Saturday, May 23, 2009

May 25, 2009

Citizens Creating The World We Want
It is appropriate to talk about the responsibilities of citizenship on Memorial Day. Since our founding, citizens have found a wide range of ways to give back out of a sense of gratitude and duty to those who have gone before. Last week, leaders from California Forward ( to town to meet with a cross section of our community to answer the question--Can local innovations underway in Fresno be replicated in other regions and at the state level? These innovations include the Regional Jobs Initiative, the Human Investment Initiative, the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley and the Metro-Rural Loop Project.(Case studies available upon request)These efforts are examples of citizens taking responsiblity for the quality of life in their community.

What these efforts have in common is their roots in an earlier project, the Fresno Area Collaborative Regional Initiative (CRI). The(CRI)was launched in 2000 along with similar regional efforts across the state. The Fresno effort was unique in that it was not housed within a single organization, nor did it simply enhance work already underway. The CRI was a joint venture between Fresno State and the Business Council operating in the space in between--the civic sector--to serve the whole aimed at transformational change. In addition, a set of ten community values were developed as a contract for behavior in this new civic space to build trust, the essential social capital that makes the effective use of ideas, talent and money possible.

With every new initiative and project, this civic space has grown larger, the level of talent has increased, social barriers have fallen and results have become visible. Scale, acceleration and replication are the next steps. In essence, we have recreated an American tradition--barn raising--and applied it to challenges that no one sector, organization or individual can meet alone. Whether it's growing a vibrant economy, raising and educating our children, taking responsiblity for our health, or creating peace and safey in our neighborhoods, success requires everyone to step up to do their part--no excuses. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, not just in terms of external threats, but the internal threats of self absorption, addiction and lack of purpose. While single interests have an important role to play in hashing out priorities and strategies, everyone must also have an active allegiance to the well being of the whole for a community to thrive.

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