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 The 6 Themes The Role of Intent and Vision The Importance of Virtual Civic Space The Importance of Physical Civic Space The “Ordinariness” of Building Social Capital Finding a Balance Between Individual Leadership and Process Let Diversity Reign! Perceptions and Roles: Foundation For The Carolinas Recommendations Bang for the Buck: What’s Happened Executive summary Bibliography About the author 6 8 13 18 20 23 26 31 34 37 43 45 4

CONNECTIONS
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These thinkers have included:
• Danielle Allen, FFTC 2003 Annual Meeting speaker • David Chrislip, author, On Collaborative Leadership • Richard Florida, author, Rise of the Creative Class • Claire Gaudiani, author, Sacred Text and Philanthropy • James Gilmore, author, The Experience Economy • Carolyn Lukensmeyer, AmericaSpeaks • William McDonough, author, The Hannover Principles • Susan Crites Price, author, Instilling Philanthropy in Family Legacies • Robert Putnam, author, Bowling Alone Each of these people has provided opportunity and catalyst for our community to learn and reflect on core values and concepts. The community has asked for, and received, a vast amount of information and learning not only of data, but substance around our community identity, how we interact and make decisions, and where we are on a continuum of modern civic practices. But we have failed to set what we have learned in any kind of context, discovering and documenting common themes and lessons learned from this collected body of knowledge. Further, our time spent with many of these thinkers has led to a flurry of activity, each pursued without a strategic approach that considers how these calls for action might fit together within a broader community context.

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he Charlotte regional community is blessed with forward-thinking and dedicated leaders and citizens. We are a banking center, yes, but our human capital, people who have bold ideas and the creativity, tenacity, skills and heart to move a community forward are our greatest asset, and we should invest in them at every opportunity, every time, and every place we can. This document is one such investment, offered to the community as a catalyst to light the imaginations of leaders and citizens in Charlotte and the region. We are, citizens and leaders alike, in the midst of living history – a city and region of untold potential is bursting up around us. We have great people, economic resources, a prime location. But, 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? Can we embrace our own future and get comfortable with the fact that the engine we’ve built is powerful, and might take us for a wild ride once in awhile, but can also take us to fantastic, wonderful places? Yes, we can, if we choose to. Over the last 4 years, Foundation For The Carolinas (FFTC) and the Charlotte community have invited a number of leading thinkers in the fields of civic engagement, social trends, human studies and economic development to share their message, knowledge and observations.

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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 done as a result of these learnings.

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 • interviews with 24 local community leaders chosen to represent a range of backgrounds, interests and 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 augment its role as a thought leader in the community and region. Connections will be made available to other “capacity” institutions in our community to ground and catalyze future initiatives, strategies and guide use of resources.

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?

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Theme 1

Define our intent, create our vision of our community

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?

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Our visiting experts have told us - it’s time for Charlotte to call the question: what kind of community do we want?
r, on the darker side, do we already do exactly that, either by choice or incident, creating a future while wearing what Jane Jacobs (author of the landmark 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities), calls “the dishonest mask of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and be served.” The question Florida raises was at the front of the minds of the 21 participants in the Charlotte Grassroots Civic Lab project (the precursor to the Crossroads Charlotte project) as they asked, “what course will Charlotte-Mecklenburg chart over the next 10 years as it deals with issues of access, equity, inclusion and trust in the community?” We are blessed to be a thriving city, in a region projected to continue its prosperous path, but our intended destination remains unclear. We, as a community, have thus far failed to successfully construct the needed virtual civic space (discussed later in this study) to attempt an answer to this question, and as a result, both leaders and grassroots citizens are unable to articulate a common vision of our future together, either within the City of Charlotte or in a broader regional context. David Chrislip, author of Collaborative Leadership, advises us that “if there is no agreement about the vision for the city or region, create an initiative whereby citizens can explore and agree on future needs and directions.” But our work isn’t done when we create this vision. If we were to find a way to assemble a vision of ourselves in the future, a set of “needs and directions” that could guide our decisions, what then would be the challenge? 2003 FFTC Annual Meeting speaker Dr. Danielle Allen (her speech was entitled “Talking

