Deals and more Deals: 20% off print book via

I love my e-reader, but sometimes you just want a regular paper book – especially if you’re hanging by the pool or the beach.  And if you really want to look like one of the smart kids, you’ll want to get caught on the beach reading The Local Economy Revolution  or Why This Work Matters, right?  fat penguin flying majestically over Toledo

Of course you do.  Of course.

From now ’til June 30, (the producer of the print local economy revolution coverversion of Wise Fool Press books) is offering a sweet 20% discount on all print copies.  All you have to do is put in the coupon code JFS20 at checkout.  That’s a pretty sweet deal!

You can go to either book’s web site above and click the print version link on the “Get the Book Page,” or you can go to Lulu directly — either way, same difference.

Enjoy and happy reading!

Why this work matters cover


You learned it here first: Cussing R Us!

One of the first reviews of the Local Economy Revolution noted that the language in the book was a little, um, salty.  I have always found a certain kind of aesthetic pleasure in a well-placed cuss word, and I think I indulged that a bit as I worked to make the book as much my personal voice as possible.  And well, yeah… I say that kind of stuff.  Sometimes.  Ok, a lot.

But apparently doing so made me much more impervious to pain. So call this my PSA for the day: the next time you whack your thumb and a word your mother wouldn’t approve slips out, just remember what said:


Swearing is Good For You!

Oh, and …. nyah.

From the Good Ideas File: Two views of a “Post-Employment Economy”

This article touches on a topic that received some attention in The Local Economy Revolution, but it’s becoming so critical, and so potentially earthshaking, and so little discussed in planning and economic development and local government circles, that I’m starting to work out a new book on the topic.

If you follow business and economic news, you have heard a ton about “jobless recoveries,” “workerless businesses,” the Freelancer Economy, and a whole lot of other catchphrases.  All of these are getting at the same fundamental issue, from different angles: the traditional relationship between employer and employee is decoupling and fragmenting, for a whole range of reasons.  I’m not one who believes that everyone is going to become a tech wizard freelancer working from coffeeshops, but I do think that the assumptions about employment that most of us have grown up with are going to morph into a whole lot of different models, and most of us will move through lots of those fluidly throughout our lives.  And of course, if you deal with tech people, or consultants, or a wide variety of others, you know that’s already happening.

Which leaves a lot of people — both generally, and particularly people who have the job of trying to help their communities adapt to change and find success in the future… really out on a limb.

Which is why I really liked this article.  Plus, I liked how the author framed the big question:

Will a post-employment economy actually suck, or will it wallow in awesomeness? 


As you might guess, the answer is yes.  Answer #1 should sound pretty familiar:

View #1: Post-Employment Sucks

In the Atlantic, Conor Sen offers up a quick overview the post-employee economy. One graph from the manufacturing sector pretty much tells the story. Since 1970 production has increased 170% while hours worked has decreased 30%. Businesses can do more work with fewer employees.

And it isn’t just manufacturing — across the board automation and outsourcing are providing the means by which companies can provide their products and services with fewer people on the payroll. This in part accounts for the precipitous drop in participation in the workforce that we’ve seen over the past few years

And while until now these job-destroying forces have mostly been confined to the goods-producing and information sectors, it looks like the next wave is going to hit much broader in the service sector. As nascent technologies like IBM’s Watson show, everyone from bankers to retail workers to health-care and education workers are at risk. “Long IBM, short labor” is a trade that should work for years barring government policy changes.

Fun.  But then there’s view #2, which this author outlines a little more pragmatically and a little less gee-whiz than some of them:

View #2: Post-Employment Wallows in Awesomeness

Da Vinci Institute founder Thomas Frey, writing at the World Future Society blog, describes tremendous opportunity arising from post-employment in a piece entitled Workerless Businesses: An Explosive New Trend. The trick, as Frey sees it, is to turn Sen’s assessment in its head. If productivity gains are accruing to “the owners of the factors of production,” what happens when individuals become the owners?

New technologies and massive de-industrialization have led us to exactly that point. Who needs a job working for a company that’s trying to cut staff when you can be the head of a company yourself, one with significant resources at your disposal and no staff to speak of?

