIATIVE
structures for the formulation of shared
community values, decisions on priorities, and American Leadership Forum The Lee Institute
allocation of resources (tax dollars, private invest-
Community Building Initiative Community Building Task Force
ments, grants) that support decisions based on those
Congregational College Mecklenburg Ministries
priorities. Often, civic space is referred to as civic
capacity or social infrastructure. If it is true that, as Crossroads Charlotte Foundation For The Carolinas,

McDonough asserts, “design is the first signal of Knight Foundation,


Community Building Initiative
intent,” then the Charlotte community must be just
as intentional about designing and creating virtual COURAGE exhibit Levine Museum of the New South

civic space as it is new arenas, schools, libraries and “Hometown Stories” The Moving Poets
parks.
“If I Were the Mayor” Kids Voting
Multi-Media challenge
Building civic space has a special set of challenges.
P.O.S.T. youth dialogues Partners in Out of School Time
Today, Chrislip tells us that “that role of convener
(P.O.S.T.)
remains crucial,” and, being the optimistic and
hard-working people that we are (as Gilmore The Region Speaks The Lee Institute

describes us), there are a number of initiatives and United Agenda for Children The Lee Institute; the Children’s
organizations in the community that are about the Collaborative; America Speaks

business of building civic space, including (note: this


is not an exhaustive listing, but a sampling at right):
core challenges in building civic space. “It’s very
Within this listing, a discernment can be made difficult to create the kind of capacity in a
among those initiatives that are crafted to focus on community that can stay focused on process, that can
creating civic space as purely an end goal, and those remain as a true convenor, because most efforts
that create civic space as a by-product of engaging become derailed when they begin to take on an
citizens in turning the community’s attention to a advocacy role that emerges from that convening
particular concern or issue; herein lies one of the capacity,” says David Chrislip.

1 0 / C O N N E C T I O N S
The Charlotte community must be just as intentional about
designing and creating virtual civic space as it is new arenas,
schools, libraries and parks.
Indeed, our own experience, most recently with decision-making processes, thus there was a great
Voices & Choices of the Central Carolinas, bears action plan from participants, but the work didn’t
Chrislip out and shows that our attempts thus far to filter up to leadership circles. As an example, Voices
build civic space have met with mixed success. & Choices was a structure to carry the ball, and I
Originally conceived as a civic capacity-building would say a lot came out of that, but the places in the
institution, Central Carolinas Choices (later known community that hold the most resources and
as Voices & Choices) was created in 1997 to “engage decision making power never adapted to that
citizens (in the region) in building a shared vision of agenda. The disappearance (of Voices & Choices)
the future.” Gradually, the organization’s mission might be ok, but only if there is a clear transfer to
began to evolve towards advocacy of quality of life other institutions,” she says.
across a 14-county area, specifically, environmental
issues related to land use, transportation patterns, “The thing is, when these efforts fail, there is such a
air quality, water quality, and open space long period of recovery because in an effort to create
protection. social capital through these initiatives, we expend so
much of it, in terms of human connections, credibility
This transformation was a nascent presence at the and energy, not to mention money and other hard
1998 Regional Environmental Summit, for which resources,” says Chrislip. With this admonition in
Central Carolinas Choices lent its regional credibility mind, our community would be wise to learn from the
and facilitation expertise. But in the fervor to “do lessons of Voices & Choices as we launch a new round
something” following the Summit, Choices’ became of engagement initiatives (Crossroads Charlotte and
the fulcrum of activity around content-specific United Agenda for Children, primarily) aimed at
advocacy, ceding its role over a number of years as creating virtual civic space.
an issue-neutral convener and facilitator to the
emerging Lee Institute, Foundation For The We have much to celebrate and much to draw on
Carolinas and others. in our quest to build civic space. By and large,
Charlotte leaders in government, business, and the
“My overall impression is that in the 1995 - 1997 non-profit sectors are highly capable and committed
time frame, the community (Charlotte region) was to their community – our institutions have
discovering that cross-collaboration in decision- resources, are largely free of corruption and
making is important, and that there were several generally collaborative. Our citizens see their
attempts to get a shared community strategy going, community as moving forward, with challenges
but none of those ever really took,” says Carolyn facing us – this is a much preferable environment to
Lukensmeyer. Most people have said that many of build civic space than in a dying city or region.
those efforts brought people together and identified We’re not digging our way out of a hole, we’re
issues, but didn’t have strong enough links to building a strong foundation.

C O N N E C T I O N S / 1 1
Theme 2

The importance of
virtual civic space

But still, leaders and citizens who attempt to engage


in public discourse and crafting of policy are lacking There is a mis-match
the systems and civic infrastructure to put these well-
meaning and well-intended energies to work effi-
ciently. There is a mis-match at play in Charlotte
at play in Charlotte
between individual human capacity, social capital,
and our own systems for decision-making – our civic
space needs are greater than our current capacity.
between individual
Jim Gilmore, author of The Experience Economy
and the 2004 FFTC Annual Meeting speaker, tells
human capacity, social
us we have no time to waste. “I call it the Minkowksi
Space, after a physicist who describes change and capital, and our own
opportunity as a cone of future possibilities that is
three dimensional, charted from time, place and
movement axis. There are certain social capital systems for decision-
needs that will be impossible to meet if you don’t
spend your money more rapidly – they will be
impossible to do in the future because the opportunity
making – our civic
will be gone – the cone is smaller. Your goal should
be to do it so well that it becomes a source of revenue
as other communities seek to find out how you did
space needs are
it, how you created this space so brilliantly.”
greater than our
current capacity.

1 2 / C O N N E C T I O N S
Theme 3

The importance of
physical civic space

J
ane Jacobs describes cities as organic entities, “composed of physical-economic-
ethical processes active at a given time within a city and its close proximities.” The
importance of the physical attributes of our civic environment to our city’s social,
economic and cultural growth have been underscored by nearly all of the thinkers we
have invited to the Charlotte region.

Our own history is rife with examples of changes in physical space creating patterns of
long-term impact on our civic space. The impact of the destruction of the African-
American Brooklyn neighborhood in Second Ward is still recounted as a part of the
reason we continue to struggle with issues of trust between races in Charlotte. This
particular example reinforces Allen’s contention that many current societal issues have
their roots in the lack of a “shared history” in a community. What was desirable “urban
re-development” to the white power structure in Charlotte in the 1960’s and 1970’s meant
wholesale disruption of homes, churches and businesses to African-Americans.

