Encourage our public and private leadership organizations to create a Regional Leadership Advocacy Organization focused on resolving major issues. When we study regions across the country that succeed on region-wide, cross-jurisdictional projects, we find they are often led by Regional Leadership Advocacy Organizations with specific qualities that engage in specific roles.
The Qualities of Successful Regional Leadership Organizations
Successful, enduring Regional Leadership Advocacy Organizations were usually created to advocate for specific projects like highways, ports, and new civic centers. The organizations filled the leadership gap in order to build something the region needed or to deal with the most pressing issues of their time. Most Regional Leadership Advocacy Organizations were private-sector driven, although in every case public-sector partners played an important role.
Private-Sector Led, Public-Sector Involvement
Some of the most noted non-governmental regional organizations include Joint Venture of Silicon Valley; the Regional Plan Association of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut; and the Metropolitan Planning Council of the Chicago region. The Chicago region stands out in any discussion of regionalism because it has been planning at the regional scale for over one hundred years.
The Plan of Chicago in 1909 was created at a time when Chicago was becoming the center of the modern world while at the same time the City was plagued by growing poverty, unsanitary living conditions, and a plummeting quality of life. Architect Daniel Burnham had designed the plan for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and was commissioned by the private-sector Merchants Club and Commercial Club of Chicago to create a plan for the region. The Plan of Chicago included specific projects that included a barrier island waterway park, a new city hall, a regional network of tree-lined boulevards and a system of playgrounds and parks. Later the Chicago Plan Commission, a 328-person board of business and social interests, was created to promote and implement the Plan. Considering its ambition, the Plan of Chicago was enormously successful with a high degree of implementation. Between 1912 and 1931, Chicagoans approved over 80 plan-related bond issues covering over 20 different projects.
The Chicago Plan also set the framework for regionalism. To- day the Chicago Plan Commission is a branch of local government; however another group has formed in the spirit of the original Commission. The Metropolitan Planning Council works today as an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of 18 counties and 469 municipalities. The Metropolitan Planning Council continues the Chicago Plan Commission’s original mission of providing an independent voice that drives regional growth and advocates for a vibrant, livable city.