…. The looming question is whether workerless businesses can somehow take up the slack, ultimately providing us much or more work as traditional employers are eliminating. As I noted a while back, this is no small challenge seeing as it is, in some ways, John Henry redux:

Automation is eliminating jobs. Machines are doing it. They are fast, efficient, and relentless. Creating jobs is a whole different matter. Creating jobs requires developing new business models, which means identifying market needs — figuring out what is important to people, what they will pay for. It is a fundamentally creative activity — one that machines can’t perform.

It’s the story of John Henry all over again…but there’s a difference. The same technology that is eliminating jobs also connects us and empowers us in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. Maybe what’s


Statue of John Henry. From Wikipedia

becoming obsolete is not jobs per se, but the idea that they are something that you simply find.

Increasingly, perhaps, a job is something that we each have to create. We can’t count on someone else to create one for us. That model is disappearing. We have to carve something out for ourselves, something that the machines won’t immediately grab. [emphasis mine]

I think that’s a good sum-up of the basic proposition.  And I agree: I think the answer will be yes.  I’ve seen over and over that people aren’t necessarily hard-wired to pivot the way the emerging economy seems to expect, and we have a good number of John Henrys in the making.   The author sums up the conflict these folks are facing very well:

The rub for a lot of folks is that this is not the deal they thought they were getting. The old deal was go to school, find a job, work it. Maybe once or twice you trade up for a better job, but basically there’s always a job there. Jobs are supposed to go on for years and years. They are supposed to be safe, secure, permanent. The gig economy is anything but that, and running an empire of one involves constant uncertainty.

We can’t underestimate that, and we can’t pooh-pooh it.  What we are going to have to do is figure out how we can help people make that change.

But fighting for the reinstatement of that “deal” is a fistfight with a hurricane.  Or John Henry killing himself to beat the machine, which then rolls past him to take over the industry.


Well, at least kind of shiny: Brilliant Economic Development panel at IEDC Leadership

About a month ago I sat on a panel with a collection of leading economic development people from all over the country as Anatalio Ubalde, CEO of GISPlanning, threw hard questions at us in front of an audience of our peers.  This little pressure cooker happened at the IEDC Leadership Conference in Irvine, California.  And it was one of those situations where you walk into it worrying about how you’re going to come off, but you walk out of it realizing how privileged you were to get to hear and talk to the amazing people sitting beside you.

IEDC’s publication, ED Now, did a brief write up on the session (and knowing GISPlanning and their fondness for videotaping, I’m sure footage will emerge eventually).  One of the neatest things about the conversation was that we were able to take on the reframing of economic development work — as a key contributor to a community’s resilience and strength, part of the mix with urban planning and housing and all of the other elements of community management that we have too long treated as Someone Else’s Job.

What I myself said on that topic apparently resonated, and not just inside my head, because that’s what Louise Story of IEDC picked up on in her article.  This was off-the-cuff, but it draws on one of the core messages of the book — rethinking the importance of community resilience, the fact that a community’s own strength is its own most important economic development asset, and the fact that we can’t work in silos anymore:

Building resiliency and community

Echoing a broader conversation currently taking place, the first audience question for the panel was about the growth in income inequality. Della Rucker, principal of the Wise Economy Workshop in Cincinnati, pointed to practical reasons why economic developers should focus on this issue.

“More and more, our viability as an economy depends on our viability as a community,” said Rucker. “Economic development cannot exist in a silo, planning cannot exist in a silo. It’s really all about making communities as functional, as vibrant, as resilient as possible. Addressing disparities of all types becomes an essential element of that, even if just from a self-interest standpoint.”

Thanks again to Anatalio for his ongoing kindness to me and the Wise Economy work, to GISPlanning and IEDC for being willing to push this conversation forward, and to the other amazing people who sat on the panel for enlightening and energizing me.

Spring/Summer speaking gigs forming up

As we trudge through the Midwestern snow and slush toward spring (Dear God, let it be so!) , speaking gigs for the spring and summer are starting to firm up.  Some of these are still a little fuzzy, so I’ll update as I know more.

If you’re near one of these locations and you’d be interested in a hosting me for a presentation or a training, let me know and I’ll waive the travel expenses.

