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Sarah Szurpicki, Co-Founder, Great Lakes Urban Exchange
Sarah Szurpicki, co-founder of Great Lakes Urban Exchange (GLUE), spoke to the forum participants about their organization’s activities that involve online networking and journalism efforts to build regional identity and share information among young urban leaders from cities around the Great Lakes region.
GLUE is an effort to connect and empower post-boomer city lovers around the Great Lakes mega-region and to push an agenda for urban revival. Their focus is the rust belt cities of the Great Lakes region with an industrial past.
Sarah indicated that the four principles of GLUE are urbanism, regionalism, storytelling, and network building. Urbanism recognizes that our cities are the world’s economic drivers. Promoting regionalism permits all cities within the region to take advantage of the momentum of any given effort; the promotion and competitiveness of one city within the region only tends to detract from the benefits gained by collaboration. Storytelling—the human narrative—is the most powerful tool of expressing needs and successes. Network building is a concept that allows the building of coalitions to talk with one another.
Szurpicki and Wilson initially talked about a web-based effort—with podcasts, blogging and video—to boost the image of Great Lakes cities, involving urban activists age 18 to 40. But the effort took a profound turn when the pair hooked up with John Austin from the influential Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution based in Washington, D.C. Brookings is in the midst of a multiyear effort to spotlight the troubles of Great Lakes cities and to promote policy change at the state and federal levels.
GLUE has launched a website that will eventually include stories, policy priorities, and community-building practices that can be applied across the Great Lakes region. One of the featured practices will include Cleveland Colectivo, which is known as a giving circle, in which members—most in their 20s and 30s—contribute money to a pool that finances community efforts, like a car-sharing program or a mural project.
Twenty-one cities are currently represented in GLUE, including the Michigan cities of Detroit, Flint, and Lansing.