Monday, March 30, 2009

Imagine the Allegheny Conference

Not to steal from Mike Madison or anything who's got the Allegheny Conference on Community Development stuck in his craw but...

Imagine Pittsburgh ... without the Allegheny Conference. Imagine the resources that go into the ACCD today ($12 million per year, give or take) being distributed instead upward -- to planning activities at the County level and downward -- to grantees and new (and some existing) businesses in the energy and infrastructure fields....

It is not a bad thing at all for Southwest Pennsylvania to have a regional planning czar. It is a strange thing for Southwest Pennsylvania to continue to outsource its regional planning to a 501(c)(3), with minimal accountability and transparency to area residents, businesses, and governments.
Actually, I have a bit of a bug up my butt about the ACCD as well. Take the sectors of the Conference: Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce (Business Advocacy), Pennsylvania Economy League of Southwestern Pennsylvania, LLC (Policy Research and Advocacy), and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (Regional Branding & Marketing), all of which is fine, but there's one big chunk missing there that the ACCD doesn't really seem to care about: the "Community" bit.

Now, don't get me wrong: I don't think that what the Conference is doing is fundamentally bad or anything*, but it ain't really "Community Development," it's "Economic Development." For an organization that's so fixated on the branding of the region, it seems that things would go a whole lot smoother if they just owned up to the fact that they're pushing a business agenda.

Again, there's nothing wrong with that, but even the Commonwealth has wised up to the fact that Community and Economic Development are different, yet interrelated aspects of whatever. They should either really try to integrate real community development into their programs, or just drop the damned word entirely and let someone else take the lead.

Perhaps it's just me, but I think that would definitely make us feel that this organization is more old men in monocles looking at their stock tickers and less old men in monocles trying to plan a region.

And maybe, just maybe, that would loosen a few craws.

* With the exception of their musical numbers at the annual meeting.

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