June 30, 2004 - From the June, 2001 issue

The State of California's Regions: Think Globally, Act Locally, Govern Regionally

The concept of "region" is increasingly replacing cities, counties and states as the most appropriate vehicle in which to focus energy, shape policy and plan for future growth. All over California, civic entrepreneurs are forming regional collaboratives designed to bring all the stakeholders in a particular region together to form common solutions to common problems. MIR is pleased to present the following excerpt of the California Center for Regional Leadership's first annual State of California's Regions: A Report on the New Regionalism in California, 2001.


Throughout California, people from every walk of life are working on new ways to solve the social, economic, and environmental problems that beset the State's communities-problems that will be even more challenging in the future. These people are business leaders, community activists, developers, economists, educators, environmentalists, planners, public officials, and just good citizens. We call these new leaders "civic entrepreneurs" or "regional stewards." They come from the new economy and the old and the old-changing-to-new. They represent the prosperous and the poor. They reside in inner cities, older suburban areas, new suburbs, and rural areas. They are working in every region of the State. And, they care about their communities.

They are joining together to think and act in new ways at the regional level. They are reinventing California from the grassroots up, and from a regional perspective. They share common principles and a common sense of purpose: the resolve to build a better future for their communities, their regions, and the State, by collaborating at the regional level in ways that shed traditional intellectual and institutional approaches. They have created a new kind of organization, the Collaborative Regional Initiative (CRI), to carry out this work. CRIs are led by committed volunteers and highly competent staff.

The State of California's Regions, 2001 (SOCR 2001) is the first annual report about this extraordinary new movement. It is the mission of The California Center for Regional Leadership to help this field grow and develop, and to tell its story to a broader public. SOCR 2001 represents the first installment in the story of these civic entrepreneurs and the regional collaborations they have created: the story of hard-won victories and painful failures, of lessons learned in the struggle to improve our communities. It tells a story that is still unfolding, yet holds great promise. We will update this story annually because there is much still to be done, to be learned, to be shared.

The State of Our Future


How will California grow in the 21st Century?

As Californians look to the future, the question they face is not one of "growth" or "no growth." Growth is unavoidable and its pace is predictable. During the next 20 years, California's population will grow by an estimated 12 million people-primarily from births, not immigration-an increase of approximately one-third over the current population of 34 million.

The question on the minds of the public and public officials alike is: How can we accommodate this growth and maintain our quality of life and our economic prosperity? Californians are concerned about:

• How already overburdened schools, roads, and other infrastructure will accommodate the projected increase in population.

• How the State will conserve and generate enough energy to fuel its growing population and economy.

• Pollution of water, air, and land.

• Patterns of land use-particularly the creation of suburbs that lack the infrastructure and services to be sustainable communities.

• Abandonment of many urban core areas, the isolation and fragmentation of communities, and the resulting barriers to economic opportunity.

• Quality of life issues, including safe neighborhoods, affordable housing, parks and open space, quality medical care, child care, public transportation, and effective education to prepare for the changing demands of the workplace.

And Californians know that these concerns have no simple solution. Increasingly, policymakers, planners, and practitioners across many fields recognize that the question of "how California will grow" can only be answered by approaching it in new ways. The complexity and interconnections among the issues require new regional solutions.

Confronting the Future

Are we prepared to shape our own future?

Polls, focus groups, public forums, letters to the editor, and other measures of public opinion suggest that Californians' attitudes about the future can be organized into four categories:

Deny reality. Many Californians are either unaware of the magnitude of the challenges we face or seriously underestimate them. For example, although it is less than a decade following our worst recession since the Great Depression, many take our prosperity for granted.

Discount reality. Some Californians know the challenges we face but are so alienated that they cannot imagine our current market and public sector institutions acting effectively to manage them. Others (the laissez-faire-ists) believe these institutions will somehow adjust to the new realities, but without any precipitating act of civic or political will.

Reject reality. Some Californians are deeply concerned when contemplating future population growth, but react with fear that is sometimes based on racial or socioeconomic prejudice. Instead of acknowledging the reality and complexity of growth, they think we can stop it from occurring. Or they believe that simplistic, short-term solutions will be sufficient, such as urban growth boundaries unaccompanied by sustainable "infill" development strategies or regional growth plans.

Embrace reality. Some Californians, however, recognize that California repeatedly invents itself and that its destiny is always linked to forces that are larger than the State itself. Rather than deny or fear these forces, they believe we can shape them through acts of civic will and intelligence. These Californians we call civic entrepreneurs or regional stewards.

To meet the challenges of the future, much work must be done by state and local government-but it will take the engagement of a well-informed and active civic sector to bring the best ideas forward. Some of these ideas will be difficult to embrace, but we must be willing to examine and implement them, learn from their shortcomings, and go back at it again. In short, we must be prepared to act boldly together in the civic and public sectors to sustain California through the challenges ahead.

The New Regionalism

California Regionalism

It has become increasingly apparent that, if California is to address successfully the pressing questions of growth, economic development, and equity, the response-both the thinking and the action-must take place at the geographic level where the issues have interconnected and merged. This level can no longer be easily defined or bound by traditional jurisdictions such as cities, counties, or special districts.


