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WHY REGIONALISM CALLS FOR A NEW BRAND OF LEADERS

Encouraging public organizations to collaborate in creating regional approaches to serve communities has been gaining momentum for some time now, especially among those organizations with education, economic development and workforce development missions.

Encouraging public organizations to collaborate in creating regional approaches to serve communities has been gaining momentum for some time now, especially among those organizations with education, economic development and workforce development missions. These three segments in particular lead powerful missions that help communities thrive and can make or break a region’s competitiveness.

There have been voluntary strategies to spur regionalism through competitive grants as well as new legislation that is making regionalism mandatory.

Michigan’s Regional Prosperity Initiative is a voluntary competitive grant process that is included in Governor Rick Synder’s FY 2014 Executive Budget Recommendation to encourage local private, public and nonprofit partners to create vibrant regional economies. The legislature approved the recommended process and the Regional Prosperity Initiative was signed into law as a part of the FY 2014 budget (59 PA 2013).

California’s Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy is an example of “braiding funding streams” to supply in-demand skills for employers, create relevant career pathways and stackable credentials, promote student success, and get Californians into open jobs. The regional framework is led by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, Division of Workforce and Economic Development, which serves as administrator for several streams of state and federal funds, including Governor Brown’s Career Technical Education Pathways Initiative (SB70), Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, and Proposition 98 dollars for Apprenticeship, Economic & Workforce Development (EWD), and Career Technical Education (CTE).

The latest proposed reauthorization of the 1998 Workforce Investment Act, the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA) points to multiple ways that the workforce investment system will need to think regionally with an emphasis on business engagement.

Regionalism can be a painful journey, especially since economic regions and political jurisdictions are most often not aligned. Regions, which are fundamentally labor markets, lack established governance structures, boundaries and lines of authority.

The Council on Competitiveness has evaluated regional models and believes that “new regional leadership must create a shared regional narrative, build consensus, institutionalize innovation and lead change.” After reviewing models that work and don’t work, the Council’s study points out that whether a region can bring the right people to the table or develop a strategic plan is not the true test of effective regions; it’s whether that region can act effectively. This requires a new brand of regional leaders that focus on consensus not hierarchy.

Noted below is the Council’s summary table of characteristics of effective leadership structures both locally and regionally.

Summary Table:
Characteristics of Effective Leadership Structures

 LocalRegional
Number of LeadersIndividual or
small group
Multiple or
large group
Scope of
Activity
One jurisdiction, organizationCross jurisdiction, organizations
Organizational StructureHierarchicalFlat, networked
Power
Structure
Central command by few leadersShared by many leaders
Primary Basis
of Authority
Designated
by statute
Earned by action
Level of TransparencyOpaque
(Low)
Clear
(High)
Lead SectorPublic (Politics)Private (Business)


As noted in the table, regional leadership needs to be driven by private sector business; herein lies the challenge, since workforce, economic development and education often struggle with a lack of understanding in how to engage businesses effectively.

Building successful business engagement is the focus of Business U, a national training and facilitation company dedicated to helping workforce development, education, and economic development stakeholders engage businesses with their important missions, and work collaboratively to attract, retain and grow businesses within the region for a competitive advantage.

Keep reading and learn more about why regional teams make sense for engaging businesses. Get more information at www.Business-U.net

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