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Philanthropy Journal of North Carolina – Change North Carolina

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By Todd Cohen

North Carolina needs a roadmap and a driver.

Our state is rich in smart and caring people and groups willing to join hands to fight the huge social ills we face.

We also have lots of ideas for making progress.

But we are starving for leaders.

Bright people in government and business, universities and schools, foundations and charities often miss the big picture or will not look or take on challenges beyond their own turf.

So we fail to change.

Change flows from vision, simply and clearly stated, about what we can be and what we need to do to get there.

To become the state we can be, North Carolina needs a business plan.

Thanks to the year-old 20/20 report produced the N.C. Progress Board, we can glimpse a possible future.

The report lays out ambitious goals, and ways to track progress, on issues ranging from health and education to the economy and workforce.

But it offers no strategies for meeting those goals.

Gov. Mike Easley should be spelling out his vision for the state, but he’s swamped with keeping the state afloat in the face of a deepening budget crisis.

As Peter Leousis wrote in a guest column [1/29/03], business, civic and philanthropic leaders need to step up and make change happen.

Building on the Progress Board’s important work, those leaders should develop a business plan for our state.

Because the big problems we face are linked, the plan should reflect interconnected strategies, including indicators to track success and failure.

The plan, for example, could incorporate or build on recommendations by two commissions created by Easley to improve the state’s tax system and make state government more efficient.

The plan also needs to include a marketing, media and legislative push to sell the proposed changes to public, lawmakers, policymakers and business.

The Progress Board could act as a watchdog, tracking progress on putting the business plan into action.

Our state faces a grave crisis and a void in political leadership.

It’s time to change North Carolina, and our state’s business and civic leaders can be the catalyst.

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