C O N N E C T I O N S / 1 3
Theme 3

The importance of
physical civic space

I
n remarks to a group of Charlotteans in 2002, was asked to choose, at the end of a day-long inter-
Bowling Alone author Robert Putnam said that active session, what the MOST important “to do”
“sprawl is the underlying cause of decline in item was for the Charlotte region to ensure its
social capital in rapidly-growing areas like yours – vitality as a Creative Class metropolitan area.
you spend too much time in the car, and thus, less
with each other.” Our physical growth – more people, It’s important to note that Florida is not an
more neighborhoods, more roads, more shopping architect or social scientist, but an economist. It’s
centers, located in low-density configurations, has also important to know that the day had involved
proven to be both our blessing and burden. extensive discussion of Florida’s three pillars of a
successful Creative Class city and economy:
On the positive side, our physical environment has Technology, Talent, and Tolerance. But he had
much to do with our continued growth and prosperity. added a fourth: Place. By this, he meant parks,
On a small scale, uptown Charlotte, which is where streetscapes, open air venues, markets, pedestrian-
many newcomers form an impression of the community friendly neighborhoods, historic landmarks and
and is thus part of our “welcoming ritual,” continues other physical amenities.
to look and feel more like a “micropolitan,” with a
university campus, housing, restaurants, entertain- Participants had a variety of choices from which
ment venues and offices being added every year. On a to choose their top priority, including: a technology/
macro scale, our climate and temperate weather give us research institution (it was noted that this has happened
a natural advantage in attracting newcomers and at UNCC), a major corporate re-location, a major
retaining current residents. sports arena, and a modern art museum among others.
All of these options were beaten out as the top choice
We are a community that always has sought to grow by public spaces. Public space was defined as parks,
and build its way to a better future, but our plazas, entertainment venues, pedestrian malls, and
penchant for pursuing world-class status through the like. Indeed, Jacobs chooses sidewalks as the first
large-scale physical projects might need to include a area of study in her book, and describes them as having
more balanced approach. Charlotteans want to the following functions, which today we would clearly
improve, and aren’t afraid to reach, but are we categorize as elements of social capital: safety, contact
reaching for the right things? During Richard with others (both like and unlike ourselves) and
Florida’s 2003 engagement in Charlotte, a assimilating children.
gathering of city leaders hosted by UNC-Charlotte

1 4 / C O N N E C T I O N S
We must pay attention to the physical design of the spaces and
places in which we learn, play, shop, work, worship and
come into both deliberate and coincidental, yet innately
meaningful contact with each other.

The link between design of physical space and We want to identify to the outside world as a region
environmental, social and cultural health is central when it’s desirable to do so as an economic develop-
to McDonough’s theories on sustainability and ment tool (and rightly so), yet we seem mystified and
architectural design. In his description of the even angry when the city of Charlotte is confused on
Museum of Life and the Environment under devel- CNN or in national print media by name with
opment in South Carolina, he says that one of the Charlottesville, VA, Charleston, SC and others.
museum’s core values is to offer “a new model for This adds fuel to the fire of questions around “what
the interaction between people and place,” in this kind of community we want” simply because we are
case, with the natural environment. McDonough’s unable to consistently define what “community” we
keen observation that “design is the first signal of speak of, and this makes a difference. The
intent” reinforces the notion that if we intend to Experience Economy author Jim Gilmore asks,
address issues of equity, levels of social capital and “what is your welcoming ritual as a city?” One is
trust, then we must pay attention to the physical tempted to respond by asking, “from which tribe?”
design of the spaces and places in which we learn,
play, shop, work, worship and come into both To take one very simple indicator: our “community”
deliberate and coincidental yet innately meaningful is concurrently self-defined as a city of 800,000, a
contact with each other. region of 1.1 – 2.3 million (and 8 – 14, 15 or even
16 counties) while we toss about community labels
The discussion of place leads to…interesting places, and institutional names that lend even further
reflected in observations from the experts around obfuscation: The Charlotte Regional Partnership,
our community’s identity, both the ways in which we Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Bobcats, The Queen
can and do self-identify, and the ways in which we City, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Foundation For The
are identified and described in and to the outside Carolinas, Centralina, the Piedmont. One has only
world. to take a drive from one end of the “region” to the
other, say from Catawba County to Union County,
If there is confusion about who is a part of the “we” we SC to viscerally discern the difficulty in articulating
talk about, we have ourselves blame in part. But to be a common identity for such a large geographic area
fair, we suffer from a severe case of what I have termed – the terrain changes rapidly from rural to urban,
Historic-Onset Geographic Sybillitis (H.O.G.S.) and with this, corresponding changes in priorities,
That is, our rich history and tremendous growth in views on the future and how best to get there.
recent years have conspired with our world-class
aspirations to produce a civic identity crisis.

C O N N E C T I O N S / 1 5
Theme 3

The importance of
physical civic space

D
uring interviews, Jim Gilmore observes During interviews for Connections, many local
that, “in general, the Carolinas has a leaders identified “regionalism” as one of the key
favorable impression in people’s minds, challenges facing our leaders and citizens. To be
yet I sense that you (meaning residents of both sure, collaborative planning of transportation and
North and South Carolina) draw a much finer land use needs, aggressive marketing of the region’s
distinction between your cities than outsiders do – economic development advantages, climate and
what it means to be from Charlotte is little different distribution networks are desirable. But perhaps a
from what it means to be from the Carolinas (either component of the regionalism discussion should
North or South) to many outsiders. My advice is – include a healthy dialogue on the “who and where”
don’t be afraid to be Carolinians.” is included in all of our iterations, our faces, not
only to the outside world, but to ourselves.
Chrislip concurs, counseling that “the Charlotte
region, as with so many regions around the country, There is another issue related to our civic identity
is struggling with how to articulate where the lines of that is important to note, and this is our hyper-
delineation are, and who is included, but this is an propensity for comparison to other cities,
evolutionary process – the answer is more clear now communities and regions as we seek to craft our own
than it was 10 years ago in Charlotte. It’s an organ- identity.
ically emerging definition – it doesn’t seem to lend
itself to trying to sit down and define.” In the interviews with local leaders, there were a
number of comments of the ilk that “we don’t want
While it is certainly true that many cities and to be like Atlanta,” and “we need to be more like
regions share similar tendencies with regard to self- New York, or Chicago, DC or Austin to attract
identification and outside identity, it’s also true people.” While there is a good case to be made for
that despite the fact that Baltimore, New Orleans, the value of comparison as a way of benchmarking
Nashville and other cities which we view as “peer” our own pursuit for world-class recognition, there
cities are, in fact, also at the center of what Neil is also a self-defeating pitfall here.
Peirce and Curtis Johnson have named CitiStates
(1995 Peirce Report) that retain very distinct
identities of their own.

1 6 / C O N N E C T I O N S
To make use of an analogy, in sports, athletes in
competitive racing are taught to “let your eyes lead
Rather than assiduously
you,” meaning that you should look where you want
to be, not where you don’t want to be. In white water
rafting, for instance, staring at a boulder in a river
trying to avoid “being
while trying to avoid it will almost inevitably lead to
your boat crashing into that very boulder, rather
than the clear path ahead. Race car drivers, runners,
another Atlanta,” let’s
cyclists and other athletes look past what is immediately
around them, and focus in the distance – on where talk about “being
they want to be. We can describe a similar phenomenon
with our visions of our community. What kind of
place are we trying to be, and can we lift our heads to Charlotte,” and get
focus on getting there, rather than fixating on
visions of other communities, positive or negative?
intentional about
Over and over again, the experts said that their
experiences in the Charlotte area were very positive
– we have a very positive story to tell, and we should articulating and
be about the business of “finding the things that are
distinct about your community, those things that
can’t be found anywhere else, and making it a part of describing who we are
your story to the outside world,” says Jim Gilmore.
Rather than assiduously trying to avoid “being
another Atlanta,” let’s talk about “being Charlotte,”
now, and what kind of
and get intentional about articulating and
describing who we are now, and what kind of
place we aspire to be.
place we aspire to be.

C O N N E C T I O N S / 1 7
Theme 4

The “ordinariness” of
building social capital

W
hen we discuss social capital, civic capacity and concepts around trust and
relationship building, examination shows that, consistently, the speakers
counsel that relationship building doesn’t have to be grandiose, relying on
master projects, initiatives and visioning processes. The most successful can begin with
what Dr. Allen calls the “ordinary techniques of friendship,” talking to strangers as
example. Richard Florida says, “I would like to see broad support for a great number of
community initiatives and programs. Charlotte’s challenges might best be addressed by
1,000 smaller efforts rather than 1 or 2 massive projects,” he says.

