When Change Becomes the Norm
As part of VFA training camp, each fellow was charged with reaching out to a person of interest to have an informative discussion. I chose to speak with a residential real estate developer in hopes that he might provide me with a more experienced perspective on some of the things the Downtown Project is hoping to accomplish in Las Vegas.
The conversation started off as a generalized overview of the blocking and tackling involved with managing the development process – soliciting bids from designers and contractors, managing architects, and applying for permits and certificates of occupancy.
While this was all very helpful and provided me with a good base of practical knowledge, the inspiration for this post came towards the end when the conversation shifted towards a more macro-level discussion about the difficulties that any organization seeking change - whether it be gentrifying a neighborhood, or changing education – must face in the process of accomplishing a goal.
The first statement in the mission of Venture for America is “To revitalize American cities and communities through entrepreneurship”. Surely this is a noble goal, and one would be hard-pressed to find someone who fundamentally disagrees with it.
However, when you get down to the functional aspects of driving cultural and economic change it is nearly impossible to find a way to drive change in a way that is strictly Pareto efficient. This is obvious in the world of real estate development where one can find stakeholders in a neighborhood who object to nearly any change – even ones that society considers to be “positive”.
The world that VFA fellows will be entering is not much different – people will see both the Fellows and the companies they are placed in as disruptors to the economic status quo that has been established in their area.
It is easy to forget this fact when the mission and ideals behind VFA are so fundamentally sound, and change is seen as both a goal and an expectation. The success of our efforts will often hinge on our ability to recognize and effectively mitigate the concerns of the more change resistant stakeholders in unfamiliar environments – a task that will not be easy. More updates on this to follow.