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Speaker: Bring people together to help area
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
A work force consultant suggested Tuesday that area leaders bring together people of all generations and perspectives to help revitalize the area.
Rebecca Ryan, founder of New Generation Consulting of Madison, Wis., said in a presentation at the Virginia Museum of Natural History that communities should do that now so they are ready to grow when the opportunity arises.
“If you can’t solve the problem, pull up a chair with someone much different than you,” she said. “I’m not asking you to fold up your own chair and leave, just scooch over and make room” for someone else.
Another suggestion included realizing the importance of social capital — especially bonding and bridging — in quality-of-life discussions rather than focusing on infrastructure.
Bonding, Ryan said, “is hanging out with people who are like you” while bridging is interacting with those who are different, ensuring that “true community problems get solved more quickly. We need to get our bridge on now or we’re going to be behind.”
To encourage opportunities for bridging, Ryan said human behavior must be taken into account.
For instance, every 10 minutes spent commuting represents a 10 percent drop in civic participation, she said, suggesting attendees think about “how to get people out of their cars.”
Ryan also suggested an intern program as the cure to “brain drain,” the term which describes what happens when bright young people leave the community. “Interns are 75 percent more likely to stay” in the community in which they intern, Ryan added.
Ryan spoke to about 75 people at the local museum Tuesday afternoon, and held another program for interns and young professionals that evening. Today, she is speaking at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) in Danville.
She is a former professional basketball player. Her company, New Generation Consulting, helps clients design strategies to retain young, future leaders, according to a news release. It works with companies and cities such as Nashville, Milwaukee and Columbus, Ohio, design award-winning work force strategies.
Since 1998, Next Generation Consulting, has conducted interviews, focus groups and surveys with more than 40,000 young professionals. Ryan used that insight to write “Live First, Work Second: Getting Inside the Head of the Next Generation.”
She speaks at 40-50 conferences each year about her firm’s work and research.
At Tuesday’s presentation, she explained that “America goes through seasons the same way” nature does.
America’s spring was from around the time of World War II to about 1964, when “prosperity took off like a rocket ship and incomes doubled,” Ryan said.
Also, the country successfully used the G.I. bill to assimilate the 10 million returning veterans back into the work force — most within two years.
The period from the early 1960s to the early 1980s was a time of reconstruction as baby boomers were “coming into their own” and tackling social concerns such as civil rights, the environment and equality for women, Ryan said.
Fall was from around 1981 to about 2001, she said, when institutions began to “show their age.” Parents became more protective of their children, partly due to things such as rumored razor blades in Halloween candy; public trust eroded; and the divorce rate escalated, she said.
Winter began when the Twin Towers fell during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and it continues, Ryan said. She anticipates it will last for a generation “because that is the seasonal nature of America.”
But, she noted winter also is a time to recharge, so that when spring arrives, “it can be dynamic. There are some lessons from this winter time period. Southwest Virginia can relaunch itself” in the spring.
Also, “every winter, the pecking order resets itself,” Ryan said, of the phenomena that occurs because many communities give up, clearing the way for “a new economic order ... when spring comes again.”
Ryan’s appearances in the area are sponsored by the Dan River Region Collaborative, Averett University, Collinsville Printing Co. Inc., HD Web Studio, Virginia Museum of Natural History, West Piedmont Workforce Investment Board, Bassett Industries Inc., Boys & Girls Club of the Blue Ridge, Danville-Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce, Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, Piedmont Community Services and Southern Virginia Higher Education Center.