As I reflect on a recent trip to Torino with a wonderfully diverse group of leaders committed to making a difference in the Detroit regional economy, two phrases keep coming to mind: “how then shall we live?”* and “in the fullness of time”. These two phrases capture the tension between the powerful possibility that comes from intentional choices about the basics of life, and the recognition that great things do not happen overnight and cannot be hurriedly constructed, but must come together in various ways over time. Torino, thru the City strategic plan, the planning and  implementation of the various Olympics-related infrastructure projects, and the regional leadership role they fulfill in Italy and the EU seems to have come together around a few basics about “how then shall we live” long enough to actually begin to see a few fruits… And while Torino’s plans have not yet seen the “the fullness of time,” the City and the region, with its Roman and Medieval roots, may have just enough sensibility about the fullness of time to weather near term political and financial stresses.

For Torino, the answers to “how then shall we live” seem to be:

  •  By innovating for the future rather than being stuck in the past—celebrating and building on our rich design and manufacturing heritage while reclaiming and better integrating our deep agricultural roots
  • By ensuring that we all have a place—addressing our transit and housing choices so that elderly and low to moderate income citizens are not left behind; remaking our universities so they better prepare our next generation leaders; connecting and supporting small and medium enterprises so they are viable in the broader EU and global markets
  • By investing in ways that ensure a long, viable future—renewables, district heating, waste to energy and transit to reduce the long term cost and risk of our energy-way of life; science and technology parks and innovation hubs to seed and nurture next generation businesses and industries; historic districts and green spaces that are integrated into daily life and work
  • By connecting and leveraging resources beyond our region—participating and sometimes leading EU regional initiatives.

While Detroit and Torino have many similarities and key differences, what are our answers to “how then shall we, Detroit, live”? And are we willing to stay the course and allow the various threads to come together to weave a bright, sustainable future for Detroit, “in the fullness of time”?

*“How Then Shall We Live” is not only a provocative question, it is also the title of an engaging book by Wayne Muller that explores four key questions: Who Am I? What do I Love? How Shall I Live, Knowing I Will Die? What is My Gift to the Family of the Earth?