As I’m researching and writing my master’s thesis concerning economic development, I’m becoming more convinced that the current economic and political system is in dire need of change and innovation. A survey of the latest headlines and the economic recession are proof that the current systems are not working as intended. However, the key idea for people to keep in mind is that rather than sink down into a pathology of despair and helplessness, the time of crises is an opportunity to innovate and come up with new and creative solutions to our problems. The current situation doesn’t have to be this way.
Why is this? The answer lies in the recognition that economics, politics, law and public policy are socially constructed. They are not monolithic abstract concepts immune from change. Rather, they are driven by individuals whose interpersonal relationships develop into social networks whose internal and external relationships create social structures at the local, state, national and global scale.
Relating this to the local level, of which I am most interested, it is important to acknowledge that economics and geopraphy do not serve solely as determinants of which communites fail or succeed. Rather, civic culture composed of local leadership and community social structure, in addition to the policies they implement, are what truly determine the success of communities.
Economics and geography, while important, merely serve as part of a contextual framework to which local leadership and community social structures adopt policies in reaction to these influences. This explains why cities with the same geography, demographics and governmental structure often adopt divergent policies and thus have divergent policy outcomes. In essence, its people and personalities that utlimately determine allocation of scarce resources and this changes over time as well as can be changed.
Understanding the civic culture of a community is critical to implenting local economic development policies based on sustainability, local economy and community as outlined by Joseph Ciadella in his article, Debating Detroit’s Redevelopment, that I agree are necessary to create a successful community. I shall enlarge on these ideas in further articles.
Benninghoff is currently working with the Otero (Colorado) County Commissioners and County Administrator and learning to become a future City Manager/County Administrator. He currently belongs to the International City County Manager’s Association and the Colorado City County Manager’s Association. He is also working on his Master’s Thesis which is the Economic Development Policy for Otero County. This will look at strategies encompossing sustainability and internally developing the local economy.