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A Path To Progress

I have lately been involved with various forms of analysis and municipal planning energized by the economic downturn. Progress toward various goals or even sensible destinations has been hampered by fear-driven pessimism and the tendency to find comfort in inertia.

As a ‘progressive conservative’ I hold firm to the belief that moving forward is always best, even if the pace is slow and deliberate, guided by hard-won cultural principles and norms. Progress within any form of government requires a willingness to listen, opportunity for shared credit, and clarity about the value accrued from actions taken.

Recently, a county commissioner asked me how to get people to understand what is happening and to cooperate with necessary local strategies. My reply addressed the human need for people to perceive value in what is being done, relative to what is negatively impacting their lives.
From my experience, value is generally based on the magnitude of the issue and the remedy, its impact on the community, its ability to generate a sustainable contribution, and it’s overall perceived relevance to the majority of stakeholders.

Whether difficult or good times, progress depends on openly shared information to create a broader base of knowledge that creates a new foundation of understanding. Even with that understanding, advocates must have the ability to tell a compelling story, presented in a manner that reflects the impact of both issue and solution. Only such a sequence can counter the human tendency to embrace inaction and the subtle, sometimes comfortable, decline that comes with it.

Being Prepared for Challenge requires the ability to ask tough questions and facilitate progress during difficult times. Designing the future won’t wait…getting ahead of the curve requires an understanding of people and how communities respond to challenge. The ability to explain trends and their potential/ probable impact is an essential skill. Remember…it is not always what you say, but how you say it that matters.


With over three decades working in and with federal, state and local government, John Luthy understands public agencies.  Known for his real world, straight talking style, he is a leading futurist specializing in city, county, state, and federal long-range thinking and planning. An innovative and dynamic presenter, John is frequently asked to speak and consult on how to prepare public organizations and communities for emerging challenges. He holds both the MPH and MPA degrees as well as a doctorate in education.

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