Doug Nelson: ‘No small plans’


Thanks to Seth for referring me to Douglas Nelson’s speech at the Enterprise Community Partners Conference in Baltimore on November 20. Speaking to an audience of community development professionals, Nelson outlines the “under-acknowledged, under-analyzed, and misunderstood” impact of economic globalization on American communities. He identifies a coming turning point in America, and urges the community development movement to reposition itself “as part of a broader effort to restore economic security and insure a measure of family stability to the nation’s underemployed poor and working poor.” The full text of the speech, which isn’t long, is available on Enterprise’s website.


Douglas W. Nelson is President and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. He is one of the nation’s leading advocates for children and one of the country’s foremost experts on policies and community-based responses to improve the lives of at-risk children and their families. In addition to frequent lectures and addresses, Nelson has written widely on a range of domestic social policy issues. His social history of the World War II relocation of Japanese Americans entitled Heart Mountain earned him a Pulitzer Prize nomination in 1976. His other published works include studies and essays on children and youth, aging, long-term care, and housing. (Source)

‘No small plans’

I didn’t attend the conference, so I will largely let the text speak for itself. It touches on subjects that many Americans, including myself, have been pondering over the past couple months. ‘No small plans’ isn’t the title of Mr. Nelson’s speech (I don’t know if it had one), but it sums up its message: this is a pivotal time for our country, one that calls for bold new ideas. (This feeling has been going around; see the November 24 cover of TIME Magazine.)

Neither Barack Obama nor anybody else has fully articulated how the United States will refocus investment on infrastructure, the environment, and education. Mr. Nelson jokes, “If you wanted a really good answer to that question, you should have found somebody a lot smarter than I am for this slot in your conference.” But he delivers a good argument for placing some priorities first: creating “a national infrastructure and environmental initiative,” expanding “national investment in wage and work supports for America’s low-income working families,” and investing “in the early development, school readiness, academic success, and post-secondary educational opportunities for the children born to those struggling families.”

Have a read, and let me know what you think.

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