Throughout California, [a] new type of civic infrastructure is emerging, and it is becoming an important building block for organizing to meet [our] future challenges.

Although there have been, and still are, traditional regional planning agencies and special districts in California, the New Regionalism is anything but traditional in its approach. It is distinguished by several key features. The New Regionalism:

• Brings together different sectors-public, private, and nonprofit-in new ways.

• Is self-organizing and self-defining in terms of the scope of each region and the issues affecting that region.

• Draws citizens into broad and informed regional dialogues about the future of their communities.

• Uses new techniques, such as community indicator reports, to measure progress and set priorities for action.

This New Regionalism offers innovative ideas, leadership styles, organizational and network forms and functions, and program strategies. Its fundamental underpinning is a focus on working with the interconnected economic, environmental, and social systems at the level where they exist. However, it is not an attempt to carve up the state into a new pattern or new set of rigid political jurisdictions. In fact, it is the opposite. Its promise and effectiveness are found in its flexibility-the ability to define and redefine geographic scope in order to effectively address interconnected issues.

This flexibility also allows for, and in fact encourages, inter-regional, sub-regional, and super-regional strategies to address specific issues that are linked within smaller or larger geographic areas or that cross regions which have more definable boundaries. For example, certain infrastructure issues, such as airports and other forms of transportation, can only be dealt with on a super-regional basis. Some issues, such as balancing the location of jobs and housing, require inter-regional partnerships. And other issues, such as addressing California's future water supply, depend on inter-regional relationships involving regions that may not even be adjacent to one another.

Since its founding, California has been characterized by both the diversity and connectedness of its separate geographic areas. Today, however, with the challenges and opportunities associated with population growth, economic restructuring, and human needs, California requires a New Regionalism to set its future course.

California's Regions: Focus & Fulcrum for Change and for Lasting Solutions

Throughout the State, new groups of leaders called "civic entrepreneurs" have come together with a growing awareness of the importance of regional perspective and action. They define their own regional parameters by exploring the mutual issues they face. And they have gone on to develop new mechanisms-councils, partnerships, alliances, forums-to tackle the issues they identified. Although these new mechanisms vary in terms of organizational structure, geographic scope, and focus, they have become known collectively as Collaborative Regional Initiatives, or CRIs for short.

The CRIs are in the forefront of a movement that has emerged from the bottom up, from communities and regions throughout the State. They represent a strategy for addressing complex and interrelated regional challenges. Led by people from business, government, education, and the community, they are creating a new type of governance for the twenty-first century-regional in scope, collaborative in nature, and based on an understanding of the interdependence between the economy, the environment, and social equity, the "three e's" of sustainable development.

The nature and number of CRIs continues to evolve. Today, there are 20 identifiable CRIs in California-ranging from those in the early stages of development to several that have become powerful leaders in their regions and pacesetters for the rest of the State. Geographically, they encompass most of California's population and geography.

Looking Ahead

Looking Ahead-At the Regional Level

[T]he future of CRIs is positive. As they continue to move forward, their structure, composition, and areas of focus will also continue to evolve, and the number of CRIs promises to grow. In 2000, the California Center for Regional Leadership was established to help strengthen the CRIs and the CRI network. Through training, technical assistance, convening, brokering, research and development, and assessment, the new Center assists CRIs to develop, and to bring their messages, their hopes and concerns, to public and private decision-makers at the state level.

Looking Ahead-At the State Level

California's New Regionalism operates across and outside of many traditional jurisdictions, and there is a growing awareness on the part of these emerging regions and the State that regionalism needs to be promoted more broadly through state-level leadership and policy.

In December 2000, Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg convened a one-year statewide Speaker's Commission on Regionalism. Its mission is to "develop innovative state government policies and strategies that will encourage and support regional collaboration among local governments; and to encourage regional collaboration among local governments and civic, business, and other community organizations, to better enable our governments and our citizens to address California's major economic, social, and environmental challenges in the years ahead."

Let's Work Together

This report is an invitation to all Californians to join together at the regional level to help lay a new civic foundation for the decades ahead. California's New Regionalism is not a "quick fix," but rather an important first step toward establishing a new approach for addressing the State's economic, environmental, and social challenges. We think that the generation of regional civic leaders highlighted in SOCR 2001 are up to the task of meeting these challenges. Please join them, and us, in this important civic mission.

Because this is the Center's first SOCR report, we are anxious to have your comments and suggestions. We are honored to be a small part of this important movement, and we want always to do our very best to serve the civic entrepreneurs, the CRIs, and the people of California. Let us know how we can do better-for you, for them, for the children, and for future generations.

Please visit the following websites for more information: www.calregions.org (CCRL) and www.regionalism.org (Speaker's Commission on Regionalism), or contact:

California Center for Regional Leadership 455 Market Street, Suite 1100

San Francisco, CA 94105

Tel: 415-882-7300, Fax: 415-882-7272



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