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The Economic Evolution of Cuyahoga County

Take a look at a recent publication from Levin's Urban Theory and Analytics program.

The Economic Evolution of Cuyahoga County by Richey Piiparinen, Joshua Valdez, and Jim Russell

Cleveland’s progress can be intimated through a variety of topics. Some topics—like “globalization,” “innovation,”, “deindustrialization”, and “pandemic”—seem big and distant, while others are less abstract and more local, such as “jobs,” “income,” “housing,” “policing”, “education,” and “health”. Then there are some topics that are viscerally personal, if only because the direct impact they have on the mind and body. These include “foreclosure,” “lead,” “infant mortality,” “opioids,” “police brutality”, and “pneumonia”.

While these issues are of topical concern in their own right, their vastness in scope can be disorienting to those charged with guiding progress. No doubt, a multitude of efforts exist to gather data and distill information on Ohio, be they academic, non-profit, or journalistic. In turn, initiatives are kicked off to spur solutions in receipt of said information. But these initiatives often struggle to find footing. This is partly because we lack a theory of change that ties various threads of information into a body of knowledge, and ultimately a collective vision.

Put another way, everything is connected: the global, the local, and the individual. The COVID-19 pandemic is a hard-charging testament to that fact, as is the murder of George Floyd in which an assault on a Minneapolis street rippled into marches on the world’s streets. And the quicker we can elucidate those connections, the faster that collective efforts can move beyond intention and action and into individual impact.

This is no small task. Problems, after all, are structural, while solutions are local. Care is thus needed in the analysis of each, if only because many of our problems are not in our control, yet the “fix” to those problems must be.

The following is a policy white paper called “The Future of Growth”, created through a partnership between Cleveland State’s Center on Urban Theory and Analytics and Rust Belt Analytica. The goal is to simplify the complex of how and why the global economy changes, examining how those changes impact regional economies, neighborhood conditions, and ultimately individual well-being. Along the way, assumptions are challenged. For example, is population growth an accurate way to measure progress? Or do measures of productivity and longevity offer a better strategic approach? The former presumes that it’s the quantity of lives that matters, whereas the latter suggests it’s about the quality of life.

With this and other data in hand, the intent is to scaffold the information it into a collective awareness of where Cleveland is, where it was, and where we need to be. Importantly, the result of this effort is intended to go beyond an ability to make better-informed decisions via the stacking of facts. Progress is less linear than that. It is equally about busting out of old paradigms of thought. As the theoretical physicist David Bohm put it: “The ability to perceive or think differently is more important than the knowledge gained.” If current events teach us anything, it’s that: thinking differently when the choice to think differently was made for us.

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