Richmond’s Future is an ongoing, independent 501(c)(3) think tank established to address issues that are vital to the future of the Richmond metropolitan region. We will provide a vehicle for vision development and rigorous exploration of possibilities that are not currently part of the core mission of the area’s major regional institutions. We will enhance efforts that are presently undertaken by the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Richmond Partnership, the Capital Region Collaborative, the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission, Venture Richmond, and the Federal Reserve Bank. Richmond’s Future has the endorsement of the heads of all of these organizations.
The think tank is regionally focused and plans to conduct 2 – 3 studies per year, exploring issues that are crucial to the long-term prosperity and well-being of the entire region and its citizens, not to single jurisdictions or individual groups. The Richmond area is at a significant juncture in its development as a region. Considerable progress has been made in developing regional agendas around issues as diverse as high speed rail and early childhood development. At the same time, the area has experienced some unanticipated and negative economic consequences as a result of a declining national economy.
Anticipated projects will focus on the broad region. For example, how should the Richmond region develop a nationally and internationally recognized 21st century infrastructure? Answering this question requires us to look regionally, not only at matters such as roads, schools and colleges, and industry recruitment, but at how to build the best collaborative processes between businesses, schools and colleges, between different jurisdictions in the area, and between business leaders and those who provide daily services to the general population.
The project was initially conceived by Gene Trani, who then consulted widely with leaders in the city and region. National models such as the work of CEOs for Cities have been consulted, as well as locally based models in New Orleans, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Baton Rouge. Previous efforts in Richmond, such as the Crupi Reports, and other outside consultants such as the McKinsey Group’s work have also been examined.
The design of Richmond’s Future draws upon both Best Practices and also practices to be avoided. In this regard, there are two particular features that are worthy of note. First, the think tank will be focusing on forward-looking, asset-based, vision-oriented research such as is evident in much of the CEOs for Cities work. The think tank will not be an audit-oriented group such as the New Orleans model. Exemplary research projects include collaborative work in Baton Rouge, with its “Regional Innovation Strategy,” and the collaborative research report, “Future Knowledge Systems: The Next Twenty Years of Technology-led Economic Development,” from the Research Park Triangle and its research partners. It is important that the think tank make a positive contribution to the future of the region, not merely point to past mistakes of execution.
Second, the think tank will make heavy use of local expertise and will utilize external consultants when expertise is not available regionally. The repeated use of external consultants to assist in vision development has often been more divisive than unifying in the regional community. Richmond’s Future has established a Research Council that consists of some of the most talented individuals in the area. We have also drawn on the expertise of local companies and organizations which are committed to the projects, such as the Federal Reserve.
Richmond’s Future will collaborate extensively in the community. Richmond area colleges and universities have already agreed to be partners, as have city and regional partnership organizations. A number of the leading companies in the Richmond area will not only provide financial support, but will contribute the professional competence of their staffs to research projects.
The Board of Directors, chaired by Gene Trani, has approximately 32 members. The Board meets twice a year, with an Executive Committee which meets more frequently.
The Research Council, with about 10 members, is chaired by Bob Holsworth and Jack Berry. The Research Council will coordinate project research efforts, conduct major portions of the research, and direct/monitor any research that is outsourced.
The Council of Advisors, including ultimately approximately 50 thought leaders in the region, is centrally involved in the development of project themes. The Council of Advisors meets twice a year.
Richmond’s Future is housed at Virginia Commonwealth University in the office of President Emeritus Trani, who serves as Chair of the Board of Directors and Executive Director of Richmond’s Future.
The efforts of the think tank are supported with an initial annual budget of $150,000. Companies, community organizations and individuals have provided funding support. Richmond’s Future does not use any government funding.