Tuesday, May 04, 2010

10 Enemies of True Regionalism

When I hear someone publicly say “we have to think regionally” to me it is a duh!…as in, of course, and we also have to think neighbor to neighbor, block long, neighborhood wide, citywide, countywide, statewide, nationwide, continentally, globally… To me, it is always both/and, not either/or. images

I may have spent the last forty years in community place marketing to which regionalism typically isn’t as relevant as much as is coop marketing.  But still I’ve both earned recognition for regional initiatives as well as been guilty of misuse of the concept early on in my career, e.g. “Ski The 51st State.

Experience over the years with hundreds of proposals has helped clarify to me at least 10 self-defeating conditions (listed below in no particular order) that seem to so often undermine or spawn resistance to proposals cloaked as regional: 


  • Poaching – In true regionalism, participant communities stand on their own.  They do not misuse the term as a veiled attempt just to appear larger or to take credit for assets in other communities rather than standing on their own merits.


  • One Way Streets – True regionalism is a two way street.  The scope and benefits must be truly regional wide, not just the participation.


  • Hegemony – True regionalism must never be a veiled attempt to take control over other communities and their decisions about what is in their best interests.


  • Homogenization -  True regionalism is not one size fits all.  It is accepting and respectful of the diverse personality and character of its participant communities rather than forcing one size fits all based on size or power or news media.


  • Raiding – True regionalism must not be misused as a thinly veiled agenda by fund-raising efforts in one community to raid the corporate philanthropy of another or to just make it easier for writing checks.


  • Disrespect – True regionalism is based on mutual respect and serious participant communities reign in zero sum individuals who trash or demonize others for pecuniary gain.


  • Hyphens – True regions avoid using hyphens because hyphens lead to short handing and truncations that give disproportionate benefit to the participant community that comes before the hyphen or hyphens and relegates those that follow invisible.


  • Centrism – True regionalism does not fuse participant communities at the hip or paint one participant community or another as central or dominant.  True regionalism respects that participant communities may belong to two or more mutually exclusive regions and each is is as much about respecting differences and opting in or out as it is about synergy.


  • Oversimplification – True regionalism isn’t an excuse for news media organizations or transient corporate executives to avoid “getting involved” in/or understanding and respecting the differences and issues among or within the communities which they serve and/or exist.


  • Nomenclature – True regionalism is careful with nomenclature.  A true region isn’t a community, it is a family of communities and a region of equals regardless of whether the area is centric or or polycentric.  Terms like regional asset are reserved for one of a kind, typically an airport and even then it isn’t substituted as a a place name.

No amount of preaching or “should-ing” can overcome these enemies.  Eliminate or curb or expose them and regionalism comes very naturally. 

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