1 8 / C O N N E C T I O N S
The little things matter – large-scale engagement efforts are
no substitute for knowing your neighbor.

E
ven the title of Dr. Robert Putnam’s book, Both of these experts recognize the vitality of large-
Bowling Alone suggests the significant scale process that enables citizens from a spectrum
impact of ordinary encounters on levels of of backgrounds to get involved in decision-making,
social capital. Florida discusses the multi-faceted nurturing their sense of shared community risk,
connections that people create in coffee shops, possibility and opportunity. Crossroads Charlotte
corner markets, and parks, saying that “neighborhood offers just such an opportunity for this community
networks are a city’s irreplaceable social capital.” over the coming year and beyond, but the
Foundation’s Front Porch grants initiative might
This observation should not be taken to discount the rightly be viewed as a companion effort to
value of a widely-held community vision derived Crossroads Charlotte, both serving different ends of
from what Lee Institute speaker David Chrislip calls the spectrum of social capital building as more and
“collaborative engagement” of citizens. In fact, com- more people are invited to encounter each other in
munity process and civic engagement have a close civic and physical social space via different paths.
relationship with random acts of kindness that
include Allen’s advice to overcome childhood Dr. Lukensmeyer reminds us that a goodly portion
admonitions on talking to strangers. Indeed, in an of the magic of AmericaSpeaks events, hallmarked as
AmericaSpeaks 21st Century town hall, participants large-scale, media-friendly, sophisticated tools for
must talk to strangers as they dialogue and problem- citizen engagement, lies in the power of the face-to-face
solve with tablemates – it’s a part of the event’s design. discussions that happen between people at tables during
the meeting. It is at this level that the “exploration of
During his Charlotte engagements, Chrislip cites people unlike myself” (Florida) takes place and trust
large civic visioning processes in Denver and begins. The little things matter – large-scale engagement
California as models of collaborative leadership, efforts are no substitute for knowing your neighbor.
and notes that initiatives like these can lead to
“revolutionary change in the culture of the
community.” Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer, comment-
ing on her visionary work in the field of electronic
town meetings, says that “we must develop the
nationwide infrastructure that is needed for citizens
to participate in governance” and has worked
to engage citizens in processes addressing
re-development of the World Trade Center, Social
Security, national health care coverage, and
childhood obesity.

C O N N E C T I O N S / 1 9
Theme 5

Defining a balance between


individual leadership and process –
the scales of change

D
avid Chrislip states that, “of all the threads that run through US culture, the most
pervasive and influential is that of the power and the freedom of individual achieve-
ment.” Florida concurs, saying, “we are steeped in the myth of Horatio Alger.”

The climate for decision-making in the Charlotte area has shifted over the last 10-15 years
from a model in which several significant business and political leaders crafted and
implemented a vision of the community’s future to…a model yet to be defined. Common
wisdom is that the “old way of doing things” is giving way to a new model based on
collaboration and consensus-building, wherein power is no longer held at the top by a few
select, but shared in a system in which the grassroots have increased leverage in wielding
civic muscle. This view was described in the Charlotte Peirce report (Neil Peirce and
Curtis Johnson, 1995).

2 0 / C O N N E C T I O N S
Even in the current push for more inclusive decision making,
for citizen engagement, for shared power structures, the call
for these tools, and their philosophical underpinnings, can be
traced back to a few individuals.

A
lmost a decade past publication of the Peirce Where are we in that quest? In this context of changing
report, Dr. Lukensmeyer’s concept of an leadership patterns, the current reality is somewhere
electronic town meeting has finally found in between the inspired, all-powerful and capable
root, leading to a call for an AmericaSpeaks event in leader and rule by enlightened, engaged masses.
which the community would arrive at a set of decisions Analysis of the opinions offered to us by visiting
protecting the health and well-being of children and experts shows that perhaps the middle ground on the
youth via a facilitated, shared engagement process. leader-group process continuum is not a bad place
Earlier interactive events (the 1997 Environmental to be – Horatio Alger has his place, but the civic ship
Summit, the 1997 Community Building Task Force is decidedly different in the new millennium. There
“Something Has Begun” event, the 2000 Leaders are a couple of reasons for this conclusion.
Caucus on Open Space, and others) designed to
support shared decision making have also bolstered First, if one takes as a given that our community,
the belief that a new way is being crafted for the with its faults and challenges (most notably evident
community to set priorities, make decisions and in our struggles with race, ethnicity and equity), is a
allocate resources. Crossroads Charlotte and the successful New South city, we have to acknowledge
United Agenda for Children town hall will add to that the model of a powerful few setting community
this list of civic engagement initiatives. priorities while the rest of the population provided
the horsepower served well to take us along a path of
Civic engagement and leadership is one of six driving at least economic prosperity. The proof is in the
forces of the Crossroads Charlotte scenarios. In these numbers: people want to live here, people of many
glimpses of possible futures for our community, the backgrounds, and socio-economic positions are
more positive scenarios (Class Act and Eye to Eye) moving to the city in droves.
highlight descriptions of shared decision-making and
shared power, while the less desirable scenarios Second, even in the current push for more inclusive
(Fortress Charlotte and The Beat Goes On) paint a decision making, for citizen engagement, for shared
picture of disengaged citizens and isolated leaders. power structures, the call for these tools, and their
philosophical underpinnings, can be traced back
So, by accounting of what we have done in terms of to a few individuals. Chrislip acknowledges this
civic engagement processes and by virtue of what we phenomenon, saying that, “in every example of
articulate as part of a desirable future, we see civic successful collaboration we (Chrislip and Larson)
engagement as a positive development in our quest encountered, there were people who served as
for leadership. catalysts – one or more people who had the clear

C O N N E C T I O N S / 2 1
Theme 5

Defining a balance between


individual leadership and process –
the scales of change

vision, or the energy to get people moving, or the forefront of the effort, accepting their role as a
words to inspire imagination, or the influence to community leader even as they offer the reins of
marshal the resources, or simply the nerve to call choice and power to multitudes of citizens who are
the meeting. In the beginning, collaboration is perhaps engaging for the first time in decision-
fueled by individual acts.” making. As an example, Washington, DC Mayor
Anthony Williams has now used the AmericaSpeaks
Do these individuals act alone? Of course not – they model for the third year in a row to set municipal
are skilled in leveraging the resources of larger budget priorities. Would a grassroots citizen with the
networks and organizations. Individual and organi- same idea see that idea into reality? Doubtful, but a
zational strengths work to enable each other in well-placed, energetic, powerful individual leader
successful systems. As Florida observes, “whereas can, and Mayor Williams did.
one person can write brilliant software, it takes large
organizations to consistently upgrade, produce and In Charlotte’s enthusiasm for process and
distribute that software.” collaborative decision-making, it will be important
not to forget the role of the individual visionary
Lukensmeyer has built this enablement into the leader even as we explore new ways to guide
AmericaSpeaks model, requiring that leaders, discussion, priority setting and resource allocation
individuals, in a community ask for the type of in our community that are open to what Chrislip
broad community engagement process that calls both the “usual and unusual suspects.”
AmericaSpeaks designs. Leaders must appear at the

2 2 / C O N N E C T I O N S
Theme 6

Let Diversity Reign!

