In recent decades, momentous shifts in the global economy have threatened national competitiveness and upended established routes of individual success in the United States. At the same time, large flows of people across national borders have transformed our national demographic profile. Much of what we know about these economic and demographic changes is based on national studies. Yet, focusing on the national level alone is not adequate for understanding either the impact of these shifts or the responses to them. The ramifications of such broad-based economic and social changes play out differently in distinct places. Likewise, the response to national challenges is crafted in specific places that have distinct capabilities and traditions. Federal and state policies set the context for local responses but it is through local action that specific responses emerge.
But the formal institutional arrangements of American federalism—the three tiers of local, state, and national government—do not correspond well with the scope of economic, environmental, and demographic challenges. These challenges stretch across local governmental boundaries in diverse and changing patterns. Frustrated with operating within established local jurisdictional lines or simply accepting policy determinations from federal or state governments, practitioners from the public, private, and nonproﬁt sectors have increasingly sought to achieve their goals through regional action. In the process, they have engaged in a host of new activities, ranging from building new formal institutions to entering into ad hoc partnerships on speciﬁc projects.
The Foundation’s Network on Building Resilient Regions seeks to expand our knowledge base about how regions shape the response to major national economic and demographic challenges. At the same time, it aims to provide new evidence about how regions can cultivate resilience in the face of major economic and social challenges. By comparing how diverse regions have responded to challenges, the Network will show how various elements can work together to help build and sustain regional resilience. Among the factors we examine are physical, natural, economic and social assets, different approaches to governing, key decision-makers, and civic practices
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