I was a participant in this past Saturday’s updayton “Young Creative’s Summit” – a workshop & town hall event meant to engage the region’s younger generation (20-40) in coming up with ideas to make our region and city more attractive to young people. Dayton has been experiencing quite a brain drain over the years as young people flee to other cities in search of jobs and a better quality of life. Since I’m 38, I still qualify as a “young person”, albeit just barely (big sigh!)…
You can read more about the idea behind the summit and how it started by reading my previous post or going to the updayton website. I was in a workshop group called “Making a Difference” and unfortunately two other Dayton bloggers were in the same session – Matt from lifeindayton.com and David Esrati. I say unfortunately because it would have been nice to have been able to read some blogger insights into some of the other sessions, but instead I’m writing about the same thing they already have. Both lifeindayton.com and esrati.com have accurate reports of the day and I won’t waste your time duplicating them here other than to reiterate that the voting process was a total dud IMO and completely drained the energy out of the room (and I’m sure the organizers would agree).
It is always nice to see people engaged and wanting to get involved with making things better, and I applaud the summit organizers and participants for that. But the whole process of getting a group together to come up with ideas and then getting people to somehow implement those ideas on a grassroots level (usually with little or no money) is getting worn out in this town. It is ironic that the updayton group was itself spawned from the Creative Region Initiative (yet another effort I was involved with) where people got together to come up with ideas that they would then try to implement over the next year.
I really thought the idea with the summit was to lobby the leadership in this region with the things young people find important so that those leaders might then champion some projects that address those needs. I knew there was going to be some kind of sign-up for people to get involved, but other than having a hand full of city leaders on hand I did not see how they fit into it other than to listen. And notice I said city leaders because there was not a single suburban or regional leader at the summit – something that was noticed by many people I’ve talked to since. As much as our city leaders are criticized these days I give them credit for being there while none of their regional peers decided it was worth their effort.
Grassroots projects can be valuable and effective, but I just don’t think the best way to develop them is by dot-sticker-committees. They need champions who are passionate, knowledgble and dedicated to an idea who organize others who share that passion, not committees made up of total strangers voting on spontaneous ideas after minimal discussion. What would be nice to see is a community leader or two (government, political, organization or business) actually act as a champion for some of the many ideas that have been generated by the community and help identify the resources to actually make them happen. Because ideas without champions or resources are just that – ideas. We have plenty of ideas in this town, but what we are missing is the leadership to make these ideas come to life. Summit organizers say that this is only the beginning, so I challenge those leaders that were at the summit – what initiatives that matter to young people are YOU planning on being champions for?
(photos by Andy Snow)
Here are links to posts from other Dayton bloggers – most of whom were at the summit: