An outsider cautions Indianapolis

June 3, 2009
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Before you hear Ed Morrisonâ??s warning for Indianapolis, itâ??s helpful to know the Cleveland-area resident is a fan.

Morrison, who was hired by Purdue University a couple of years ago to help Hoosiers think of new ways of solving problems, believes Indianapolisâ?? record of accomplishing big projects, whether launching IUPUI, building sports complexes or revitalizing the downtown, has created one of the best state capitals.

But he reminds that virtually all of the projects involved bricks and mortar. Theyâ??re things, not people. He thinks the power brokering and equivalent of smoke-filled rooms that revitalized the city since the â??60s will never work with arguably more important â?? and intractable â?? social problems like school dropouts.

Indianapolis mastered its strategy before there was an Internet and power began to disperse to more people, Morrison says. Now, the city needs to learn to take advantage of networks of people â?? not necessarily an easy transition.

â??A hierarchy like Indianapolis has is very capable and has shown they can build big things,â?? he says. But, â??Indianapolis has to adapt to this new world.â??

Like most other large cities, Indianapolisâ?? main problem is its schools, Morrison argues. Young people wonâ??t move here, and if they do, they wonâ??t stay once they have children, if IPS doesnâ??t make huge improvements. Indianapolisâ?? civic leaders â??donâ??t have a sense of the urgency. You hear the buzz around, but thereâ??s no focus or disciplined strategy.â??

Groups of citizens will be what ultimately solve social problems, not commissions, blue-ribbon panels or other top-down approaches, he says. â??The places with vibrant networks are going to be where the kids want to locate.â??

What do you think? Does Indianapolis rely too much on power brokers? Do you agree with Morrisonâ??s solution?
  • Did Mr. Morrison do any research on the improvements that have occurred in IPS in the last few years before making his comments? Is he aware of the programs that are offered in IPS to advance student achiement in this day and age? I challenge him to come forward with facts, rather than convenient statements that in themselves do nothing but cater to those others who are unaware. You ask, Do you agree with Morrison's solution? What solution has he proposed?
  • I am a fan of Ed Morrison, and I like what he does and how he thinks. But in this case he's referencing an older history that is rapidly giving way to newer ways of doing deals. Case in point--collaborative, four-prong approach to economic development (life sciences, advanced manufacturing, logistics, IT) that led to BioCrossroads, Conexus, tremendous university/business and public/private relationships and investments--most not bricks and mortar. Impetus from power brokers perhaps, but implemented much more broadly. Ball State introduced major community networking into its urban planning projects. Emerging social media sites like Smaller Indiana are breaking down the old barriers. I live downtown--Urban Times chronicles the continually increasing neighborhood-based vitality of the city.

    Most civic leaders sense the urgency of public school issues. Charter schools--many with roots in community action groups--increasingly offer alternatives; superintendent is active and aggressive in promoting change. Governor is an entrepreneur.

    Ed's solution is part of Indiana's solution--we need power brokers to emerge from many sources, and we need grass-roots involvement in solving problems. The only mistake is to assume this isn't happening throughout the state.
  • that's funny if Big Ed thinks the powers that be in Indy give a damn about anything other than the short-term enrichment and enlargement of their bank accounts (and their friends!) Every social and economic indicator will point this out and you can see by the shape the city is in that no one in govt. or business cares about kids getting a quality education in Indpls, or health care, or poverty, or living in a toxic, polluted dump of a city...nope, I think Big Ed might want to give up hope on this one, but I expect he likes cashing those taxpayer-funded checks too much, just like the other piggy politicians and corporate whores in this town!
  • Here is a good video that gives high level stats behind the need to transform our society and how we think of and work knowledge:

    Think of it like trying to hop onto a moving train. It is pretty easy at first, but as the train speeds up it gets more and more difficult, even dangerous to board it.

    In a world of accelerating change, conservative and incremental change approaches are falling behind--and this will cause more failures. Power and wealth are inconsequential in that, if we don't figure out how to get on the train, we won't have any.
  • Indy has a problem with schools? That's like saying the problem with poor people is that they don't have any money.

    The power brokers live in Carmel. Indianapolis' mail problem is that it needs to annex Carmel and merge the Carmel school systems with IPS.

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