Why New Localism is Working in San Diego

New Localism
New Localism links local communities to the growth sectors of the global economy in ways both inclusive and environmentally sustainable.

As Interim CEO of the San Diego Foundation, I have the privilege of seeing every day how individuals, groups and organizations are working together to strengthen the vitality and resilience of our region.

This drive to improve quality of life for all is inherent in our schools, our businesses, our healthcare systems, our faith-based and cultural organizations, our social service agencies and in many kinds of formal and informal affiliations.

Furthermore, San Diego’s commitment to the common good benefits greatly from the innovative, entrepreneurial spirit that invigorates so much of our economy and society.

Cause for Optimism

Over the past few months, I have learned from and been inspired by community foundation leaders from across the country.

In Minneapolis, I met with the CEOs of the 35 largest community foundations. While troubled by national discord and distracted by increasing competition for charitable funds, these CEOs are nonetheless hopeful and courageous in addressing the most critical issues in their communities. In Indianapolis where I was part of a San Diego Economic Development Corporation delegation, the Community Foundation CEO is leading the city’s efforts to eliminate institutional racism.

Shared commitment is rooted in a deep and powerful sense of civic pride and purpose.

As Federal and State resources continue to shrink, what gives these cities and community foundations confidence and fortitude in tackling even the most intractable challenges on behalf of their residents?

Clearly, their shared commitment is rooted in a deep and powerful sense of civic pride and purpose.

However, as described in The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism by Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution and Jeremy Nowak of Drexel University’s Lindy Institute of Urban Innovation, essential to progress is the ability to mobilize expertise and resources across multiple sectors and disciplines to generate responsive and durable solutions.

Why New Localism?

As Katz and Nowak state:

“Cities and counties are solving problems because they can. The knowledge-intensive industries that increasingly dominate the U.S. economy seek the convergence of assets that many U.S. cities and metropolitan areas naturally possess: anchor research institutions and collaborative ecosystems of firms, entrepreneurs, investors and intermediaries… Cities…can accumulate public, private, and civic wealth to create alternative paths for the design, financing, and delivery of solutions rapidly”.

Here in San Diego we all have the incredible opportunity to promote New Localism and to “link local communities to the growth sectors of the global economy in ways both inclusive and environmentally sustainable”.

At The San Diego Foundation, this linkage manifests itself in the form of STEM education and early childhood development opportunities for low-income communities, age-friendly resources to keep people independent and active, climate action plans for nearly every municipality in San Diego county, increased access to nature for park-poor communities, to name a few—all of which would not be possible without an invaluable network of donors, experts, partners, supporters and leaders who believe in creating and sustaining positive change where we live.

Focus on Community

In fact, Katz and Nowak recognize what is already working in San Diego’s favor:

“In Chattanooga, Indianapolis, and San Diego the public, private, and civic spheres are joining forces at the scale of the city and metropolis to catalyze new economy-shaping efforts, measure progress, and champion success. As with place-based initiatives, this is community organizing at the highest level.”

The San Diego region possesses so many advantages: vibrant economic sectors, renowned educational and research institutions, innovative businesses, global connectivity, social and cultural diversity.

Let’s continue to explore together how we can channel these gifts for the benefit of all our communities.


About Connie Matsui

Connie Matsui

Interim CEO Connie Matui’s primary interest is in social innovation and entrepreneurship. During her 32-year corporate career, she held various general management positions at Biogen Idec, IDEC Pharmaceuticals and Wells Fargo Bank. Connie has been an active volunteer and board member for a number of nonprofit organizations, including Girl Scouts of the USA and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

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