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Jeff's Takeaways from GPLEX 2018

My key takeaways from GPLEX 2018: Seattle has incredible wealth and a political system and culture that are conducive to collaborating to solve big challenges.  Because Seattle raises revenue primarily by special levies on property, which must be approved at the ballot box, policymakers must present coherent value propositions to the electorate.  The "Seattle process" involves inclusive, consensus-based decision-making, leading to maximum buy-in for tough policy choices.  And  Seattle’s innovative approach to philanthropy encourages failing forward, risk-taking, and innovation. 


Seattle’s problem-solving political and philanthropic culture are fortuitous, since the city faces some vexing issues, such as acute gentrification and an affordable housing crisis; transit infrastructure that is inadequate to the task of getting workers from where they can afford to live to their jobs; yawning inequality, especially along racial and ethnic lines; and a massive homelessness problem. 


Yet Seattle has mobilized the political will to tackle big issues like achieving consenseus among business and labor around a $15 minimum wage and persuading 56% of the voters in 3 counties to raise $54 billion in taxes on themselves for transit funding.  I left feeling like it would apply its can-do, engineering mentality to its housing and homelessness crises and closing its opportunity gaps.


During one of our closing sessions, an Innovation Exchange between Solynn McCurdy of Seattle's Social Venture Partners and our United Way CEO Bill Golderer, the latter provided a statistical rendering of the "Philly shrug" in our region's low rates of philanthropic giving, volunteerism, and voter participation. 


At the Economy League, we are ready to get beyond the shrug, beyond “Nega-delphia,” and build on our region’s considerable assets, like our great eds-and-meds institutions, robust transit infrastructure, cultural diversity, relative affordability, emerging tech sector, burgeoning hospitality sector, vibrant downtown. 

Our cohort of nearly 1,000 emerging and established leaders assembled by the Economy League through GPLEX cuts across all of these sectors, and in the coming months we will be seeking interested partners to tackle our toughest problems and build economic prosperity for all. Our leaders are ready to go.

It’s time to work together, like Seattle does, to develop a pragmatic center that can find points of common ground and leverage our assets. We need business, labor, philanthropy, and the social sector to build “a Philly process.”