According to Walshok and Shragge, five major characteristics of civic culture are necessary to move forward:
1) A risk-oriented culture adept at managing uncertainty. A central feature of San Diego’s experimental history and prevalence of small industries is a civic culture and business community that embraces risk.
2) Entrepreneurial talent: Civic leaders, scientists, business professional. San Diego’s long history of creating opportunities for people who want to challenge the status quo or create something new has resulted in an unusually large aggregation of entrepreneurial civic, business, and scientific leaders.
3) Integrative civic platforms. San Diego’s civic culture is highly inclusive, cross-functional and interdisciplinary. Institutions that span the boundaries between communities of ideas and practice have proliferated; in many other regions such entities continue to be siloed.
4) Multiple gateways through which ideas and opportunities can be developed. There is no one Establishment, Inc., in San Diego. There are actually many centers of gravity vis-a-vis leadership and access to resources. San Diego is characterized by an open innovation environment that allows people to easily move among social groups and within hierarchies.
5) A culture of reinvestment: Time and money. The absence of multinational corporations until recently, the century-long reliance on the federal government as a key customer, and the lack of accumulated family wealth have required a civic culture characterized by people investing significant amounts of personal time and resources to achieve civic goals. This is enhanced by the fact that those who come to San Diego stay because of their attachment to the place.
Sounds interesting for two reasons:
1. This sounds like a combination of the creative class bringing in new talent, ideas, and business and a committed growth machine of business and civic leaders. If this works in San Diego, the next question to ask is whether this particular combination and set of circumstances is generalizable to other cities.
2. San Diego doesn’t get much attention in urban sociology. Although it has the 8th largest population in the United States (and 17th largest metropolitan area), it is dwarfed by nearby Los Angeles, is all the way at the corner of the country, and doesn’t stand out for any particular reason outside of fantastic weather.
We had a chance to spend a few days in San Diego a few years ago and enjoyed some of the sights including the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and the USS Midway. Here is the view toward the city from the deck of the USS Midway:
We enjoyed our visit though it required a lot of driving around.