This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Business Journal.
On Tuesday, June 7, the St. Louis Business Journal held its first quarterly AdvanceSTL event examining the top issues preventing the region from achieving greater success. This first event focused on the challenges of attracting and retaining talent in St. Louis.
During our own event with the St. Louis Business Journal in April and also in a recent article, I pointed out that nearly all of the biggest challenges identified by subscribers in the St. Louis Business Journal’s AdvanceSTL survey are a byproduct of our complex social issues and our inability to effectively address them.
Beyond Housing is a sponsor of the AdvanceSTL series and taking an active role in these discussions because we’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t in creating real change for our region. We also believe business plays a hugely influential role in St. Louis and is a vital part of creating meaningful change.
WE CAN’T EXPECT DIFFERENT RESULTS BY REPEATING THE PAST
I’m encouraged by the increased discussion of these issues and our will to finally move our region forward. I believe we are at an inflection point, but in order to create the change we desire, we need to look into the collective mirror and recognize many of our previous efforts — and I would include efforts from our own organization — have not produced the level of impact we have desired.
The following is a partial list of learnings I believe are important to recognize if we are truly going to move our region forward, once and for all.
- Our lack of progress is not due to a lack of resources.
There are more than 19,000 nonprofit organizations operating in the Greater St. Louis area. Every year, corporations, foundations and individuals donate millions of dollars to organizations working to make St. Louis a better place. This is on top of the millions of dollars provided by federal, state and local government in social services.St. Louis is a caring and generous place. Our issue isn’t resources. It’s how these resources are used.
We also have many organizations working in silos. I believe greater collaboration and creating a more united front is one of the keys to achieving greater impact.
- We don’t have a valid understanding of the problem we are trying to solve.
We often implement a solution without a full understanding of the various dynamics involved. Complex problems rarely have simple answers. Not having a full understanding of the problem leads to overly simplistic solutions that waste precious resources and provide little to no change.We need to be more critical by asking ourselves, is this what will move the needle?
- Addressing symptoms instead of the underlying issue.
As just one example, we frequently talk about crime. Why do our troubling crime rates exist in the first place? What are the conditions driving them? We think of crime as a problem. In reality, it’s a byproduct of other forces including generational poverty and an entrenched cycle of severe social and economic disparities.
- A lack of accountability.
In the business world, you’re not going to be around for very long if you’re not producing results.Why do we look at solving our region’s issues any differently?We need to ask ourselves if we want to check a box to make ourselves feel better that we made the effort, or do we really want to create real change for our region?
- Investing in everything but the underlying problem.
We have invested heavily in St. Louis over the last several years with significant economic development including Cortex, major upgrades to our cultural institutions, a new convention center development, a new soccer team and stadium and more. These are all wonderful things and are needed to make our region more desirable and competitive.However, we have yet to begin investing in a way that addresses the root cause of our region’s challenges effectively. Until we do so, we will continue to build on a foundation in need of significant repair.
- A resistance to change.
In St. Louis, change does not come easy for us. But if we’re going to finally overcome our challenges, we need to think more innovatively and break free from how we’ve done things in the past.
IT’S TIME FOR A NEW APPROACH
St. Louis has the expertise and resources to overcome our challenges. But we need a new approach. Beyond Housing’s Once and for All effort utilizes an innovative model for creating real and lasting change that is based on decades of learning from national thought leaders and has already produced significant results.
This effort is also introducing a bold new way for individuals and businesses to come together and invest in our region’s future using the initial public offering (IPO) framework. The IPO combines a results-oriented, investment mindset with the latest thinking on how to effectively address complex social issues.
Learn more about the IPO for investing in the future of St. Louis.