N
early every expert interviewed for this study commented that their perception of
the Charlotte area had been formed around archetypical Southern images: a
majority white population, a slow pace, a genteel culture, a parochial, somewhat
unsophisticated but charming personality – and fine being that way, thank you. But these
perceptions changed as experiences with the community brought opportunities to see and
hear what it really means to be the New South poster city.

C O N N E C T I O N S / 2 3
Theme 6

Let Diversity Reign!

Dr. Allen recounts that, “before I came I thought of Census data shows that we are, in fact, a much more
it a lot like Savannah, lots of history, this sort of diverse city now then 10 years ago, and trend analysis
nostalgic place, and I was surprised and impressed predicts that by 2014, whites will form approxi-
that it is youthful and forward looking.” mately 55% of the population and non-whites 45%.

“My only contact with Charlotte had been the air- If we followed Jim Gilmore’s advice to “let
port prior to my time there, and so, the comfortable serendipity reign – let’s go find the fabric of the
rocking chairs matched perfectly with what I thought experience economy in Charlotte” and took a drive
of the city. When I got there, however, I have to say out Central Avenue from uptown Charlotte we
I was very pleasantly surprised by the diversity I saw, would see Asian and Latino businesses and neigh-
the energy of those I met with, and the presence of borhoods that were non-existent 10, or even 5,
so many committed community leaders,“ says Susan years ago. If we were to take Dr. Allen’s advice and
Crites Price. talk to someone we don’t know while on our trip,
we’d be much more likely to hear a language other
“I was impressed at how…cosmopolitan Charlotte than English in reply as the chart below shows:
feels now – most of my contact is with ALF
(American Leadership Forum) Fellows, which may
not be representative of the whole region, but still,
much more cosmopolitan than it used to be,” says
David Chrislip.
(source: The Charlotte Observer August 18, 2003, from 2002 U.S. Census projections)

SPEAKERS AGE 5 + INCREASE SINCE 1990


Languages spoken in
English 560,787 26%
Mecklenburg County - Spanish or Spanish Creole 45,064 392%
French or French Creole 4,570 32%
2002 Vietnamese 4,154 259%
German 3,434 42%
African languages 2,731 NA
Arabic 2,459 151%
Chinese 2,388 201%
Greek 2,327 40%
Korean 2,208 205%
Gujarati 1,565 NA
Cambodian 1,143 91%
Laotian 1,028 NA
Russian 961 758%
Other Asian languages 937 NA
Hmong or Miao (Laos) 771 NA
Italian 755 51%
Other Indic languages 715 NA
Tagalog 707 177%
Japanese 705 2%

2 4 / C O N N E C T I O N S
It’s not news that we’re becoming an increasingly diverse
community, yet we have really just begun to factor this sea
change into most of our thinking about our institutions,
both public and private.
It’s not news that we’re becoming an increasingly are unlike your own,” says Richard Florida, “and
diverse community, yet we have really just begun to when I ask young people, people who could live and
factor this sea change into most of our thinking work anywhere, the kind of people you’re competing
about our institutions, both public and private. In for, what they want, what they say is ‘I want to live in
many ways, the private sector has a much better grasp a place that’s authentic’.”
on the diverse marketplace – what it takes to woo
minorities as customers. Witness the explosive Authenticity stemming from our newfound diversity
growth in specialty food stores, professional services could be one of our strongest selling points to
and media outlets focused on the Asian and Latino potential newcomers, because it is sustainable. Our
population over the last decade. But even as we’re community’s diversity is real, is growing and will
figuring out how to appeal to a diverse customer, we continue to grow for the foreseeable future. If we
haven’t figured out how to activate and retain were to promote, celebrate and tell the outside
an active, diverse citizenry. One local interviewee, world that Charlotte not only welcomes diversity,
an African-American and partner in one of but is actively seeking it out, we may have found a way
Charlotte’s mainline law firms laments that, “We to build civic space that could complement important
can get new people here, new black professionals, physical spaces such as airports, university
but we can’t keep them – they come for awhile, and campuses or entertainment districts as a world-class
then go to D.C. or Atlanta.” To borrow from Jim asset. What do we need to find our identity and a
Gilmore again, our welcoming ritual seems to be path to a place on the list as one of America’s Great
working, but the follow-through is lacking, which is Cities? It’s right in front of us – let diversity reign!
why Richard Florida tells us that, “Anything building
and promoting tolerance and a celebration of
Charlotte’s diversity would be good investments, in
my opinion.”

In the non-profit and government sectors, the


community struggles with gathering the resources it
takes to support a diverse population – a range of
cultural, linguistic, economic and social challenges
are evident throughout the Charlotte area. Yet, this
diversity is exactly what most of the visiting experts
remarked upon as being one of our most visible,
surprising traits. “And this is where authenticity
lives – being around people and environments that

C O N N E C T I O N S / 2 5
Perceptions and Roles:
Foundation For The Carolinas

During interviews with Charlotte-area community leaders for Connections, five words
emerged that encapsulate what the role of FFTC is, and should be, in the community. I
have listed them in the order that they seemed to be prevalent in the comments gathered
rather than a strict quantitative listing, and have offered excerpts from interviewees that
best typify these impressions. Overall, Foundation For the Carolinas enjoys a very positive
image in the community mind – the comments offered reflected the kinds of thinking that
might be offered to a reflective best friend on the part of nearly all leaders interviewed.

2 6 / C O N N E C T I O N S
1. Funder
Clearly, the funding and philanthropic fiduciary responsibilities of the Foundation are first and foremost in
most minds, and will remain the core of the Foundation’s identity and continue to be what it brings to the
community table. But, perhaps there is room for more adventurous philanthropy. The Experience Economy
author Jim Gilmore says, “there are a lot of great foundations in dead cities” and encourages our community to
move boldly, counseling FFTC to become self-liquidating, on the premise that, “Charlotte has certain social
capital needs that will be impossible to meet in the future if you don’t spend more rapidly today – what’s
possible today is impossible tomorrow.“ While this might be viewed as extreme, the idea has merit in that, if
we accept the Gould notion of biological evolution and apply it to civic growth, there is logic to expending far
greater resources during some times of our community’s history than others, as opportunity or crisis
demands.

One interviewee stated that, “I wish the Foundation had more discretionary dollars to do some creative
philanthropy in the community, some things that might be viewed as risky – the Foundation supports
wonderful work, but I feel that it might be hampered sometimes in pursuing really cutting-edge initiatives.”

2. Convener
Many of those interviewed offered the word “convener” to describe Foundation For The Carolinas, and
thought of this role as being one of the most valuable. The Foundation is generally viewed as a fair player and
broker, able to bring together resources, organizations, people and ideas in an objective environment.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this role, however, is Foundation For The Carolinas unique ability to
declare, by virtue of “convening,” that an issue, concern or aspiration is officially on the civic agenda.

“Somebody needs to be able to reflect what’s going on in the community, without being too close to agencies,
or specific causes, and I think the Foundation does that, even if it doesn’t come out and say explicitly that it
does this, by calling together people on an issue who have different perspectives,” states one community
leader.

“When I say convener, I also mean that the Foundation can sit in the bully pulpit in the region, and we’re
lacking that kind of leadership in many ways right now. But the Foundation can, and does, I think, step out
front, uses its reach in a way that I think is increasingly difficult for the business community to do here any
longer because their concerns are more global now,” says another leader in the region.

