Change is possible, but change is hard if there is an opaque awareness of what might be next. In today’s ADN article, “In a new year, remember change is possible” by Assembly Member Anna Brawley, a positive argument is made for our capacity for change and some opportunities, but change needs more than a possibility; it needs clarity in destination and a path forward.
It’s why I continue to explore the question with Alaska Version 3, “What’s Next, Alaska?“ that applies equally to Anchorage.
Alaska and Anchorage, based on population and economic measures, have been in decline, at best stagnating, with glimmers of hope and distraction while the core of our civic and market economy rests on our wrestling over the use of past investments. The Willow project, need for Cook Inlet gas, and federal match requirements for energy transmission infrastructure will only make the situation harder in the next ten years by draining scarce resources and continuing to pit energy against education.
As Edward Deming suggested in his quality improvement and management work, leaders can invest in improvement and a cycle of reinforcing benefits leading to more improvement; or manage the decline and the cycle of scarcity and future cuts. But leaders can’t sit in the middle longterm and avoid one path or the other. I want to change Alaska’s trajectory from a vicious scarcity cycle down into post oil retirement, to a virtuous transformation cycle up of opportunity for the next generations.
And there are opportunities. Upstart Alpha, gBeta, ACLT, Path2Prosperity, Piguqtuq have programs for startups and innovators. The AEDC Choose Anchorage goal 1.3 is going to be staffed. The AURA Anchorage and Fairbanks scenarios will be released this month, and the Innovation Summit in February will be exploring “Charting a Course for the Future We Want! “ and ways to reimagine the futures we might become. I want to scale those opportunities and find ways to engage far more Alaskans, 70,000 is my goal, in the discussion of What’s Next, and orienting our aspirations in new directions and investments in our next economy.
Here in Anchorage an important and immediate opportunity is the April 2024 election to choose our next mayor. But as noted above, change is hard. I worry that we will continue down the more familiar path for lack of direction or aspiration for the future.
We have four months to help Anchorage voters see that we are ‘Out of Order, but Change is Possible.’ Then we have until November to expand that effort to the statewide elections.
Photo credit – ADN 1/4/24 The screen of a ticket payment machine with an “Out of Order” note at the Linny Pacillo Parking Garage in downtown Anchorage on Nov. 3. Photo by ANNA BRAWLEY