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Reid: Thinking About What Success Looks Like

“Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before” – The Smiths


This week in Seattle I had a great opportunity to soak in the perspective of the many Seattle representatives that stepped on stage this week – while wielding the universally feared “5 Minutes/2 Minutes/1 Minute/STOP!” placards at the front on the room. Between glances at my watch, and sips from the two to three cups of Seattle’s caffeinated contribution to most workdays, I was struck with a sense of déjà vu. I’ve been here before. I’ve heard this before. And I have.


While sharing some time with the Economy League as a Senior Executive Fellow, I have also been highly occupied with my work as part of Tufts University’s Urban Justice and Sustainability Program and my year long research study centered around gentrification, and particularly how innovation-based economic development in one area has a tendency to export impacts to adjacent neighborhoods in the form of things like gentrification and displacement. Seattle’s South Lake Union and several other neighborhoods are poster children for this trend. Whether it is Seattle, Austin, or Philadelphia it does not take a great deal of digging to start unearthing stories of change, stories of displacement, and stories of inequity. Stories of successful and equitable management of these issues, however, are a little harder to come by.


So, when these topics came up in Seattle, I was not taken aback. In fact, at the Economy League’s kick off of the Inclusive Growth Working Group back in June, the zip code for South Lake Union was one I featured in my presentation to show exactly what a couple of speakers directly referred to – families earning $200k plus a year in, those earning $50k and under, wait, I could have sworn that they were just around here somewhere. Austin, Texas – very much the same story but not quite as advanced yet. Still time to effect equitable change and help address an unequal playing field. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania? Oh wait, that is US. Look around. As University City grows is anyone looking out for West Philadelphia? Powelton? Mantua? Should they be? What will Schuylkill Yards do? uCity Square? What if Amazon HQ2 lands? Who will be the champions that help empower these neighborhoods – that help them advocate and express what they need now, and for the future without resorting to the paternalist ‘mansplaining’ of a colonial power, big brother, or someone that just happens to know what is best for you. Who will be the true collaborator, the trusted partner, the true equal - but not the superior.


141 Philadelphia leaders had a chance to wander around Seattle and ponder that a little – and think about what success looks like. Unlike The Smiths, Philadelphia’s story will be treading new ground with an alumni network of over 1,000 leaders inclusively leading the way. You won’t have heard this one before.


Andrew Reid is an Economy League Senior Executive Fellow and GPLEX Alum 2012-2017