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The Process of Change

Before we go any further, let us recognize one thing:Change is hard.

Change requires different choices, different decisions, different actions. Change requires new effort, new relationships, new habits. Change requires letting go of the known and wading through the unfamiliar found in the dark of the unknown.

process-of-change

Change requires admitting that what we’ve been doing up to this point isn’t working and that it’s time to try something else.

Is that something we can admit?

We’re not saying that nothing works well in St. Louis. There is much that is right about our region. But the region has the capacity to be better—because unfortunately, some of the things that work well only work for some of us. And when that’s the case, it impacts all of us.

There are no easy answers. We are faced with many tough decisions. But inaction, sticking with the status quo, just isn’t an option anymore.

Here are just a few of the statistics that we’ve gathered in the process of our work:

St. Louis is the 5th most racially segregated of 50 large metro areas in the United States (Ihnen, 2013).

Between 2000 and 2013, the number of residents living below the federal poverty line in St. Louis’ suburbs grew by 53 percent (The MET Center, 2015).

In 2012, 17.8 percent of all children in St. Louis County and 41.7 percent of all children in St. Louis city lived below the poverty line (Annie E. Casey Foundation).

Failing to address the economic mobility of poor children is projected to decrease the United States GDP (Gross Domestic Product) by about 4 percent per year over the lifetime of these children, costing the entire country about $7 trillion (Putnam, 2015).

These divides we’ve created—between Black and White, between rich and poor and middle class—are bad for all of us, not just some of us. They may not be your fault, and you may not feel the pain as acutely as others do. But the burdens and the costs of a divided St. Louis fall on all of us, not just some of us.

Building a Problem-Solving Machine

The Ferguson Commission is not capable of solving all of the problems of the region itself. Moreover, we were not charged with executing solutions.

But together through our process of community engagement, we have begun to build a problem- solving machine. A catalyst that brings together people, organizations, and resources to study a problem, gain a deep understanding of the core issues underlying the problem, and develop a strategy for solving that problem.

St. Louis is the 5th most racially segregated of 50 large metro areas in the United States (Ihnen, 2013).

A problem-solving machine encourages stakeholders to ask the tough questions, examine data in context, and confront difficult truths. It provides a model for collaboration that places outcomes before egos. It fosters connections, forges new alliances, asks for help, and keeps people at the table, even when—especially when—things get hard.

Because when the dynamic, flexible, and open catalyst exists, a problem-solving machine gives people the courage to try.

A Culture of Trying

If change is to happen, we first have to have a culture of trying.

It’s true that there is no guarantee that any of this will work. But some of it might. The calls to action presented in this report leverage some of the best research, some of the best minds, some of the most amazing energy out there.

Still, it is possible that it might not work.

Or it might take more time than we think it will, more time than we think we have to give. Or it might take more money than we think it will, more money than we think we have the stomach for.

There are no easy answers. We are faced with many tough decisions. But inaction, sticking with the status quo, just isn’t an option anymore.

If you live in a safe suburb, and you’ve got a good job, and you’ve got health insurance, and you never worry about your kids’ schools, and you don’t wonder if you might get pulled over because of the color of your skin, then maybe the status quo is working just fine for you.

But for thousands of St. Louisans, the status quo is killing them. The status quo means living in a food desert, with no grocery stores for miles around. The status quo means sending your children to underperforming schools that get fewer resources but dole out more punishments. The status quo means driving in fear of a court system that will put you in jail for failure to pay a traffic ticket.

Are we as a region really willing to live with that status quo?

As a Commission, we are not. We believe we’ve got to start trying.

In 2012, 17.8 percent of all children in St. Louis County and 41.7 percent of all children in St. Louis city lived below the poverty line (Annie E. Casey Foundation).

In trying, new coalitions will be built, and a new sense of community will be developed. As the region tries together, people will learn new things from each other, and generate new ideas they never would have come up with if they’d said, “That’s too risky to try,” or, “Better to leave well enough alone,” or worst of all, “That’ll never work here.”

The idea of “a culture of trying” is not new to the St. Louis region. Our opportunity in this moment is to apply that culture to the uncomfortable realities we’ve set aside for too long.

Citations

  1. Annie E. Casey Foundation. Children in poverty-Missouri. Retrieved from:http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/ tables/1989-children-in-poverty#detailed/5/4149-4263/ false/868,867,133,38,35/any/4182,17337
  2. Ihnen, A. (2013). Lies, damn lies, racial integration and segregation in St. Louis, and statistics. NextSTL. Retrieved from:http://nextstl.com/2013/01/lies-damn-lies-racial- integration-and-segregation-in-st-louis-and-statistics/
  3. The Met Center. (2015). A regional approach to promoting economic self-sufficiency. Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program. Retrieved from:http://confrontingsuburbanpoverty.org/wp-content/ uploads/2015/01/Case-Study-MET-Center-1.8.15.pdf
  4. Putnam, R. (2015). Our Kids:the American dream
    in crisis. Brookings Cafeteria Podcast. Retrieved from:http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/brookings-now/ posts/2015/05/putnam-not-investing-in-kids-cost-country-7- trillion?utm_campaign=Brookings+Brief&utm_source=hs_ email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=17726351&_ hsenc=p2ANqtz-8Vl7wH-4MXR7yB1v01Gav9LhYTg0n0 RsfEXkTEWCFRGYawx17plVfseI3r2uxTlIjtpNRY8EyAIYozlDEp3lszn4MxBA&_hsmi=17726351