In continuation of the dialogue on the Unintended Consequences of Systems Change, our July Social Innovators Breakfast focused on Colorado’s Economic Growth.

We had three amazing panelists that guided the discussion and that we owe our deepest appreciation:

Jake Williams: Healthier Colorado

Elizabeth Garner: State Demography Office, Department of Local Affairs

Lauren Ris: Colorado Water Conservation Board

They started by painting a picture of Colorado’s growth. Since 2010, Colorado’s population has grown by 578 thousand people, making it the 7th fastest growing state in 2017 and 2nd fastest in 2016. This growth will bring with it economic opportunities that have since been unheard of. The recreation industry is one of the largest in all of the United States. Furthermore, economic growth leads to more money in public coffers to do public interventions (public health, social interventions). We can expect great advances in creating equality through this. However, as expected, many challenges come with growth of this size. Of particular interest to the panel, water needs, housing, infrastructure, and unequal economic gain were all brought up.

The panel specifically focused in on a economic growth. While Colorado as a whole is growing, economic prosperity is not being equally divided among all groups. Instead, we are experiencing and expecting even more disparity between the largely white, upper class and mostly minority, lower class. It is evident that if steps aren’t taken to level the playing field, this gap will continue to group.

To tackle this problem and brainstorm solutions, we divided the room into small discussion groups. Each group generated ideas and then we met as a whole to share our findings. Of the ideas discussed, big ideas included raising money in public education for underserved areas, increasing entrepreneurship opportunity, making public transit more affordable and accessible, and highlighting Corporate Social Responsibility.

After the breakout discussion, it was clear to see big takeaways to help us move forward. First off, the value in engaging in these types of conversations are crucial to our growth as a community. Hearing diverse perspectives is the only way we reach our potential. Furthermore, even though one’s first reaction to projected roadblocks isn’t to jump up and down in joy, it is often through crisis and constraint that creativity and innovation take hold. We will see new ways of tackling economic inequality, water shortages, and energy. Lastly, while it isn’t a fix-all, education is a huge step in creating lasting social change.

We will continue to explore the interconnectivity of systems with the rest of our Navigating the Unintended Consequences of Systems change series. These include:

• August 29: Addressing Food Insecurity

• September 26: Transit-Oriented Development: How to Avoid Displacement

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