  • April 28, I will be moderating a panel called “Open Data, Apps and Planning” at the American Planning Association national conference in Atlanta, GA.  This session includes four amazing panelists, including the CEO of LocalData and Textizen, the director of the Decision Lab at PlaceMatters, and the Director of OpenPlans.  If you want to find out what the bleeding edge of technology and public engagement in planning looks like, this will be the place for you.  I’m doing this under my hat of Managing Editor of EngagingCities, and I am as eager as anyone to hear what these guys have to say.
  • May 10, I will be back in Middlesboro, Kentucky for Better Block Part Deux, exploring how a small city can use a comprehensive, resilience-focused approach to community development to build a strong local economy — in a place where a strong economy has long been elusive.  I had a visit with Middlesboro last fall (you can learn a little about that here and here), and I’m looking forward to seeing more good stuff take hold here.

Managing a contentious public meeting requires a sophisticated set of tools to keep potential conflicts under control and to make sure that everyone gets a fair chance to speak up. It also requires knowing when to use those tools and how to do it in a way that makes all participants feel that their involvement matters. This session will explore various group management techniques used by successful facilitators to foster fair participation, lessen the likelihood of confrontational or counter-productive behavior, defuse conflict, and more. Participants will gain experience in using specific tactics through role-playing scenarios with fellow peers and colleagues.

This will be the third time I have done this session — which gets the participants out of their chairs and taking on roles like their favorite local crab and the dude who just wants to hear himself talk.  And gives them ways to manage that in conventional public meetings, and ways to restructure public meetings so that you don’t need to do that!  I’m looking forward to this — it’s not like Main Street people are shrinking violets anyways, so this should be something to see!

Ignite has become a fixture at IEDC’s recent conferences, but never has it been tried like this. In two separate Ignite-style panels, attendees will witness a succession of five minute, rapid-fire, get-to-the-point presentations, with time built in for speakers to answers questions on stage after they’re all done.

Ignite Presentation Sessions: The Power of Ideas: A brave new economic development idea. A twist in how people consider their roles within the profession. From new ways of thinking about impact to new functions for economic developers within their communities, these presentations are about dreaming big.

No idea what I’ve gotten myself into here, but it should be interesting!

  • July 23, I’ll be giving a webinar for Lorman on strategies that local governments can use to support small businesses.  That one hasn’t been formally put on the schedule yet, but I’ll let you know when it is.
  • August 21, I’ll be giving a keynote for the Michigan Economic Developer’s Association Annual Meeting on Sea Changes, partnerships and streamlining.  That one also hasn’t been formally announced yet, but I will let you know as soon as it is.

There’s  several others floating around, so if you’re thinking about a speaker for your summer or fall events, please let me know soon.  Thanks!

From the Good Ideas File (and from EngagingCities): 20 Innovations that Matter in government and technology

As some of you probably know, one of the hats that I wear when I’m not sharing Good Ideas for the Local Economy Revolution is that I’m the Managing Editor of EngagingCities, an online magazine that focuses on the use of internet technologies to help people connect to and participate in their communities.  We cover a mix of planning, open data, smart cities technologies, and other topics, we run stories from around the world, and our over 17,000 readers come from every continent.

I had an opportunity last month to interview Emily Jarvis, the lead author of a report that highlighted 20 new innovations in governments from the local to the national.  The report was designed to highlight the incredible innovation going on in government services delivery of all types.  As the author told me,

We felt like most of the media wasn’t telling the whole story about government employees – and we knew that government is one of the most innovative entities out there.  So we wanted to highlight those achievements.

One of the things that Emily noted was that innovations at the local level are occurring when silos break down and departments that never touched each other before start working together. Like this:

One of the coolest things I saw was what local governments are doing with libraries.  These institutions needed to find new ways to interact with people, and they are basically reinventing themselves as a tech hub.  For example, Anne Arundel County’s library is across the street from a new Target, and people who wanted to apply for jobs had to do it online.  But if you don’t have a computer or internet access, how do you apply for those jobs?  The library basically set up an employment center, and it helped people do their applications.  We’re seeing a resurgence in libraries that you wouldn’t have bet on a few years ago.  You see government changing.

You can read the full interview here, and you can get the report as well.