Building a Better Commonwealth

Earlier this week I attended the inaugural “Building a Better Commonwealth” event at the beautifully refurbished Paramount theater downtown – search for items tagged #BetterMA for more details.  The event focused on getting Gen Y to stick around and contribute to the state’s economic momentum. 

However, as Chuck Tanowitz from It’s Fresh Ground observed, few of the questions or even speeches made were from native speakers – everyone from the Governor to the guy from Belgium to the woman from California is a transplant.  (Except my Carlton PR & Marketing partner, Christine, who started here but had to go off to NY for awhile.)  For all the hair pulling and breast beating, we seem to have done pretty well in the “making people stay here” department.  (We’ve been promised other events over the summer so stay tuned.)

There was the usual Gen Y/Gen X/Boomer banter and back and forth.  A video with interview snippets seemed to unfairly characterize the Gen Y folks as being unduly focused on the time the bars and MBTA shuts down but aren’t we all interested in quality of life issues?  My quality of life issues are more focused on schools for the kids and family events due simply to my years on earth.  Yes, yes, I remember moving to Boston 25 years ago and being put out when I had to take a cab home after a late night clubbing.

One of the questions I get asked regularly is “Where do you go to meet people?”  “What are the good events?”  So I created a blog post, a list, The Best Networking in Boston.  I point people to Greenhorn Connect, VentureFizz or MassHighTech’s calendars.  And still the question keeps coming.  But the question changes, “Where should I go to meet people, to grow my business, to hire the best people, to launch my product?”  That’s a different question.  One that requires I learn about you.  Then I can make recommendations.  And my recommendations may be different than someone else’s recommendations.

At the event, there was talk about mentoring the younger people, getting them internships, finding them jobs.  MassTLC has a great website for posting internships and there are others as well.  Good technology solutions exist but I still get the resumes and the requests from friends who know I know companies who are looking for the right intern.

Last summer, Turnstone, a division of Steelcase (full disclosure, a national sponsor for Innovation Nights), contacted me about the local innovation economy.  They wanted to put down roots here, contribute here.  Not to be an invading force but a force for change and a real contributor.  After several hours of input, back and forth and “get-to-know-you”, I made a handful of choice introductions, and am glad I did.  Turnstone has become an important partner for organizations like MassChallenge and TechStars (and not all through my introductions but I like to think I played a small part.)  Turnstone could have Googled Boston innovation-oriented organizations (and they did) but getting personal introductions surely aided the process.

Many years ago, a local industry trade publisher created a “map” of the region showing the local industry players — a cartoony map but a map nonetheless.  But in those paper-oriented days there was no in-depth information available to help interpret the map.  You needed someone with the inside knowledge to help put it in context.  And it needed to be put in context based on your needs.

This kind of information need is a personal thing.  And often even Google can’t help you parse through all the information out there.  You need a guided tour.  There are times when you can find out things on your own and times when having someone to point things out makes the process much more efficient.  It’s like the social media students I have who could read all the documentation but prefer an ultra-efficient hour or two of personal instruction.

The Boston World Partnerships has created a program with ambassadors called connectors.  The state has people tasked with being the welcome wagon for out-of-town visitors who might turn into potential local businesses. There are people deeply immersed in the local innovator culture who are happy to serve as tour guides.  Maybe we’d have a #BetterMA if we all committed ourselves to being tour guides for the Commonwealth’s wonderful wealth of resources, whatever our understanding of them are.

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