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to Strangers”) tells us that a sense of reciprocity is a key attribute of healthy societies, meaning that a sense of sacrifice is required as people in societies give up some portion of control or power. Can we acknowledge that truly communal decisions benefit some citizens at the expense of others, even when the whole community benefits, and that some of us will have to sacrifice (power, access, money) to create a mutually beneficial shared future? Our timing for thinking about our future is good. Modern theories of evolution point to long, slow periods of relatively static existence for most organisms, interspersed with often cataclysmic, dynamic bursts of adaptive change. In the midst of change, some organisms thrive while others slowly falter in the cycle. In Charlotte, our physical, demographic, social and cultural growth tracks this natural pattern – we are in the midst of rapid change, but instead of merely being adaptive (which we must be) we have the opportunity to choose our next evolutionary state, or to at least choose the degree of deliberate influence we exert on that state. Leaders and citizens alike sense a lack of common vision and purpose for the city’s future, yet recognize that we are at a decision point on our historic timeline. Generally, we look down the road and remain confident in our community’s continued prosperity despite growing pains that have included environmental degradation, a tangling of traffic congestion, struggles over demographic and cultural diversity, a chasm between new and old Charlotte social and cultural institutions, and a conflict around our system of public education and its place in our priorities. Our visiting experts have told us – it’s time for Charlotte to call the question: what kind of community do we want?

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Theme 2

The importance of virtual civic space

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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 decisionmaking, 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.

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Can we improve the quality of civic space so that more citizens participate in charting their futures?
he interplay between physical and civic space is powerful and symbiotic. We “pull the lever” in the voting booth, but the phrase connotes, of course, not just the physical booth, but the concept of participatory democracy brought to life in a physical sense. In spite of declining voter turnout, let’s remain cognizant that millions upon millions of people across the U.S. continue to vote in elections because they feel a visceral connection to guiding their individual and collective futures – they are actively engaging inside civic space. This point of view, of course, begs a question: can we improve the quality of civic space so that more citizens participate in charting their futures? Experts like Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer of AmericaSpeaks answer with a resounding “yes,” and point to models like the 21st Century town meeting as one path to go down for communities seeking to build just such improved space. Civic space as an abstract concept meets very real literal transformation in many aspects of our local history. The story of 15-year old Dorothy Counts entering Harding High School in 1957 in Charlotte, thus beginning this community’s drive to integrate public schools, is an excellent example. Counts’ experience was quite literally a dangerous physical journey, but it was the metaphorical value of those steps that have enduring meaning and power. Suddenly, the community was changed – the result of a struggle that had occurred in civic space and manifested in the physical. The Levine Museum of the New South and the Community Building Initiative triumphantly tapped the power of this civic-physical transmutation in the COURAGE exhibit – visitors were inside a physical space, but what they experienced was much, much

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more than this, which is why the sum total of the visit is described as “transforming” by many. What might result as the sum total of these experiences? We have yet to see. Civic space cannot be built without community stewards; institutions, organizations, and people whose role it is not only to actively create and maintain the civic space, but to advocate for its use to address the community’s most essential issues. Further, these stewards must be catalysts for creation of a shared community vision, guardians of its integrity, and orchestrators of its link to real implementation (but they cannot be the implementers for reasons discussed below) – they do this in civic space. Virtual civic space provides the means to mitigate the traditional power relationship of “dominance and acquiescence” as Dr. Danielle Allen put it in her 2003 Charlotte address, in favor of a “political friendship” (Allen) which invites both the powerful and the powerless to participate in a relationship of reciprocity, each asking the other for sacrifice that leads to shared growth. Where does this happen? When listening, dialogue and action happen in an environment of trust – here is where we find civic space. It is where “connections between spiritual and material consciousness” meet. Susan Crites Price, author of Instilling Philanthropy in Family Legacies, tells us that youth and children should be actively sought to participate in civic space, saying that “involving children early means that they will be much more likely to be engaged as adults – these will be our next donors, board members and civic leaders.”

