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Grassroots Leaders for a New Economy: How Civic Entrepreneurs Are Building Prosperous Communities

ISBN: 978-0-7879-0827-0
272 pages
March 1997, Jossey-Bass
Grassroots Leaders for a New Economy: How Civic Entrepreneurs Are Building Prosperous Communities (0787908274) cover image


A seminal work in fleshing out the kind of leadership we need to renew and prepare communities for the demands of democracy in the coming era.

Ronald Heifetz, director, Leadership Education Project, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Jolted by the economic downturn of the early 1990s and the rapid globalization of the economy, a group of California business, government, education, and community leaders formed Joint Venture: Silicon Valley, a collaborative regional alliance that helped create a strengthened economy and an improved quality of life in their community. Now three of Joint Venture's advisers outline the process that led to this dramatic turnaround, as well as success stories in Florida, Ohio, Kansas, and Texas. They reveal the powerful new concept of civic entrepreneurship, and they offer practical, proven strategies that community leaders across the country can employ to foster local economic development and renewal.

Grassroots Leaders for a New Economy explains the unique leadership qualities that set civic entrepreneurs apart, and illustrates how these leaders can emerge from all levels of private, public, social, and civic organizations. The book shows how civic entrepreneurs forge powerfully productive linkages at the intersection of business, government, education, and community, and it demonstrates how they operate at the grassroots level to create collaborative advantages that make it possible for their economic communities to compete on the global stage.

Citing numerous real-life examples, authors Douglas Henton, John Melville, and Kimberly Walesh illustrate the necessary steps to build an economic community. They show how civic entrepreneurs motivate and network to organize for action, set priorities, and mobilize resources to get things done. Finally, they demonstrate how to sustain cross-sector collaboration over the long haul for the good of the community. An indispensable resource, Grassroots Leaders for a New Economy offers step-by-step guidance and practical advice equally useful to business executives, elected officials and public managers, community development practitioners, or concerned citizens who want to take an active role in shaping the future of local economic development.

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Table of Contents



Communities Meet the New Economy.

Civic Entrepreneurs: Leaders at the Grassroots.

The Four Steps in Building Community.


Initiation: Networking and Motivating Change.

Incubation: Setting Shared Priorities.

Implementation: Mobilizing Resources to Get Things Done.

Improvement and Renewal: Helping the Community Change Continuously.

Conclusion: Renewing America One Community at a Time: Speeding the Change Process.
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Author Information

KIMBERLY WALESH are principals in Collaborative Economics (http://www.coecon.com), a firm that forges linkages between local governments, businesses, and nonprofits to promote growth. Henton lives in San Mateo, California; Melville in Ladera, California; and Walesh in Palo Alto, California.
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"A seminal work in fleshing out the kind of leadership we need to renew and prepare our communities for the demands of democracy in the coming era. This book is full of concrete and inspiring examples of leadership partnerships, with and without authority, in the service of community. A major contribution." (Dr. Ronald Heifetz, Director, Leadership Education Project, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University)

"This is an excellent resource guide for leaders who are working to prepare their communities for 21st century competitiveness. It is loaded with proven ideas and examples of collaboration which have made a real difference in regions across America." (Lewis E. Platt, Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer, Hewlett-Packard Company)

"Finally a book that recognizes and illuminates the vital contribution of local leaders -- or civic entrepreneurs -- to economic development. This book is must reading for anyone who cares about creating and sustaining dynamic economic communities in the twenty-first century." (AnnaLee Saxenian, Professor of Regional Planning, University of California at Berkeley)

"Many foundations and nonprofit organizations have begun seriously to turn their attention to the field of regional economic development, on the understanding that a failed economy has broad negative implications for the poor, and for the quality of life for everyone in a community. This book helps us immensely to understand how regional economies can be improved, and where philanthropic support can be directed to help with that effort." (Nick Bollman, Program Officer, The James Irvine Foundation)

"The role of Civic Entrepreneurs is critical in enhancing the economic vitality of our communities. This book is a 'must' for community and business leaders who are concerned about the future of their communities." (Tapan Munroe, Chief Economist, Pacific Gas & Electric Company)

"The handbook for leaders in the 21st century! With insight, inspiration, and tons of examples, the authors show how the best entrepreneurs take care of their own businesses and their communities." (Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps, co-authors of VIRTUAL TEAMS and THE AGE OF THE NETWORK)

"For community active boomers, X'ers and echo generations,civic crisis has replaced civic duty as their personal call to action. Closed door decision-making no longer works. They get results from civic entrepreneurship." (Alan Hald, vice chairman, Micro Age Computer)

"The energy for bringing about meaningful change in America lies in the entrepreneurial spirit of our citizens. In my community, we have unlocked this energy and have significantly improved the quality of life in our neighborhoods. This book is required reading for every civic leader." (GlAnda E. Hood, Mayor, City of Orlando)

"Grassroots Leaders puts the focus where it should be today -- on the new breed of civic activists who are renewing our nation community by community." (Chris Gates, President, National Civic League)
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