Things are sometime clearer when seen from a distance. I met my old friend Marco Magnani, Senior Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, who takes a hard look at Europe, and indirectly to the United States as well. He does it from Cambridge, Massachusetts and he believes that globalization intensifies direct competition between locales. I agree with that; in this environment a power shift from the national elite to local citizens, in government, corporations, and nonprofit institutions, can reverse today’s economic malaise.
In his new book he identifies six actions that local leaders should take to improve their economies, six recommendations for revitalization.
“The first action local leaders can take to improve their economies is to build and nurture the intangible assets that make up the foundation for economic dynamism: human capital, civic capital, and institutions with effective governance. These assets, together, support the cities, industrial districts, knowhow clusters, and centers of technological- and knowledge-based excellence that enable a locale to compete in global markets.
The second action is to unleash entrepreneurial spirit and creativity, both startups and in traditional, sometimes mature, firms and sectors. The actions taken should support the four pillars of entrepreneurial success: education, skills development, a capacity for innovation, and a sense for risk taking.
The third action is for local leaders to become primary drivers of innovation. They can support ‘networks of knowledge’, clusters of universities, R&D centers, and private companies.
The fourth action is to drastically boost their ‘return on cultural assets’. These assets are the often-unexploited treasure accumulated over centuries in the form of art, architecture, music, performing arts, and related creations. Many of these assets, along with the natural environment, are largely idle and yet amount to valuable natural, intellectual, and cultural property.
The fifth action is to leverage diversity. This means diversity in all its forms – gender, life choices, ethnic, language, religious – but especially diversity driven by persistent or growing immigration. The challenge is to make the most of fresh and novel talent and ideas and capabilities – while managing the costs of immigrant populations.
The sixth action is to foster intergenerational mobility, spurring economic vitality by helping the best and brightest students realize their potential, no matter their family background. The principle is simply to increase the efficient use of human resources by taking advantage of people’s various talents, capabilities, levels of motivation, willingness to work hard, and appetites to take on risk.”
The challenge for local leaders is to step up and contribute restoring economic dynamism to local and regional economies. They should use their potential to make productive change at the local level. From the bottom up.
Some more details about the book:
Creating Economic Growth: Lessons for Europe (PalgraveMacmillan, Marco Magnani)