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Theme 2

The importance of virtual civic space

ivic 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 it is true that, as McDonough asserts, “design is the first signal of intent,” then the Charlotte community must be just as intentional about designing and creating virtual civic space as it is new arenas, schools, libraries and parks. Building civic space has a special set of challenges. Today, Chrislip tells us that “that role of convener remains crucial,” and, being the optimistic and hard-working people that we are (as Gilmore describes us), there are a number of initiatives and organizations in the community that are about the business of building civic space, including (note: this is not an exhaustive listing, but a sampling at right): Within this listing, a discernment can be made among those initiatives that are crafted to focus on creating civic space as purely an end goal, and those that create civic space as a by-product of engaging citizens in turning the community’s attention to a particular concern or issue; herein lies one of the

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NAME

NEXUS OF INITIATIVE

American Leadership Forum Community Building Initiative Congregational College Crossroads Charlotte

The Lee Institute Community Building Task Force Mecklenburg Ministries Foundation For The Carolinas, Knight Foundation, Community Building Initiative

COURAGE exhibit

Levine Museum of the New South The Moving Poets Kids Voting

“Hometown Stories” “If I Were the Mayor”
Multi-Media challenge P.O.S.T. youth dialogues

Partners in Out of School Time (P.O.S.T.)

The Region Speaks United Agenda for Children

The Lee Institute The Lee Institute; the Children’s Collaborative; America Speaks

core challenges in building civic space. “It’s very difficult to create the kind of capacity in a community that can stay focused on process, that can remain as a true convenor, because most efforts become derailed when they begin to take on an advocacy role that emerges from that convening capacity,” says David Chrislip.

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

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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 the systems and civic infrastructure to put these wellmeaning and well-intended energies to work efficiently. There is a mis-match 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. Jim Gilmore, author of The Experience Economy and the 2004 FFTC Annual Meeting speaker, tells us we have no time to waste. “I call it the Minkowksi Space, after a physicist who describes change and opportunity as a cone of future possibilities that is three dimensional, charted from time, place and movement axis. There are certain social capital 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 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 it, how you created this space so brilliantly.”

There is a mis-match at play in Charlotte between individual human capacity, social capital, and our own systems for decisionmaking – our civic space needs are greater than our current capacity.

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Theme 3

The importance of physical civic space

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ane Jacobs describes cities as organic entities, “composed of physical-economicethical 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 AfricanAmerican 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.

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Theme 3

The importance of physical civic space

n remarks to a group of Charlotteans in 2002, Bowling Alone author Robert Putnam said that “sprawl is the underlying cause of decline in social capital in rapidly-growing areas like yours – you spend too much time in the car, and thus, less with each other.” Our physical growth – more people, more neighborhoods, more roads, more shopping centers, located in low-density configurations, has proven to be both our blessing and burden. On the positive side, our physical environment has much to do with our continued growth and prosperity. On a small scale, uptown Charlotte, which is where many newcomers form an impression of the community and is thus part of our “welcoming ritual,” continues to look and feel more like a “micropolitan,” with a university campus, housing, restaurants, entertainment venues and offices being added every year. On a macro scale, our climate and temperate weather give us a natural advantage in attracting newcomers and retaining current residents. We are a community that always has sought to grow and build its way to a better future, but our penchant for pursuing world-class status through large-scale physical projects might need to include a more balanced approach. Charlotteans want to improve, and aren’t afraid to reach, but are we reaching for the right things? During Richard Florida’s 2003 engagement in Charlotte, a gathering of city leaders hosted by UNC-Charlotte

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was asked to choose, at the end of a day-long interactive session, what the MOST important “to do” item was for the Charlotte region to ensure its vitality as a Creative Class metropolitan area. It’s important to note that Florida is not an architect or social scientist, but an economist. It’s also important to know that the day had involved extensive discussion of Florida’s three pillars of a successful Creative Class city and economy: Technology, Talent, and Tolerance. But he had added a fourth: Place. By this, he meant parks, streetscapes, open air venues, markets, pedestrianfriendly neighborhoods, historic landmarks and other physical amenities. Participants had a variety of choices from which to choose their top priority, including: a technology/ research institution (it was noted that this has happened at UNCC), a major corporate re-location, a major sports arena, and a modern art museum among others. All of these options were beaten out as the top choice by public spaces. Public space was defined as parks, plazas, entertainment venues, pedestrian malls, and the like. Indeed, Jacobs chooses sidewalks as the first area of study in her book, and describes them as having the following functions, which today we would clearly categorize as elements of social capital: safety, contact with others (both like and unlike ourselves) and assimilating children.