Another interviewee cautions that, “we walk a dotted line being a convener – we don’t want to get political, or
compete with agencies like the Arts & Science Council or United Way, so it’s always a balancing act.”

C O N N E C T I O N S / 2 7
3. Facilitator
The Foundation enjoys not only a privileged position to call for the gathering of resources, organizations,
people and ideas, but also the perception that it can manage these components forward to action through
process. A primary example of this convener/facilitator continuum is the current Crossroads Charlotte project.
Foundation leadership decided that Social Capital was to be a part of our civic conversation, and so it was.
Then, with the Knight Foundation acting in support, it facilitated, through a capacity it had developed called
the Community Building Initiative, a process by which the community could respond and take action.

4. Think tank/thought leader


The community looks to the Foundation to serve as a sort of generator and repository of civic consciousness
and vision, removed far enough away from the business of doing business that Charlotte is known for to
be able to study the community from a long-term, strategic vantage point. This capacity, however, is perhaps
the most under-utilized, and to be fair, this might be because it is the role that is most distant from our
current notion of institutional leadership as active, as “doing something.”

“I think the Foundation is viewed as a place where key priorities are set and attention is focused, and this
attention can be flexible as the community’s needs change, but more and more, the Foundation is set up as
the place where thoughtful consideration can take place. I wonder sometimes if they have the capacity to do
as much of this as we want them to,” offers one local leader.

Carolyn Lukensmeyer also commented on this aspect of the Foundation’s role in the community, saying that,
“Given all that is going on, and where the community is, does the Foundation have adequate structure to
support the “thought leader” role?”

Another interviewee commented that he wished that when outside speakers are brought in, that they were
available to a wider audience, saying, “were they (the speakers) made available to enough people?”

5. Capacity builder
A city’s civic capacity is called upon, and its depth can be measured, when crisis erupts, or when special
opportunities emerge for which quick action must be taken. The Foundation is seen as the key player in
the community for supporting and maintaining the kind of civic capacity that enabled Charlotte to
avoid race riots in 1997 with the creation of the Community Building Initiative, and for moving the
community to address key issues affecting its future as with Partners in Out of School Time ( P.O.S.T.),
Crossroads Charlotte or United Agenda for Children.

2 8 / C O N N E C T I O N S
During a recent visit by Cincinnati area leaders to the Charlotte area, a Connections interviewee told the
visiting delegation that, “I think that the most important thing for you (Cincinnati) to do is to take your
community foundation and position it as THE place to go to as the center of discussion and resources – we
couldn’t have done what we’ve done with Community Building Initiative without the Foundation taking on
that capacity building role.”

Other interviewees offered more specific thoughts around the capacity-builder role:

• “I wish the Foundation would provide more training opportunities for those of us in non-profit
management, more brass tacks around outcome measurements for example. In my work, it’s hard to say
what you do in a quantifiable way, and this is true of others in non-direct service. The Foundation could
be at the forefront, bringing in some people to help us discuss this.”

• “As a young leader outside of the city of Charlotte, I was inspired early on by Foundation leadership to
reach out, to think more regionally, and I think this capacity is something that has helped me in my work
and this meant a lot to me personally, this nurturing of regional thinking, and it has meant a lot to the
communities I work in as well.”

• Another interviewee offered the perspective that the Foundation might also enhance capacity of a more
individual nature, saying that, “There is a need for a program to develop individual’s capacity to give – help
more people see the needs in the community and how they can give, maybe even more than they think they
can give.”

C O N N E C T I O N S / 2 9
Commentary
There is a definite discernible tension around how active FFTC should become as a change agent in the
community, and the strategies that might be employed to affect change. Those with close ties to FFTC are very
conscious of its obligation to clients, or funders (more risk averse), while those outside that circle would like
to see FFTC grow into a stronger leadership role (less risk averse).

It will be important, in this consultant’s view, that the Foundation very carefully, but energetically, tread the
dotted lines between its obligations and fiduciary responsibilities to grantors and its perceived role as a change
agent and catalyst, and in this regard, for it to acknowledge more directly that it has, and will, fill some, one,
or all of these roles at different points in the community’s history.

The Foundation should be more overt about this acknowledgement than it has been, primarily because the
community needs, is thirsting for, strong leadership. While the Foundation cannot be the only answer, it can
and should firmly grasp the civic leadership reins that have been ever so slowly allowed to loosen from the
community’s grasp. Somewhere in the mix of funder, convener, facilitator, thought leader and capacity
builder, there is a sophisticated role for leadership that might properly be called the “active convener”
role – not an advocate of specific issues, but not a totally benign benefactor either.

Our community is at a critical place – vast resources at hand, very capable individual leaders, and capacity
for visionary growth. But, we have a leadership vacuum that muffles our ability to fully make use of these gifts.
Our weak mayoral system of government means that political leadership is tied to traditional service delivery
or reactionary politics. Meanwhile, our uptown business leaders must necessarily cast broader gazes as their
spheres of influence grow broader and broader nationally and globally. Citizens are left to wonder: who is
left to lead?

3 0 / C O N N E C T I O N S
Recommendations

The following recommendations vary in scope and focus, and are intended to reflect the
thinking ideas springing from information and concepts in Connections. I have divided
them between those that are Foundation-focused and those that are community-focused.

Foundation-focused recommendations
1. Set a process in motion to fully describe and articulate the various roles of Foundation For The
Carolinas in the community, locating the Foundation on a benign/activist continuum of identities and
resulting actions. In doing so, I recommend that the Foundation very carefully protect and
preserve its position as the community’s convener and that it articulate that position and repeat it to staff,
Board, funders, grantees and the community at large. The process should start with dialogues with
grantees, members of the Board, staff and key community leaders and end with a document that
promulgates these identities and roles clearly, acknowledging that a balance among all of these roles is
reality. Incorporate and define how the Foundation can become an “active convener.”

2. Create a Foundation For The Carolinas Fellows program, a “think tank” of leading experts in the
community that meets once a year to outline and discuss key challenges facing the community. Add to this
membership our visiting experts, and invite them back on a regular basis to assist us in assessing our
progress and evaluating new ideas for the community. As a part of this effort, Foundation Fellows could
conduct pre- and post-interviews with all visiting experts from this point forward and publish these
interviews along with their presentations, speeches, etc.

3. Devote more resources and, if necessary, a targeted fund-raising effort, towards enhancing the
Foundation’s convening and thought leadership roles in the community. Current efforts in civic
engagement in the Charlotte community that are being supported by the Foundation are perfectly timed
to highlight the need for this role, and timing given the weight and scope of the types of issues the
community is facing further build the case for this capacity. Added to this is the arguable reality that the
Foundation is not only uniquely, but singularly, positioned in the community to play this role.

4. Create a High-Risk Civic Venture Philanthropy Fund, perhaps with a name like Foundation2 to
fund particularly bold, but unproven initiatives in the community that address specific needs. Grantees
from this fund might not have to meet the same requirements as traditional grantees, and might be a part
of experiments in evaluation and assessment that could later be expanded if successful.

C O N N E C T I O N S / 3 1
Foundation-focused recommendations (cont’d.)
5. Continue to develop and support a Youth Philanthropy Program to follow up on Susan Crite’s
Price’s recommendation during her time in Charlotte and begin to unleash the power of philanthropy
in future generations. Model programs exist in other communities in the nation and should be studied
for replicability in our area.

