LINK™: Visiting Other Regions to Help Address Issues at Home
Every year, the LINK™ program takes the region’s most influential leaders to another metropolitan area in North America to learn about new ideas and approaches for dealing with the issues and challenges facing metro Atlanta.
The LINK program began in 1997 as a way to build on the remarkable level of regional cooperation that occurred in conjunction with Atlanta hosting the Centennial Olympic Games. Indeed, the trips have helped metro Atlanta leaders get to know each other much better, strengthening these critically important relationships.
During each trip, leaders from the Atlanta region have the opportunity to engage in dialogue with their counterparts from other regions. They explore solutions and exchange ideas for improving the Atlanta region and fostering positive community change.
The LINK delegation has seen first-hand how public art is reshaping Philadelphia communities and learned about new kinds of transit in San Diego. In Vancouver, participants visited “complete communities” built to accommodate people of all ages. And in Washington, D.C., the group saw how transit has sparked walkable development across the region.
LINK participants have brought a number of good ideas home with them:
- The regional public opinion survey from the Kinder Institute at Houston’s Rice University inspired ARC and its partners to launch the Metro Atlanta Speaks public opinion survey, which helps inform regional planning and decision-making.
- The Mayor’s Roundtable in Chicago sparked the creation of the Metro Atlanta Mayor’s Association.
- And Seattle’s Prosperity Partnership served as a model for CATLYST, the Atlanta Regional Economic Competitiveness Strategy.
2019 LINK Trip to Pittsburgh
The LINK delegation made its way north to Pittsburgh in 2019, bringing back lessons in tech, redevelopment, and arts and culture.
Participants returned with fresh insight into how Pittsburgh’s collaborative culture has helped the metro build a more livable region. Despite its 635 municipalities, the Pittsburgh region has, in recent years, found new ways to work together to build a brighter future. The region’s influential foundations play a major role, and local universities, government, and the tech sector have created a “living lab” of Pittsburgh’s streets to test a wide variety of technology — with clear guidelines for research and development.
The issue of equity was also front and center. The city has worked with local philanthropic groups to develop a set of equitable development principles that consider not just the economic impacts of new development, but also its impacts on the community and environment. Whether it was discussions about the development of the city’s cultural district, transportation, or preserving the cultural legacy of neighborhoods threatened by residential displacement, “If it’s not for all, it’s not for us” was a repeated refrain.
Four carefully-curated excursions and sessions encouraged participants to hit the ground running here at home—as they formed LINK Discovery work groups to take what they learned to work together to foster specific change in the Atlanta region.
LINK Discovery Groups
- Reducing the potential negative effects of redevelopment and encouraging equitable development
- Formalizing university and government collaborations
- Funding community-valued resources in arts and culture
- Collaborating with faith leaders to reach their communities