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America’s Pragmatic Caucus Steps Up

Posted November 1, 2011 8:56 AM by Ted Jackson

This weekend someone emailed me a copy of an article from Time magazine about how local communities are not letting the dysfunction of Washington, DC politics stop them from making progress. I live in Washington, DC, so sometimes it is hard to see beyond CSPAN and the news in the Washington Post. It seems like politics have brought the USA to a standstill, where a supermajority is now required for any basic vote in congress. I've been lucky enough over the past year to have two clients in the same region represent this "Pragmatic Caucus" that was described by Bruce Katz and Judith Rodin.

Katz and Rodin wrote this article in Time on Wednesday, October 26, 2011, and they describe the Pragmatic Caucus as a governing body of political, business, university, and city leaders who are awash in leadership at the state, city, and metropolitan area. It is interesting to read about the states of Colorado, New York, Tennessee, and Michigan. They reference metro areas like Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Portland, and Syracuse as well. They cite that these areas are "embracing a new economic growth model" that is "more resilient in providing jots and anticipating and meeting future needs." Obviously, these caucuses do not exist everywhere, but they tend to have one thing in common "collaboration."


Our clients, one of whom is speaking at the 2012 Mission Driven Summit are both located in Lower Alabama (L.A. as it is affectionately known by locals). The first challenge is that there is a lack of highly skilled technical workers. Imagine, in this national economic climate of high unemployment, not being able to find workers that can fill the jobs you have open. That is the challenge for the highly technical manufacturing and other jobs in L.A. Thus the businesses joined together in a collaborative effort to improve the workforce development process in the region. They are going about this effort in three ways. First, they are inspiring the future workforce by demonstrating, through job fairs and K-12 education programs, what jobs are available in L.A. and what skills are needed to fill the jobs. There are steel, paper, and chemical manufacturing jobs as well as construction, maritime, and healthcare jobs. Then, they are communicating to education providers like K-12 schools, community colleges, and technical programs, what skills they are looking for. It is important for the education system to produce workers with certain minimum basic skills as well as key technical skills. Finally, they are working to forecast the demand for their jobs and the medium-term growth in the region. This will allow the businesses to speak with one voice throughout the region and to build a workforce that creates a competitive advantage for L.A. All of this is being led by business leaders in cooperation with local, regional, and state governments and education providers.

In conjunction with this effort and following the BP oil spill, business leaders joined together in a collaborative effort to help increase the resiliency of the L.A. region. These leaders have the capability to have a vision beyond any city government official or any individual's business needs. They can fund the development of a strategic plan on a regional basis and unite key business, community, and government leaders to execute on the priorities of the strategic plan. By encouraging the region to speak with one voice, the bigger priorities will be able to be executed and thus there will be greater resiliency in the Coastal Alabama region. This is not just an economic development project, but it is also focused on education, a healthy population, and a protected environment. So despite the dysfunction that you may see at the national level, these organizations are collaborating and beginning to execute at the local or regional level.


Both organizations I described above have decided to implement the Balanced Scorecard as their managing framework. They are benefiting from the clear depiction of their strategy and priorities in the strategy maps. The map provides a one page picture for all of the collaborating organizations to unite around. Not only is it helping with communications, but it demonstrates what the focus areas are. Individual businesses and community organizations may have individual priorities, but when thinking about the region, they can see where the overall priorities are so that they can align their efforts. You can learn more at the upcoming 2012 Mission Driven Summit.