If the presidential election of 2016 did nothing else, it put rural America’s “brain drain” on the public radar. Seemingly overnight, reporters and political pundits started connecting dots they had long ignored: In small towns and unincorporated places, middle-class young people were moving away for college and never coming home, helping to fuel a long, slow decline in heartland communities.
Part of the problem, however, is also perceptual. Even though there are many innovators in smaller cities and regions, their stories are often unheralded. This invisibility, in turn, means less attention and investment by corporate and nonprofit philanthropy alike.
Los Angeles might represent both aspects of this trend. With a booming economy, it’s exactly the kind of place where all those bright young people end up. But even here, in the 34,000 square miles that make up Greater LA, there are areas where local innovators struggle to get recognition and investment.
When civic and corporate leaders do hear about the region, it’s often in the context of problems and deficits rather than civic entrepreneurs and innovative solutions. Indeed, Karthick notes that this narrative is…