Community-focused recommendations
1. Embrace the Big Idea. If we want a city that is energetic, able to compete for the world’s best and
brightest, and able to support a continually improving quality of life in a competitive global economy and
environment, we will need to take some bold steps stemming from Big Ideas in Charlotte.

Our reticence to embrace ideas that “will never work” or are “too risky” leads to a culture of civic timidity
and a nearly palpable stifling of creative energy. We have to learn to imagine energetically, to pursue new
ways of thinking aggressively, and expand our threshold for risk.

I recommend that we create a juried competition managed by an “Office of Big Ideas”, perhaps in
conjunction with an existing event like the Southern Summit, to render cutting-edge, inspiring ideas
about our community’s future from all sectors of the community.

The Power of the Big Idea is prolific in the stories of great societies, great nations, and Great Cities –
indeed, much of the identities of some of these entities has coalesced around Big Ideas. Consider John
F. Kennedy’s call to put a man on the moon, “not because it is easy, but because it is hard,” a call that
inspired an entire nation, not merely because of the specific idea itself, but because a leader essentially
said that is a good thing to pursue a Big Idea – this is now recognized as a defining American moment.
We need to cultivate and nurture our capacity for this type of thinking in Charlotte.

Imagine:

What if, tomorrow morning, we picked up The Charlotte Observer to read that a coalition of Charlotte-
area corporations had announced a program called Education 1 in which they were going to send
every single high school graduate in the county to college if they chose to go and give sufficient
funds to make teacher pay in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system #1 in the nation, not in 10
years, or 5 years, but next year?

What if, Charlotte’s regional elected officials appeared on stage together at a major public event to
announce that not only would we have effective mass transit, but that the region was going to pursue
the goal of making a car-less ride possible from one end of the region to the other by 2025?

3 2 / C O N N E C T I O N S
What if, in 2008, on the 40th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Charlotte was
chosen to host a world gathering of civil rights leaders, because it had become a model community for
race relations? And what if someone in our community proposed just such a gathering in 2004?

And, what if, one person had an idea to move a culinary school to Charlotte, a person who was not
a traditional leader and outside of the pool of “usual suspects,” and this idea became reality? Or that
Charlotte was going to be a world financial center, or would have an NFL team? Welcome to our
present – Johnson & Wales, Bank of America and Wachovia, and the Carolina Panthers are testament
to the power of the Big Idea – let’s create more.

2. Use the 10th anniversary of the Pierce Report in 2005 as the occasion to launch an effort, every
10 years, for the community to do a broad-spectrum self-assessment, and publish the results. The
resulting look at our community could yield a reflective look at our broad needs, opportunities,
obstacles and serve as a benchmarking document. Elements of initiatives like the United Agenda for
Children, Crossroads Charlotte, Advantage Carolina and others could serve as baseline data. However,
the hybrid of data analysis and qualitative information gleaned by Pierce and Johnson in 1995 should be
the goal, such that the picture presented is a balance of poetry and prose.

3. Identify critical periods and defining moments in Charlotte’s history that need to be explored and
for which common histories must be written that properly take into account differing perspectives.
Begin with the Brooklyn story as an example. Create a Defining Moments community initiative that
would allow teachers in public and private schools to imbed this work in a curriculum of study that would
trace historic, economic, social, political and spiritual impacts in these defining moments. From this
work, a “shared history” would begin to emerge and the model used for assembling this history could be
used to document our community in current events.

C O N N E C T I O N S / 3 3
Bang for the Buck
Why Bringing in Outside Speakers is Worth Doing

Without exception, interviewees for Connections responded that the Foundation For The
Carolinas should continue to bring in speakers of the caliber offered to the community
over the last 4-5 years and said that the speakers were catalytic in many cases. In gauging
the effects of having brought in these experts, I submit that two measurements are
valuable:

One - the level to which dialogue and conversation in the community is affected and shifts,
from even the use of key words to entire concepts and ideas;

Two - the direct cause/effect relationship that can be traced from community initiatives to
individual speakers.

3 4 / C O N N E C T I O N S
On the first point:

It is clear that the concept and lingo around Dr. 1. The focus of Foundation For The Carolinas
Robert Putnam’s social capital studies have seeped grant-making in Social Capital as one of three
into conversations across the community, showing priority areas. These grants are distributed across a
up in conference rooms, chambers, public meetings range of agencies and grantees and this focus has
and other conversations as well as columns and caused social capital to emerge prominently as a
letters to the editor in The Charlotte Observer and the measurement of our community’s overall quality of
Charlotte Post. Social capital is the basis of much of life.
Foundation For The Carolinas grant-making, and 2. The creation of Crossroads Charlotte began when
its level of health is now a broadly-shared communi- the Foundation convened a group of community
ty priority. Dr. Richard Florida’s “creative class” leaders to devise a project-based response to the
concept has been cited by numerous interviewees as Charlotte community’s low ranking in levels of trust
having particular resonance for those thinking about between races on Putnam’s Social Capital survey.
the community’s economic future. Clearly, when 3. The creation of Front Porch grants to support
dialogue about our community’s future includes small-scale social capital projects in the community.
phrases like this, an impact has been made, but more
importantly, the saturation of these ideas shows that Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer – of the experts cited in
we listen to those we bring in, and use what we have this study, Dr. Lukensmeyer has spent the most time
learned. Specifically, numerous significant initiatives, in the Charlotte community, having first visited the
or at least effects on initiatives, can be traced back to community shortly after the genesis of Central
the work and offerings of our outside experts, which Carolinas Choices in 1997. The current United
leads to the second point. Agenda for Children effort has its roots solidly in
Dr. Lukensmeyer’s connections to this community.
A catalog of effects drawn from interviews conducted
for Connections includes the following – while not In 1998, Dr. Lukensmeyer included a group of 6
all of the speakers were specifically mentioned, most Charlotteans in a national retreat held in Racine,
interviewees commented that the sum total effect of WI to discuss the status of civic engagement in the
the speakers had been influential to them in their United States in 1998. Attendees included:
work. I have listed them below in a rough order of
appearance in the community. • Madine Fails, President of the Urban League of
the Carolinas
Dr. Robert Putnam – the Age of Social Capital in • Bill McCoy, then executive director of the UNC-
Charlotte is upon us, and its influence can be seen Charlotte Urban Institute
in everything from the Crossroads Charlotte project • Betty Chafin Rash, then Executive Director of
to the United Agenda for Children to numerous Central Carolinas Choices
other civic initiatives. Social capital is now firmly • Tracy Russ, then Project Manager of Central
entrenched in Charlotte’s lexicon, and it remains to Carolinas Choices.
be seen what the net effect of having the concept as a • Bill Spencer, then President of Foundation For
part of our thinking will be ultimately. Three The Carolinas
specific effects of Putnam’s work in the community
can be discerned:

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Bang for the Buck
Why Bringing in Outside Speakers is Worth Doing

