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'22 in 21' endeavors to get things done
By Jonathan Schechter, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: January 23, 2013
Last Thursday, my Charture Institute hosted its second “22 in 21: Jackson Hole in the 21st Century” conference. My belief is that Jackson Hole is one community spanning two states and three counties, and at 22 in 21, 150 people from our regional community came together to identify clear steps we can take to shape a future that complements our values, character and resources.
Perhaps the most gratifying feedback I received about 22 in 21 was also the oddest. It came from one attendee who said: “That was the strangest conference I’ve ever been to. People at 22 in 21 were actively trying to figure out things they could do during the coming year. Every other conference I’ve ever been to, people are content to just talk about doing stuff. At 22 in 21, people were trying to figure out actions they could take. Really weird.”
Weird indeed, but in a wonderful way. I emerged from 22 in 21 feeling as though we, as a region, have the potential to take some significant steps in 2013 toward shaping our own destiny. The archetype for those steps was created by a group that came together after last year’s 22 in 21. Calling itself “Table 14” after the table at which its members sat, the group turned its passion for entrepreneurship into a variety of actions, including starting a Pitch Day, matching local entrepreneurs with local investors, and Chance Meetings, a networking event for local entrepreneurs held from 5 to 7 p.m. the first Monday of every month at the Rose.
Building on this model, 22 in 21 attendees committed to take steps to further the region’s efforts in areas that range from the arts and cultural diversity to coping with a resource-constrained future and helping position the Tetons as a global icon of sustainable tourism.
Because of my excitement over what occurred, I’m going to devote my next three columns to 22 in 21. Going in order of how events unfolded Thursday, today I’ll focus on the results of an exercise all attendees participated in, and then I’ll ask for your thoughts. In two weeks I’ll review what the day’s speakers had to say. In four weeks, I’ll talk about the action-oriented groups that emerged and share how you can become involved in those that interest you.
As suggested above, 22 in 21 focused on taking actions. To that end, since the collapse of the region’s construction-based economy, a significant question facing us is: “What — if anything — will take construction’s place as the foundation of our middle class?” Following on that, a related question quickly became: “Can we take steps to define that something, so that it complements our values, character and resources?”
Charture believes in the scientific method; i.e., in order to accurately answer a question or address a problem, you first need a solid understanding of it. To that end, at 22 in 21 we ran attendees through a two-part exercise, asking them to rate factors that have shaped our region to date or will shape it in the future.
Twenty-five factors were grouped into five categories — economic capital, social capital, natural capital, government and other — and attendees were asked to allocate 100 points across these 25 categories. For example, if they felt the region’s agricultural heritage was the only factor that mattered in determining how we became what we are today, they could allocate all 100 points to that attribute.
Alternatively, if they felt all 25 factors will be equally important in determining where we’re headed, they were free to give each one four points.
Four things jump out.
One is the group’s general consensus that the region’s environment has been the primary influence on what we have become, and will be an even bigger influence on what we will become. But in both cases, coming in a close second were economic factors.
The second is the changing nature of those economic factors. Attendees saw Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s founding and growth as the biggest single economic factor affecting the nature of the region today. Looking ahead, though, the consensus was that technologically driven changes in the kinds of businesses that can be here, as well as the kinds of jobs those businesses will create, will be the single most important driver of our future, even more so than our environmental quality.
Third, there’s a bit of a paradox going on. One is that we don’t necessarily see government as being too terribly important in shaping either our present or past. At the same time, though, there’s a clear awareness that much of the region is protected public lands, which in turn are fundamental to our economy and lifestyle.
Finally, and not surprisingly, there’s less certainty about what will shape the future than what has shaped the present. “Growth of location-independent businesses” was viewed as the most important factor shaping the future, but it would have ranked only third regarding what has shaped us today. Similarly, the scores of the factors ranked second and third in the “future” category would have ranked a distant fifth and sixth in the “present” category.
That noted, it was also very clear to attendees that natural and economic capital-related factors will be the ones most important to shaping our future, and many of these are, thankfully, within the community’s control.
Here’s where the opportunity lies. If we view the environment and economy as at odds with each other, our future is not good. If, however, we in the Tetons region can continue to make strides in forging a consensus that the kinds of economic activities we will support will be those that form a synergy with a healthy environment, then we have great potential in being able to create a future that truly does complement our values, character and resources.
If you’d like to respond to this same survey given to 22 in 21 attendees, you may do so online by going to 22in21.com and clicking the “News&Guide Survey” link. While there, you can also check out videos of the event.