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

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Theme 3

The importance of physical civic space

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uring interviews, Jim Gilmore observes that, “in general, the Carolinas has a favorable impression in people’s minds, yet I sense that you (meaning residents of both North and South Carolina) draw a much finer distinction between your cities than outsiders do – what it means to be from Charlotte is little different from what it means to be from the Carolinas (either North or South) to many outsiders. My advice is – don’t be afraid to be Carolinians.” Chrislip concurs, counseling that “the Charlotte region, as with so many regions around the country, is struggling with how to articulate where the lines of delineation are, and who is included, but this is an evolutionary process – the answer is more clear now than it was 10 years ago in Charlotte. It’s an organically emerging definition – it doesn’t seem to lend itself to trying to sit down and define.” While it is certainly true that many cities and regions share similar tendencies with regard to selfidentification and outside identity, it’s also true that despite the fact that Baltimore, New Orleans, Nashville and other cities which we view as “peer” cities are, in fact, also at the center of what Neil Peirce and Curtis Johnson have named CitiStates (1995 Peirce Report) that retain very distinct identities of their own.

During interviews for Connections, many local leaders identified “regionalism” as one of the key challenges facing our leaders and citizens. To be sure, collaborative planning of transportation and land use needs, aggressive marketing of the region’s economic development advantages, climate and distribution networks are desirable. But perhaps a component of the regionalism discussion should include a healthy dialogue on the “who and where” is included in all of our iterations, our faces, not only to the outside world, but to ourselves. There is another issue related to our civic identity that is important to note, and this is our hyperpropensity for comparison to other cities, communities and regions as we seek to craft our own identity. In the interviews with local leaders, there were a number of comments of the ilk that “we don’t want to be like Atlanta,” and “we need to be more like New York, or Chicago, DC or Austin to attract people.” While there is a good case to be made for the value of comparison as a way of benchmarking our own pursuit for world-class recognition, there is also a self-defeating pitfall here.

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To make use of an analogy, in sports, athletes in competitive racing are taught to “let your eyes lead 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 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, cyclists and other athletes look past what is immediately around them, and focus in the distance – on where 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 focus on getting there, rather than fixating on visions of other communities, positive or negative? 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 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 your story to the outside world,” says Jim Gilmore. Rather than assiduously trying to avoid “being another Atlanta,” let’s talk about “being Charlotte,” and get intentional about articulating and describing who we are now, and what kind of place we aspire to be.

Rather than assiduously trying to avoid “being another Atlanta,” let’s talk about “being Charlotte,” and get intentional about articulating and describing who we are now, and what kind of place we aspire to be.

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Theme 4

The “ordinariness” of building social capital

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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.

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The little things matter – large-scale engagement efforts are no substitute for knowing your neighbor.

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ven the title of Dr. Robert Putnam’s book, Bowling Alone suggests the significant impact of ordinary encounters on levels of social capital. Florida discusses the multi-faceted connections that people create in coffee shops, corner markets, and parks, saying that “neighborhood networks are a city’s irreplaceable social capital.” This observation should not be taken to discount the value of a widely-held community vision derived from what Lee Institute speaker David Chrislip calls “collaborative engagement” of citizens. In fact, community process and civic engagement have a close relationship with random acts of kindness that include Allen’s advice to overcome childhood admonitions on talking to strangers. Indeed, in an AmericaSpeaks 21st Century town hall, participants must talk to strangers as they dialogue and problemsolve with tablemates – it’s a part of the event’s design. During his Charlotte engagements, Chrislip cites large civic visioning processes in Denver and California as models of collaborative leadership, and notes that initiatives like these can lead to “revolutionary change in the culture of the community.” Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer, commenting 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.

Both of these experts recognize the vitality of largescale 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. Crossroads Charlotte offers just such an opportunity for this community over the coming year and beyond, but the Foundation’s Front Porch grants initiative might rightly be viewed as a companion effort to Crossroads Charlotte, both serving different ends of the spectrum of social capital building as more and more people are invited to encounter each other in civic and physical social space via different paths. Dr. Lukensmeyer reminds us that a goodly portion of the magic of AmericaSpeaks events, hallmarked as large-scale, media-friendly, sophisticated 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.