This experience proved to be the start of a long Dr. Richard Florida – Florida’s message resonated
connection between the Charlotte community and with the Charlotte community, and his creative class
Dr. Lukensmeyer’s AmericaSpeaks organization. In language has been used repeatedly in discussions
2002, I led a Charlotte delegation of volunteer about future economic development in the region
facilitators to AmericaSpeak’s New York City electronic since his time here in 2003. The Salisbury
town hall involving over 4,000 citizens. The event, Committee of 100 has recommended that Creative
entitled “Listening to the City” was designed to Class-focused economic development become a
engage citizens in making decisions about what could core priority in that community, while the Charlotte
and should happen as re-development of the World Chamber has asked a group of young business leaders
Trade Center site took place. Dr. Anne Udall, to devise specific strategies for attracting and retaining
Executive Director of the Lee Institute, was among members of the Creative Class to the area.
these volunteers. Seeing the power of the electronic
town hall experience to engage citizens and create David Chrislip – Chrislip’s work with the American
and agenda for community change, she returned to Leadership Forum now continues with the fourth
Charlotte, and with the leadership of Lynnwood class of ALF Fellows in the Charlotte region begin-
Foundation President Cyndee Patterson, moved to ning work, much of it based in Chrislip’s work on
make an electronic town hall for Charlotte a reality, collaboration. The region now has a network of
this one centered on the needs of children and leaders who are trained in using collaborative action
youth in the community and entitled United Agenda to move their communities forward, and this
for Children. capacity will prove to be of great value as the region
continues to grapple with issues related to growth,
William McDonough – for nearly two years after the environment, transportation, education and
McDonough’s visit to the Charlotte community, his economic development.
remarks were the most visited portion of the
Foundation For The Carolinas website. His remarks Dr. Danielle Allen – while no direct initiative has
around sustainable design and community were resulted from Dr. Allen’s time in the Charlotte
inspirational enough for regional leaders to ask him region, several interviewees noted that her contention
to serve as lead architect for the Museum of Life and that much of Charlotte’s current issues with racial
the Environment, now under development in South trust were due to a “lack of shared history” was
Carolina. One elected official in the region cited impactful. Specifically, those interviewed who were
McDonough’s comments as inspirational, reinforcing in some way connected to the Levine Museum of the
their own views that the proposed Mecklenburg New South’s COURAGE exhibit stated emphatically
County greenway was vital for the community’s that Dr. Allen’s thoughts helped set the exhibit in
future. context for planning and facilitation. Dr. Allen’s
work has also been credited with moving
conversations with participants in Community
Building Initiative projects forward, providing
context and content for participants.

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Executive Summary

The Role of Intent and Vision


Richard Florida ends his 2002 book, Rise of the Creative Class, by outlining a series of key
challenges to modern society. The most important challenge, he states, is to answer the
question, “What do we really want? What kind of life – and what kind of society – do we want
to bequeath to coming generations?” It is the first part of the question that rings most
authentic for reflection in this community – what do we, in Charlotte, really want as a city
and community?

In 2002, architect William McDonough began his remarks to the Foundation For The
Carolinas Annual Luncheon by saying, “Design is the first signal of intent.” McDonough
went on to demonstrate that sustainable communities, economies and even buildings are
sustainable because those who design these systems intend for them to be sustainable as a
primary objective – sustainability isn’t an outcome, it’s the objective.

So to borrow from McDonough, what are our true intentions as a city and community, and
how can we design the ways we make decisions, allocate resources, and create change to
realize those intentions? Can we find the right combination of people and civic tools to
create a truly shared vision of our community’s future and get intentional about making that
vision a reality?

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Executive Summary

The Importance of Virtual Civic Space


The concept of cultural “civic space” present in a community is one oft repeated in the study
materials. This space may reside within, but is not the same as, shared community physical
space, public buildings and venues. Yet, the language around civic space borrows from the
physical. How many times do we speak of “being at the table”, or “opening doors” of access to
decision-making, or “stakeholders” being “connected” in our attempts to assign physical
attributes to processes of relationship and trust building?

Civic space is where divergent and often conflicting ideas meet for airing and perhaps
resolution, where the capacity for good information, processes and facilitated discussion can
connect with the means for outcomes of those discussions to create change in the community.

Civic space works best when it is created intentionally, providing the means and
structures for the formulation of shared community values, decisions on priorities, and
allocation of resources (tax dollars, private investments, grants) that support decisions based on
those priorities. Often, civic space is referred to as civic capacity or social infrastructure. If, as
McDonough asserts, “design is the first signal of intent,” then the Charlotte community must be
just as intentional about designing and creating social civic space as it is new arenas, schools,
libraries and parks.

The Importance of Physical Civic Space


In Jane Jacobs’ landmark book 1961 book, the Death and Life of Great American Cities, the author
describes cities as organic entities, “composed of physical-economic-ethical processes active at a
given time within a city and its close proximities.” In this excerpt, Jacobs establishes the links
between social patterns and physical ones. Not surprisingly, the importance of the physical
attributes of our city’s social, economic and cultural growth have been underscored by nearly all
of the thinkers we have invited over the last three years.

The link between design of physical space and environmental, social and cultural health is
central to McDonough’s theories on sustainability and architectural design. Again, his keen
observance that “design is the first signal of intent” reinforces the notion that if we intend to
address issues of equity, levels of social capital and trust, that we must pay attention to the
physical design of the spaces and places in which we learn, play, shop, work, worship and come
into deliberate and coincidental yet innately meaningful contact with each other.

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The “Ordinariness” of Building Social Capital
When we discuss social capital, civic capacity and concepts around trust and relationship
building, examination shows that, consistently, the speakers counsel that relationship building
doesn’t have to be grandiose, relying on master projects, initiatives and visioning processes. The
most successful can begin with what Dr. Allen calls the “ordinary techniques of friendship.”

Even the title of Dr. Robert Putnam’s book, “Bowling Alone” suggests the significant impact of
ordinary encounters on levels of social capital and Florida discusses the multi-faceted
connections that people create in coffee shops, corner markets, and parks, going so far as to say
that “neighborhood networks are a city’s irreplaceable social capital.”

The experts recognize the vitality of large-scale process that enables citizens from a spectrum of
backgrounds to get involved in decision-making, nurturing their sense of shared community
risk, possibility and opportunity. Yet, as Dr. Lukensmeyer reminds us, a goodly portion of the
magic of AmericaSpeaks events, hallmarked as large-scale, media-friendly, expensive tools for
citizen engagement, lies in the power of the face-to-face discussions that happen between
people at tables during the meeting. It is at this level that the “exploration of people unlike
myself” (Florida) takes place and trust begins. The little things matter – large-scale engagement
efforts are no substitute for knowing your neighbor.

Defining a Balance Between Individual Leadership and Process


The climate for decision-making in the Charlotte area has shifted over the last 10-15 years from
a model in which several significant business and political leaders crafted and implemented a
vision of the community’s future to an unknown model yet to be defined. Common wisdom is
that the “old way of doing things” is giving way to a new model based on collaboration and
consensus-building, wherein power is no longer held at the top by a few select, but shared in a
system in which the grassroots have increased leverage in wielding civic muscle. This view was
described in 1995 in the Charlotte Peirce report.

Dr. Lukensmeyer’s concept of an electronic town meeting has found root, leading to a call for
an AmericaSpeaks event in which the community would arrive at a set of decisions protecting the
health and well-being of children and youth via a facilitated, shared engagement process.
Earlier interactive events (the 1997 Environmental Summit, the 2000 Leaders Caucus)
designed to support shared decision making have also bolstered the belief that a new way is being
crafted for the community to set priorities, make decisions and allocate resources.

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Executive Summary

Defining a Balance Between Individual Leadership and Process


The reality is somewhere in between, and analysis of the opinions offered to us by visiting experts
shows that perhaps a middle ground on the leader-group process continuum is not a bad place
to be – Horatio Alger has his place, but the civic ship is decidedly different in the new
millennium.

