• Margot H Knight

    As a veteran of community progress and change (in my case for arts and culture), the best thing to do would to be to give the people “on the ground” working with people who are homeless, hungry, undereducated, unemployed, disadvantaged etc. grants to pay dues to join and go to the conferences and inter-city visits of their local/regional chambers of commerce, economic development commissions and tourism bureaus.

    As long as the business community forums (and many philanthropic ones, too) are a “pay to play” world, the voices needed at the table to advance solutions to social problems will always be in Siberia. And the business community drives the community agenda in most communities. This is not necessarily a bad thing–just a fact. I have come to believe local businesspeople are well-intentioned and have the ability to listen BUT you have to be at the table and equal to them in terms of your investment in whatever organization is the umbrella in your community to be heard as an equal. Many are Type A people, they are certain they can “fix” education, hunger, drug use etc. and wlll drive through an unworkable plan if grassroots organizers aren’t full partners at the decision-making table.

    And when community organizers get to those tables, they need to listen and learn too. Reciprocity counts. I’ve learned more about sports venues, tourism marketing, bed taxes, water management and economic incentives for business development than I would have ever imagined possible. And, in return, sometimes, we made policy and financial progress for arts and culture.