September 30, 2005 - From the September, 2005 issue

With ‘An Idea, An Ear, and a Smile,' Nick Bollman Leads CCRL and California's Regional Movement

Illness prevented Nick Bollman, founder of the California Center for Regional Leadership from maintaing his perfect attendence record at the annual Civic Entrepreneurs Summit, now in its tenth year. Yet, every session and discussion felt his presence. Bollman is one of the true forefathers of the regional movement, and his vision of a California that works cooperatively and efficiently has inspired countless others. One such supporter is West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, who offered this tribute in Bollman's absence.

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon

CCRL's Civic Entrepreneur Awards are a celebration of the success of our movement, a movement that was, in many ways, launched and nurtured by a great Californian, actually a suite of great Californians. There was a time not too long ago when you might have thought that regionalism was an intellectual affectation of the cultural elite who thought they had a better idea of how to run societies and governments. At that time it was maybe a monochromatically or maybe bi-chromatically green notion of what regionalism was all about. It included folks interested on the economic development side who thought we needed to be thinking about regions in bigger ways, and folks on the environmental activism side, concerned about those environmental issues that did not respect city boundaries. But

Today, everyone is doing it. Or at least all the cool people are regionalists now. Regional action is busting out all over. I don't want to overstate the case. We may be the very last segment of society that is not the focus of our own reality TV show. I'm sure it's coming, but we haven't made it very easy with terms like "collaborative regional governances but not government," which doesn't really roll off the tongue. And bringing together seven strangers to live in a house and think about how to make collaborative decisions together about big-picture issues isn't good TV. And it's not going to get any better now that we're shifting our focus to things like "supply chain logistics" – things that really inspire the public. So reality TV is not coming.

But tonight should be a reminder for us that our movement has matured in many ways beyond our most ambitious expectations from just a few years ago when we had our first summit. We've learned, and everybody agrees now, that regions are big enough to match the scale of the economic challenges, environmental challenges, and social equity challenges that we're facing – challenges that are so meaningful both in the daily lives of Californians but in our future as well. But regions, unlike so many other levels of government, are intimate enough for the kind of mutual understanding and mutual accountability, and for the expectation of long-term interaction that's so critical for trust and for real solutions to emerge. Regions are also the fundamental unit of competition, economically and in so many other ways. So we're talking about celebrating the big-tent collaboration by a lot of stakeholders and a lot of citizens.

We're also remembering with these awards that big-tent collaboration is a product of individual leadership and individual action, and it's those individual leaders that have helped to give our movement the life, the spirit, and the voice, and ultimately the results that we've worked so hard for – individuals like Nick Bollman. Before we present the awards, I think we all want to note Nick's presence with us tonight, as he has been with us in person at every one of these summits prior.


Nick Bollman is one of the few regionalists that is not prone to bombast. He uses only three tools to assemble the movement that has become so powerful in this state. The three tools being an idea, an ear, and a smile. That's all Nick Bollman uses. He has a powerful idea that we ought to scale solutions and scale collaboration for the actual problems and challenges we're trying to solve. A very powerful idea that, for some reason, went undiscovered for centuries. Second, he listens. He pays attention to what others are saying and is able to integrate what all of us aspire to in our own day-to-day grind with an idea. And then I think his most powerful tool is his smile. He doesn't lecture, he doesn't see the world in black and while, and he's able to motivate people to profound action simply by affirming and reconceptualizing what they are doing.

For the 40 or so USC students who are here at the invitation of Professor Dan Mazmanian, also a member of the CCRL board, Nick Bollman is the kind of person that inspires a lifetime of work and a lifetime of commitment of service to a community and a state, and it is precisely the kind of person that we are honoring tonight.

Our hopes and prayers are with Nick, and we can also remind Nick that the movement he built is strong and robust and that there are many, many others who are already taking up the challenge, and some of them we are honoring this evening for that work.


© 2024 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.