The Revitalization of Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Lancaster PA

Are you interested in revitalizing your city, town or neighborhood?  Thomas Friedman’s New York Time‘s piece on Lancaster, Pennsylvania is worth your time.  Here is a taste:

Can Lancaster’s successes be replicated?

Yes. Its problems are global and the strategies Lancaster has employed to resurrect itself are shared by complex adaptive coalitions I’ve visited all over. The organization Grinstein, the societal innovator, created, called Reut, is helping to catalyze some in Israel. I took him with me to Lancaster, and afterward he noted common features that all of these successful coalitions share:

1. They are mostly started and inspired by civic leaders with no formal authority, and not by politicians, and are driven not by party ideology or affiliation but by a relentless “what-works attitude.”

2. They all begin with a vision, strategy and benchmarks for rebuilding their community, which enable them “to harness each element of the community and mobilize their unique resources, and societal innovations, behind this vision. … We call this ‘extending the yoke.’ The longer yoke you have, the more horses you can have pulling the wagon — and in a community, the ‘yoke’ is the inspiring vision and the ‘horses’ are the business leaders, social entrepreneurs, local colleges, philanthropies, nonprofits and faith-based institutions.”

3. They understand that there are no quick fixes for regenerating a community, which is why civic leadership is so crucial — “because civic leaders can adopt a long-term view that transcends political tenures.”

And I would add one more: Not a single community leader I spoke to in Lancaster said the progress was due to technology — to microchips. They all said it was due to relationships — relationships born not of tribal solidarity but of putting aside tribal differences to do big hard things together in their collective interest. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

Read the entire piece here.  I wish Friedman would have said more about the role that LancasterHistory.Org and local religious communities are playing in Lancaster’s rise.

2 thoughts on “The Revitalization of Lancaster, Pennsylvania

  1. I would also add as that Lancaster has done well to embrace its refugee population, acknowledging that they make the city stronger, rather than treating them as a burden. Furthermore, this is connected to the work of both the historical society and religious communities in Lancaster that you mention. LancasterHistory.org recently had an exhibit downtown documenting Lancaster as a city built by refugees (German Anabaptists) that still welcomes refugees.

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