Let Diversity Reign!


It’s not news that we’re becoming an increasingly diverse community, yet we have really have just
begun to factor this sea change into most of our thinking about our institutions, both public and
private. In many ways, the private sector has a much better grasp on the diverse marketplace –
what it takes to woo minorities as customers. Witness the explosive growth in specialty food
stores, professional services and media outlets focused on the Hispanic population over the last
decade. But even as we’re figuring out how to appeal to a diverse customer, we haven’t figured
out how to activate and retain an active, diverse citizenry.

Authenticity stemming from our newfound diversity could be one of our strongest selling points
to potential newcomers, because it is sustainable. Our community’s diversity is real, is growing
and will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. If we were to promote, celebrate and tell
the outside world that Charlotte not only welcomes diversity, but is actively seeking it out, we may
have found a way to build civic space that could complement important physical spaces such as
airports, university campuses or entertainment districts as a world-class asset. What do we need
to find our identity and a path to a place on the list as one of America’s Great Cities? It’s right
in front of us – it’s the diversity, stupid!

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Executive Summary – Recommendations

Foundation-focused recommendations
1. Set a process in motion to fully describe and articulate the various roles of Foundation For The
Carolinas in the community, locating the Foundation on a benign/activist continuum of identities and
resulting actions. In doing so, I recommend that the Foundation very carefully protect and preserve the
its position as the community’s convener and that it articulate that position and repeat it to staff, Board,
funders, grantees and the community at large. Incorporate and define how the Foundation can become
an “active convener.”

2. Create a Foundation For The Carolinas Fellows program, a “think tank” of leading experts in the
community that meets once a year to outline and discuss key challenges facing the community. Add to this
membership our visiting experts, and invite them back on a semi-regular basis to assist us in
assessing our progress and evaluating new ideas for the community.

3. Devote more resources and, if necessary, a targeted fund-raising effort, towards enhancing the
Foundation’s convening and thought leadership roles in the community. Current efforts in civic
engagement in the Charlotte community that are being supported by the Foundation are perfectly timed
to highlight the need for this role, and timing given the weight and scope of the types of issues the
community is facing further build the case for this capacity. Added to this is the arguable reality that the
Foundation is not only uniquely, but singularly, positioned in the community to play this role.

4. Create a High-Risk Civic Venture Philanthropy Fund, perhaps with a name like Foundation2 to
fund particularly bold, but unproven initiatives in the community that address specific needs. Grantees
from this fund might not have to meet the same requirements as traditional grantees, and might be a part
of experiments in evaluation and assessment that could later be expanded if successful.

5. Continue to develop and support a Youth Philanthropy Program to follow up on Susan Crite’s
Price’s recommendation during her time in Charlotte and begin to unleash the power of philanthropy
in future generations. Model programs exist in other communities in the nation and should be studied
for replicability in our area.

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Executive Summary

Community-focused recommendations
1. Embrace the Big Idea. If we want a city that is energetic, able to compete for the world’s best and
brightest, and able to support a continually improving quality of life in a competitive global economy and
environment, we will need to take some bold steps stemming from Big Ideas in Charlotte. Our reticence
to embrace ideas that “will never work” or are “too risky” leads to a culture of civic timidity and a nearly
palpable stifling of creative energy. We have to learn to imagine energetically, to pursue new ways of
thinking aggressively, and expand our threshold for risk.

2. Use the 10th anniversary of the Pierce Report in 2005 as the occasion to launch an effort, every
10 years, for the community to do a broad-spectrum self-assessment, and publish the results.

3. Identify critical periods and defining moments in Charlotte’s history that need to be explored and
for which common histories must be written that properly take into account differing perspectives.

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Bibliography

“Annual Meeting Keynote Address for Foundation For The Carolinas”, William McDonough, 2001.
www.fftc.org/resources

Better Together: Restoring the American Community by Dr. Robert Putnam. Simon & Schuster, 2003.
www.bettertogether.org.

Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Dr. Robert Putnam. Simon &
Schuster, 2000. www.bowlingalone.com

Collaborative Leadership – How Citizens and Civic Leaders Can Make a Difference by David Chrislip
and Carl E. Larson. Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1994.

The Collaborative Leadership Fieldbook by David Chrislip. Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2002.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. The Modern Library, 2003.
http://www.people.virginia.edu/~plan303/

The Giving Family: Raising Our Children to Help Others by Susan Crites Price. Council on
Foundations, 2001.

The Hannover Principles – Design for Sustainability by William McDonough Architects, 1992.
www.mcdonough.com

The Rise of the Creative Class by Dr. Richard Florida. Basic Books, 2002. www.creativeclass.org.

“Sacred text and American Philanthropy” by Dr. Claire Gaudiani - Annual Meeting Keynote Address,
FFTC 2002.

Taking Democracy to Scale: Creating a Town Hall Meeting for the Twenty-First Century by Carolyn J.
Lukensmeyer and Steve Brigham, National Civic Review, Volume 9, no. 4, Winter 2002.

“Talking to Strangers” Annual Meeting Keynote Address,” Dr. Danielle Allen, 2003.
www.fftc.org/resources

C O N N E C T I O N S / 4 3
Referenced Initiatives

Crossroads Charlotte
A three-phase, three-year initiative designed to catalyze leading organizations in the
community and citizens to examine four scenarios of the community’s future and craft
action steps to steer the Charlotte region toward desired futures. Crossroads Charlotte is
funded by Foundation For The Carolinas and the John S. & James L. Knight foundation
managed by Community Building Initiative. For more information, contact Community
Building Initiative at 704.333.2595

United Agenda for Children


United Agenda for Children is a process to assemble a set of community priorities relating
to the needs of youth and children in Mecklenburg County, beginning with a large-scale
electronic “town meeting” of up to 2,000 citizens in December, 2004.
For more information, contact the Lee Institute at 704.714.4454

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About the Author

Tracy Russ is a writer and principal in Russ Communications Group, a creative content
development and communications consulting firm, and Interactive Decisions, a process
design, strategic planning and facilitation practice.

“My work is rooted in writing and the creative process – I believe that people and
organizations move forward when they are inspired by imagination – the creative process can
be powerfully transformative. This belief threads its way through all of my work with
corporate, non-profit, governmental and civil society organizations,” says Russ.

Russ Communications Group works with clients to develop core messages, communications
plans, media relations strategies and outreach words and tools for reaching key audiences.

Interactive Decisions was formed in 2003 by Mr. Russ and Mr. Dennis Hayes to assist groups
in designing shared decision-making processes and draws on Mr. Russ’ and Mr. Hayes’
combined experience in consensus building, content development and process/production
design.

Russ Communications’ and Interactive Decisions’ client list includes: Centralina Council
of Governments, Community Building Initiative, the Crosland Company, Duke Energy,
Foundation For The Carolinas, the Lee Institute, the North Carolina Community
Development Initiative, Paradigm Management, the national Sierra Club, Smart Start of
Mecklenburg County, Voices & Choices of the Central Carolinas.

Mr. Russ is a Board member of the Light Factory and Helping Hands in Charlotte, NC, was
named an American Memorial Marshall Fund Fellow in 2002, and was named a Charlotte
Chamber Images & Impact “Behind the Scenes” leader in 2003.

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Printed April, 2005 1.5M
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Foundation For The Carolinas


217 S. Tryon Street, Charlotte, NC 28202
(704) 973-4500 • www.fftc.org