I've got the power!

Well, not really. Or maybe, actually. But apparently quite a few people think there is power in 32 counties in western PA, OH, MD, and WV.

Last year, my older brother, who works for the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, emailed me a link to a naming contest for that 32 county region. I have no idea what name I suggested, but I do know I did not win (because, as I have blogged about several times, I apparently no longer win anything). A few months ago, perhaps, I started receiving newsletters for the Power of 32 (the eventual name winner). Before too long, I figured out why I was receiving these newsletters, and I actually started reading parts of them, thinking maybe it was something I could get involved in.

So what is the Power of 32? Here is some info from the Facebook page: A grant-funded, two-year visioning project that provides an opportunity for every resident of the 32-county, 4-state region to participate in creating a shared vision for the region's best future. The Power of 32 differs from any other planning effort in that the 32-county region has common challenges and opportunities in the global economy, but is larger than the scope of any one political entity, authority, or organization. The project does not have a pre-determined set of issues, and aims to include the broadest possible public participation from both people within the region and former residents around the globe.

So how does this work? I received an email on Tuesday, reminding me a "Community Conversation" meeting was being held in Monroeville (and many, many other locations in the region) that evening, so I coerced Brian into taking Jordan to craft class at the library, and away I went, not really knowing what to expect.

So what happened? I talked to probably a dozen or more of the approximately 25 attendees. We discussed why we decided to come; what a thriving region looks like; what key challenges must be addressed for our region to thrive; what key strengths we can build on; and what one or two possibilities must be pursued to ensure the region thrives and why.

Most of the people I talked to were on planning commissions or involved in local orgs; I wish we would have gone around the room so I could have heard everyone's reason. Me? Deep down, I am an optimist, and though I very much want to stay in the region, I realize it has its faults, most of which (hopefully) are not insurmountable. As for the discussion topics, the common denominators involved education (there is inequity from community to community), brain drain, unemployment, and becoming more green, all issues that I am concerned about. I also brought up that too many people accept things as they are and don't bother to get involved or educate themselves about what is going on (e.g, just pull the voting lever without thinking).

An interesting and controversial issue: Several people in my group were all for the Marcellus Shale drilling. Although that has the potential to bring in money/jobs, it scares me. However, as I said on another blog, I am trying to keep an open mind, and I am telling myself we are smarter and know more today than we did 20 or 30 years ago So if this goes forward, maybe it can be done with minimal risk. Some group members were all, "Look at Houston and how oil bankrolls them." I don't know.

So what happens next? Someone is gathering all the ideas we and all the other meeting groups throughout the region came up with (we put them on post-its and the facilitators placed them on large sheets of paper with headings). That info will be entered on a website and then analyzed for the next phase (not sure what that is). In the meantime, there will be additional meetings in other places. It is not clear to me if they will have different agendas, but perhaps if I read my booklet and/or go to the website, I will find out. There will be another meeting in my area at the end of the month, which I will probably go to.
Please consider checking out the site or visiting the Facebook page if you are so inclined. Maybe even go to a meeting; it will only take a couple of hours. If you are into leadership, there are opportunities for that as well. I think it is a little pie in the sky, but you have to start somewhere. Doing the same thing over and over is just not cutting it.
Now you've got the power!


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