Archive for August, 2010


August 13, 2010

Does community wide social connectivity serve as a predictor of economic sustainability? History discloses that loss of homegrown and resident owned businesses portend future economic instability.

Social connectivity is the latest community economic development theory.  Well connected communities, those having multiple formal and informal vehicles for social interaction, have been identified through academic research as having superior competitive advantages for the formation of new businesses and therefore hold greater promise for a healthy future economy.

Measured in terms of the number of scout troops, church organizations, book clubs, face book & twitter accounts and even coffee clutches at morning breakfast restaurants, the theory states the more opportunity to stimulate human interaction the greater opportunity for the sharing of ideas that ultimately produce new business ideas.Product Details

The power of social networks is explained by Sean Strafford author of “Why the Garden Club Couldn’t Save Youngstown“.   He chronicles the history of two cities – Allentown, Pennsylvania and Youngtown, Ohio, through the “Transformation of the Rust Belt” (the book subtitle) and efforts of both cities to reinvent themselves as 21st Century global business leaders.

It is a well known fact that leaders of industrial companies accepted prestigious roles in their communities during the manufacturing growth period of the late 1880’s and 1990’s and exerted powerful influence upon the social culture and government sponsored community development.  Name any Midwest manufacturing based community and the legacy of this influence remains today, even where the business no longer exists.

Stafford’s research documents how business leaders influenced and controlled information and resources that shaped the direction and velocity of economic growth in both cities.  Much of this home grown business influence has disappeared, especially in the Midwest with the closing, consolidation and relocation of numerous manufacturing firms along with owners and “key” business leaders rooted in the fabric of the local communities.

He emphasizes today’s modern communications and social networking, provide a platform for the instant free exchange of information among a wide and diverse population, a new infrastructure which can replace the forces that provided historic direction and velocity of economic growth; especially formation of new businesses.  He continues profiling todays new role of key business leaders in shaping the social and government milieu. Social connectiveness  today augments and in some places replaces the historic role exercised by business owners and other “key” business leadership upon social and civic activities.

He advocates a historically different present-day policy for community economic development focusing on social structures which promote social interaction with involvement of key business leadership – being vital to regional economic success.  Civic leadership, most often originating from top business leaders with “stakeholder roots” in the community, is needed advocating new rules for community engagement and cooperative regional community economic development, to address local impacts of economic uncertainty brought about by globalization and the current recession.

Safford explains the success and reinvention of Allentown in terms of rebuilding its social infrastructure, identifying that “business organizational structure and community change are ultimately linked” together.    He states that “Allentown got it its grove back” through establishing “network structures making it possible to reconfigure itself and arrive at a new, stable social arrangement … vital for economic success”.   This new civic network provides the groups  where actors engage in collective action creating organizational change in which “entrepreneurship can flourish in Allentown”.

Instead of quarrels between labor and management, ethnic and racial communities, cities and suburbs, and local political governments the new network structures promote an effective independent means providing communications necessary for economic growth and the exercise of local business and governmental leadership formalizing coherent responses to both economic crises and opportunities.

There are a number of lessons to be learned:

     Conflict or Crisis Creates Opportunities for Change.

Regardless of whether a community becomes involve in a social or political conflict or faces an economic crisis, these events pose an opportunity to alter existing social networks and the way people interact with each other.

     Configuration of Social Networks is of prime Importance.

Regardless of the number of social networks the “key” to shaping the process of social interaction is what makes civic social vitality.

     Particular Organizations must Bind Together.

Particular organizations (more…)