Longview and Tyler, Tex. Pioneer New Collaboration
Located just forty-five miles apart in East Texas, Longview and Tyler are overcoming a history of intense rivalry to pursue regional collaboration rather than competition. The mobilization of these two cities to examine the resources of their entire region reflects a growing trend. Across the nation, municipalities are taking stock of their collective assets and working cooperatively to develop innovative leadership and sustain the health of the larger community.
Longview and Tyler are at the forefront of this movement to pioneer new models of regional collaboration and community leadership. With the help of a $400,000 grant from the Pew Partnership for Civic Change, the two communities are working together to forge an alternative to the traditional, hierarchical power structure that emerged decades ago as these two cities sprang up around the East Texas oil fields.
"At one time, the core leadership of a community often consisted primarily of bank presidents and local CEOs," explains Ron Gleason, executive director of the Tyler Museum of Art and vice president of the New East Texas Foundation. "Now that the majority of financial institutions and corporations in smaller cities are no longer locally owned, managers tend to be focused on business and relationships with the home office, and are less likely to become involved in community affairs. This vacuum in traditional sources of leadership has created an opportunity for a more inclusive, representative model to emerge."
Both Longview and Tyler are instituting "neighborhood navigator" programs to mobilize citizens at the grassroots level to identify and solve problems in their communities. As a local resident familiar with her neighborhood, each "navigator" acts as a liaison between neighbors and the appropriate civic institutions to respond to their concerns. In addition to addressing issues at the neighborhood level, the program is encouraging citizens to have a voice in community-wide affairs through participation in town meetings and leadership training. …