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Mittelman: Energized and Determined to Be Part of Solutions

This was my first GPLEX, so I really didn’t know what to expect.  This experience provided us a target rich environment of ideas that can take us down many paths. 


I came away from GPLEX with was a whole new network of friends, greater insights and a better understanding and appreciation of our own Philadelphia issues and challenges, as well as a clearer picture of the Seattle ecosystem.   Based on my observations during the discussions and site visits, I thought the key difference between Seattle and Philadelphia, is culture.  Let me expand that thought.


From the very first presentations on transportation, to the discussions surrounding affordable housing, homelessness, the “Amazon Effect,” philanthropy, civic engagement with business, business to business relationships, the legal systems and finally, coordination within sectors of health care it struck me that the cultures of our two cities are significantly different.  Our east coast culture tends to be more insular, intolerant and generally not as motivated to be inclusive.  What I observed in Seattle, was more of a spirit of inclusiveness and a willingness to communicate and compromise.  Clearly, it’s not perfect, but if we are to begin to apply any of the lessons we’ve observed in Seattle, we need to recognize the differences in cultures and then put together small coalitions of the willing if we are to apply these lessons to Philadelphia. 


I am not discounting Seattle’s regressive tax structure (although, wouldn’t it be great to be able to levy a $54B tax to fund public transportation?) and the social problems that have been precipitated by the rapid growth of Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks and others as I form my opinions but the fact remains that as you look at Seattle compared to Philadelphia, their inner population is rather homogenous which tends to allow for the openness and other attributes I mentioned previously. 


I was extremely impressed with the Washington Global Health Alliance where they are bringing together multiple healthcare and associated players towards a singular goal of organizing global health initiatives in an efficient and highly effective manner.  There was little talk of competition and mergers, contrary to our world.  As we discussed philanthropy, I was struck by where Philadelphia stood as compared to others.  I was also stuck that there was little mention of education (other than their success in funding pre-K education) until the last day and that really didn’t address the challenges that Seattle currently has.  For us that’s a major, if not the major touchstone issue.  Additionally, access to healthcare was not even addressed, which is also an important issue for us. 


So, I’ve walked away energized and determined to see how I can be part of the solutions that may enable us to apply some of the lessons observed into lessons learned and acted upon.  Too often we see things in other places that we believe would fit into our ecosystems and don’t take differences in culture into account.  I’ve experienced this in my military career and now in my life as an academic.  While much is possible, we need to determine how best to confront the differences in cultures if we are to operationalize and apply lessons from this week’s observations and interactions.   I am very optimistic we can, especially given the expertise we have internally at the Economy League and also that we’re surrounded with in Philadelphia.  I look forward to being part of that discussion and ultimately the prioritization and development of an executable plan for implementation. 


Thank you for the great experience and to the Economy League's staff for the exceptional organization and logistical support.  It was fantastic!