May 15, 2011 Brian Kelsey

Lessons Learned

We’re a little more than half way through our year-long excursion to Washington, DC. As we start looking ahead to our return to Austin, I guess it’s only natural to take stock of what we’ve learned from this experience so far. While I’m a bit constrained in what I can say here as a result of my position with the Federal Government, there are a few things I’d like to share from both professional and personal perspectives.

  1. I miss writing. I started Civic Analytics in 2007 as a communication outlet for sharing news, resources, and my thoughts on best practices with other economic developers. I’ve connected with some amazing people through this blog, who have deepened my understanding of economies and places and inspired me to think honestly and critically about the relationship between economic development and public service. Fostering those exchanges requires making contributions. I look forward to getting back to this blog and continuing our conversations.
  2. I’ll go back to Austin a less cynical person. This has been perhaps my biggest surprise. On the surface, you’d think a year in Washington would have the opposite effect. But my brief glimpse into the nuances of this place has underscored for me that things are always more complicated than they appear. You don’t know what you don’t know may be trite, but accurate. I’ve come to realize this year that it’s far too easy to wear cynicism like a badge of intellectual superiority. For those of us who peddle our wares in the Knowledge Economy and strive for the highest standards of critical thinking, that’s a dangerous trap. I will be more vigilant.
  3. Austin, I owe you an apology. For wonky policy types sorting through civic participation and viable career options, you can be a difficult woman to love. But I’ve gained some perspective during our little break this year. As the transition to the 1099 Economy picks up speed, few places are better prepared than you. I need to do a better job of telling that story in a way that highlights your strengths as well as your weaknesses. Yes, you have a few blind spots when it comes to things like celebrating entrepreneurship and job creation without recognizing the circumstances facing your growing ranks of low-wage workers. But the safe bet is that your entrepreneurial culture will also develop the policies and programs for navigating this new economy that can be exported to other regions as best practices.

I’ll be ready to pitch in and do my part with renewed enthusiasm when we’re back. See you soon.


Comments (4)

  1. Elizabeth Lippincott

    Good thoughts, expressed well. Looking forward to how the DC sojourn informs your work back in Austin — but mostly just looking forward to having you, Meredith and the pups back in the ‘hood! Don’t fail to note that the azaleas on the Capitol grounds bloom until Memorial Day (or they did when we were there).

  2. Jennifer Reilly

    Excellent post. It is important to resist the seductive temptation of cynicism. We need our leaders to be positive and optimistic as they help guide us through the rough waters of economic transition. Keep fighting the good fight.

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