The financial crisis of 2008 and the lingering recession underscore three dimensions of our current crisis: an economic crisis of slow growth and stagnant job creation; an inequality crisis on a scale we haven't seen since the Great Depression; and a political crisis that is rooted not just in extreme partisanship but in a fragmentation of the very knowledge base on which decisions are made.
Solutions to this three-dimensional crisis are apparent in the experiences of a handful of metropolitan regions around the country which over the past thirty years have been successful in creating not just growth, but in creating just growth--linking improved equity and economic growth in a virtuous cycle. Understanding how and why these regions have been successful provides valuable lessons to other regions and for state and federal policy.
One the more important elements of success in these regions seems to be the presence of particularly diverse epistemic communities. Epistemic refers to what you know (what facts, figures, and perspectives) and community refers to who you know it with (whether alone or in collaboration with others). When such collective knowledge includes not just the 'usual suspects' of urban growth coalitions, but a broader constellation of community interested and perspectives, it seems to make a different in regional trajectories.
About Dr. Benner:
Chris Benner received his Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Benner’s research focuses on the relationships between technological change, regional development, and structures of economic opportunity. Dr. Benner’s recent book, co-authored with USC Professor Manuel Pastor, is Just Growth: Inclusion and Prosperity in America’s Metropolitan Regions, which helps uncover the processes, policies and institutional arrangements that help explain how certain regions around the country have been able to consistently link prosperity and inclusion. Breaking new ground in its research methods, the book argues that we need more than just growth (or growth alone), and that especially in the context of our current economic stagnation and inequality, lessons from these “just growth” regions can help shape a new paradigm in which the promotion of social equity is not simply seen as a beneficial social goal but as an important component of economic development policy and practice.