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Theme 5

Defining a balance between individual leadership and process – the scales of change

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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 achievement.” 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).

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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.
lmost a decade past publication of the Peirce report, Dr. Lukensmeyer’s concept of an electronic town meeting has finally 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 1997 Community Building Task Force “Something Has Begun” event, the 2000 Leaders Caucus on Open Space, and others) 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. Crossroads Charlotte and the United Agenda for Children town hall will add to this list of civic engagement initiatives. Civic engagement and leadership is one of six driving forces of the Crossroads Charlotte scenarios. In these glimpses of possible futures for our community, the more positive scenarios (Class Act and Eye to Eye) highlight descriptions of shared decision-making and shared power, while the less desirable scenarios (Fortress Charlotte and The Beat Goes On) paint a picture of disengaged citizens and isolated leaders. So, by accounting of what we have done in terms of civic engagement processes and by virtue of what we articulate as part of a desirable future, we see civic engagement as a positive development in our quest for leadership.

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Where are we in that quest? In this context of changing leadership patterns, the current reality is somewhere in between the inspired, all-powerful and capable leader and rule by enlightened, engaged masses. Analysis of the opinions offered to us by visiting experts shows that perhaps the 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. There are a couple of reasons for this conclusion. First, if one takes as a given that our community, with its faults and challenges (most notably evident in our struggles with race, ethnicity and equity), is a successful New South city, we have to acknowledge that the model of a powerful few setting community priorities while the rest of the population provided the horsepower served well to take us along a path of at least economic prosperity. The proof is in the numbers: people want to live here, people of many backgrounds, and socio-economic positions are moving to the city in droves. Second, 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. Chrislip acknowledges this phenomenon, saying that, “in every example of successful collaboration we (Chrislip and Larson) encountered, there were people who served as catalysts – one or more people who had the clear

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Theme 5

Defining a balance between individual leadership and process – the scales of change

vision, or the energy to get people moving, or the words to inspire imagination, or the influence to marshal the resources, or simply the nerve to call the meeting. In the beginning, collaboration is fueled by individual acts.” Do these individuals act alone? Of course not – they are skilled in leveraging the resources of larger networks and organizations. Individual and organizational strengths work to enable each other in successful systems. As Florida observes, “whereas one person can write brilliant software, it takes large organizations to consistently upgrade, produce and distribute that software.” Lukensmeyer has built this enablement into the AmericaSpeaks model, requiring that leaders, individuals, in a community ask for the type of broad community engagement process that AmericaSpeaks designs. Leaders must appear at the

forefront of the effort, accepting their role as a community leader even as they offer the reins of choice and power to multitudes of citizens who are perhaps engaging for the first time in decisionmaking. As an example, Washington, DC Mayor Anthony Williams has now used the AmericaSpeaks model for the third year in a row to set municipal budget priorities. Would a grassroots citizen with the same idea see that idea into reality? Doubtful, but a well-placed, energetic, powerful individual leader can, and Mayor Williams did. In Charlotte’s enthusiasm for process and collaborative decision-making, it will be important not to forget the role of the individual visionary leader even as we explore new ways to guide discussion, priority setting and resource allocation in our community that are open to what Chrislip calls both the “usual and unusual suspects.”

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Theme 6

Let Diversity Reign!

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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.

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Theme 6

Let Diversity Reign!
Dr. Allen recounts that, “before I came I thought of it a lot like Savannah, lots of history, this sort of nostalgic place, and I was surprised and impressed that it is youthful and forward looking.” “My only contact with Charlotte had been the airport prior to my time there, and so, the comfortable rocking chairs matched perfectly with what I thought of the city. When I got there, however, I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised by the diversity I saw, the energy of those I met with, and the presence of so many committed community leaders,“ says Susan Crites Price. “I was impressed at how…cosmopolitan Charlotte 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. Census data shows that we are, in fact, a much more diverse city now then 10 years ago, and trend analysis predicts that by 2014, whites will form approximately 55% of the population and non-whites 45%. If we followed Jim Gilmore’s advice to “let serendipity reign – let’s go find the fabric of the experience economy in Charlotte” and took a drive out Central Avenue from uptown Charlotte we would see Asian and Latino businesses and neighborhoods that were non-existent 10, or even 5, years ago. If we were to take Dr. Allen’s advice and talk to someone we don’t know while on our trip, we’d be much more likely to hear a language other than English in reply as the chart below shows:

