Monday, September 18, 2006

Moving Our Region Ahead

In our changing world, facing serious, social, economic and environmental challenges,
can our Twin Cities region provide a high quality of life for everyone? Can we educate all our children? Maintain high-quality housing? Maintain high levels of health? Eliminate racial disparities in education and employment? Stand out prominently as a strong, competitive economic region?

I believe that we can do all these things, but it requires:
· Focusing our attention on significant trends and not getting sidetracked.
· Understanding key ingredients for community vitality.
· Developing a common vision and goals.
· Identifying strategies that fit diverse people and communities.
· Connecting people from all communities to attain our common goals.

A new initiative sponsored by a consortium* of foundations and United Way, and carried out by Wilder Research, is establishing a process to accomplish this. How?

First, the initiative will provide region-wide indicators about topics such as health, education, housing, and economics, so that all members of our region have access to nonpartisan, credible, and useful information.

Second, it will alert policy makers, community leaders, and the public of significant trends and motivate them to take action.

Third, the initiative will support the creation of task forces to address significant findings. If work on early education – to ensure educated citizens and workers – is what’s needed, the initiative will support that effort. If disparities have a cancerous effect on our region, it will support efforts to reduce them.

It is important to keep the focus on trends and goals. Good public policy and effective community action require credible information and analysis.

If we can achieve consensus on overall goals — e.g., all children should start school ready to learn and graduate 12 years later --- and provide sound, nonpartisan facts about how well we meet these goals, then we can discuss ways to improve. People with different backgrounds, priorities and political opinions, will differ on strategies and solutions. That makes for productive debate; arguing over facts does not. We can elevate public discourse and involve all members of our region to participate in creating a prosperous regional future.

* Bush Foundation, Greater Twin Cities United Way, The McKnight Foundation, The Minneapolis Foundation, The Saint Paul Foundation, 3M Foundation, St. Paul Travelers Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, and Amherst H. Wilder Foundation.

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