On her Eisenhower Fellowship, Imani Duncan-Price has travelled to several cities in the USA to learn different approaches to developing thriving industries/clusters in music, sports and entertainment tourism in Jamaica. As she visits these cities – Philadelphia; Washington, DC; Nashville; Louisville (Kentucky); Indianapolis; San Francisco; Colorado Springs; Sedona (Arizona); Bentonville (Arkansas); New York City – Duncan-Price will share with you, through The Gleaner, what she has learned.
Seven weeks, 13 cities, and 61 meetings later, my mind has been opened to many ways to inclusive economic growth. I visited US cities that were in the midst of transformation, having had to find ways to emerge from the doldrums of economic stagnancy, or that had just hit their stride and were now thriving.
Early in my Eisenhower Fellowship (EF) journey, the words of Michael Fairbanks, a development leader who I met 18 years ago while attending Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, kept coming back to me – “Governments don’t create wealth in countries, companies do. Governments then distribute that wealth based on their philosophy. As most companies in developing countries compete on low wages, they are in a race to the bottom (meaning they are not enabling improved well-being in a country). If you want to grow your country, you have to grow good companies.”
I saw this truism consistently in the thriving cities and regions – especially as successful home-grown companies worked together with governments to build and grow. The question arises, how do we build conditions for success?
I am aware that Jamaica has pursued initiatives to enable small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) growth and we have had strong foreign-direct investment, but there is little dynamism in our economy and no real growth. Continued growth in economic inequality is the only real growth we know.
While I’m still absorbing the many lessons learned on my EF journey, I’ve begun to synthesise some relevant insights for growth – for the society and for good companies. Indeed, ‘missing pieces’ for Jamaica’s growth are the 4 Cs – cooperation, capital, capabilities and commitment.
Imagine these words re-defined – not as applied in Jamaica. Imagine different approaches to meaningful cooperation between private and public sector, with processes to build and sustain trust, and effective ways to facilitate ‘coopetition’ (cooperation and competition simultaneously) within industry councils so SMEs grow with the support of larger enterprises. Imagine constructive capital that doesn’t extract all profit, but also focuses on development. Imagine a culture that values and seeks strong human capabilities, knowing it is absolutely necessary for innovation, and a drive to get our best graduates to return to Jamaica to help us build. Imagine commitment to generational change beyond a five-year political cycle. I will go into detail on the 4 Cs in subsequent articles and offer ideas for action that I hope resonate with you and a wide cross-section of Jamaica.