(source: The Charlotte Observer August 18, 2003, from 2002 U.S. Census projections)

Languages spoken in Mecklenburg County 2002

SPEAKERS English Spanish or Spanish Creole French or French Creole Vietnamese German African languages Arabic Chinese Greek Korean Gujarati Cambodian Laotian Russian Other Asian languages Hmong or Miao (Laos) Italian Other Indic languages Tagalog Japanese

AGE 5 + 560,787 45,064 4,570 4,154 3,434 2,731 2,459 2,388 2,327 2,208 1,565 1,143 1,028 961 937 771 755 715 707 705

INCREASE SINCE 1990 26% 392% 32% 259% 42% NA 151% 201% 40% 205% NA 91% NA 758% NA NA 51% NA 177% 2%

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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 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. 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 Asian and Latino 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. One local interviewee, an African-American and partner in one of Charlotte’s mainline law firms laments that, “We can get new people here, new black professionals, but we can’t keep them – they come for awhile, and then go to D.C. or Atlanta.” To borrow from Jim Gilmore again, our welcoming ritual seems to be working, but the follow-through is lacking, which is 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 are unlike your own,” says Richard Florida, “and when I ask young people, people who could live and work anywhere, the kind of people you’re competing for, what they want, what they say is ‘I want to live in a place that’s authentic’.” 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 – let diversity reign!

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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?

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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.

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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 Charlottearea 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?

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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.

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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.

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

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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 connection between the Charlotte community and Dr. Lukensmeyer’s AmericaSpeaks organization. In 2002, I led a Charlotte delegation of volunteer facilitators to AmericaSpeak’s New York City electronic town hall involving over 4,000 citizens. The event, entitled “Listening to the City” was designed to engage citizens in making decisions about what could and should happen as re-development of the World Trade Center site took place. Dr. Anne Udall, Executive Director of the Lee Institute, was among these volunteers. Seeing the power of the electronic town hall experience to engage citizens and create and agenda for community change, she returned to Charlotte, and with the leadership of Lynnwood Foundation President Cyndee Patterson, moved to make an electronic town hall for Charlotte a reality, this one centered on the needs of children and youth in the community and entitled United Agenda for Children. William McDonough – for nearly two years after McDonough’s visit to the Charlotte community, his remarks were the most visited portion of the Foundation For The Carolinas website. His remarks around sustainable design and community were inspirational enough for regional leaders to ask him to serve as lead architect for the Museum of Life and the Environment, now under development in South Carolina. One elected official in the region cited McDonough’s comments as inspirational, reinforcing their own views that the proposed Mecklenburg County greenway was vital for the community’s future.

Dr. Richard Florida – Florida’s message resonated with the Charlotte community, and his creative class language has been used repeatedly in discussions about future economic development in the region since his time here in 2003. The Salisbury Committee of 100 has recommended that Creative Class-focused economic development become a core priority in that community, while the Charlotte Chamber has asked a group of young business leaders to devise specific strategies for attracting and retaining members of the Creative Class to the area. David Chrislip – Chrislip’s work with the American Leadership Forum now continues with the fourth class of ALF Fellows in the Charlotte region beginning work, much of it based in Chrislip’s work on collaboration. The region now has a network of leaders who are trained in using collaborative action to move their communities forward, and this capacity will prove to be of great value as the region continues to grapple with issues related to growth, the environment, transportation, education and economic development. Dr. Danielle Allen – while no direct initiative has resulted from Dr. Allen’s time in the Charlotte region, several interviewees noted that her contention that much of Charlotte’s current issues with racial trust were due to a “lack of shared history” was impactful. Specifically, those interviewed who were in some way connected to the Levine Museum of the New South’s COURAGE exhibit stated emphatically that Dr. Allen’s thoughts helped set the exhibit in 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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CONNECTIONS
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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CONNECTIONS 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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CONNECTIONS 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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CONNECTIONS 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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CONNECTIONS 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. http://www.people.virginia.edu/~plan303/ The Giving Family: Raising Our Children to Help Others by Susan Crites Price. 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 Council on The Modern Library, 2003.

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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

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CONNECTIONS

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

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