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Power of 32 takes PA's regional visioning into the future

During Allen Kukovich’s three decades as a Pennsylvania legislator, he earned a reputation as a reformer who worked for open government. That has included navigating the state’s parochial infrastructure and giving constituents ample opportunity to participate.

That is largely what’s behind the Power of 32, a four-state regional visioning and civic engagement project that includes 14 Western PA counties, participants in Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia and a land area of 17,380 square miles (or 10 times the size of Rhode Island).

“History has shown that during times of economic crisis, that’s where the opportunity for change lies,” says Kukovich, the executive director of Power of 32, a PA native, and attorney. “I’m convinced the key to solving our problems in democracy is more democracy and more public input and that’s the process we’re using.”

The project began last May as a two-year process to provide an opportunity for all residents of the 32-county region to participate in creating a shared vision for the region’s best future, as far out to 2025. The idea is somewhat revolutionary for a state that is often considered intra-competitive. Even the name of the organization is homegrown--Tarentum resident Mary Krajci’s submission was chosen from 300 by the project’s 55-member steering committee last fall.

True to the concept of regional visioning, Power of 32 does not offer much by way of specific target areas or common challenges and opportunities because it does not want to influence participants’ ideas. The project’s latest focus is recruiting up to 100 volunteer facilitators to lead public gatherings this summer called “Community Conversations.” Volunteer facilities need not have any prior experience and will receive training from America Speaks, a nationally known civic engagement firm.

“It’s a nonpartisan effort and we have to listen to a lot of people so we can have a consensus agenda,” says Kukovich. “Working collaboratively will give us a lot more economic power, not only to be competitive with the rest of the world but also to make progress in other markets.”

The project is initially funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, The Grable Foundation, Richard King Mellon Foundation and the Pittsburgh Foundation, and convening partners include the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership and Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission.

Source: Allen Kukovich, Power of 32
Writer: Joe Petrucci
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