While most speakers focus their lives on a pretty narrow area of expertise, Della places a priority on understanding how different assumptions and different approaches can learn from each other. In this respect, Della functions as a cross-pollinator, helping people who are used to working one way find new approaches and new solutions — approaches and solutions you might never hear of from a conventional talking head in your field.
Here’s a taste of the topics that Della has worked with:
New Approaches to Economic Development
Della has been one of the forefront writers in the US addressing how communities and professionals need to change how they approach the work of growing and strengthening a community’s local economy. She’s been a frequent speaker at state and regional economic development conferences and multiple events hosted by the International Economic Development Council. You can read more about her perspective here, and in her first book The Local Economy Revolution: What’s Changed and How You Can Help.
Downtown Revitalization and older commercial district repositioning
Della has spent more than 20 years working on the ground with communities that are trying to improve their downtowns or bring life back to older commercial areas, and she’s used everything from zoning regulations to historic preservation to community education to economic analysis to do it. And she has practiced what she preaches: she was a charter board member of one of the largest Main Street programs in the country, which won a Great American Main Street Award in 2008. You can read about her evolving thinking about the needs and the future economic role of downtowns here and the Short Shot publication, Secrets of Retail District Revitalization.
Urban Planning and Community Development
For more than 10 years, Della managed comprehensive plans, land use plans and master plans as senior staff to several planning and engineering firms. This experience gave Della a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities of urban planning, especially when it comes to involving residents in a more meaningful and constructive manner and in designing land use plans that make economic sense. You can see some of Della’s past presentations on planning issues at SlideShare, and you can read about her perspective on how poor public engagement and understanding of economics limits planning’s effectiveness here and in The Local Economy Revolution: What’s Changed and How You Can Help.
Public Participation and Public Engagement
Della earned an undergraduate degree in education and spent her first couple of years working as a public school teacher. Della’s training and teaching work heavily emphasized small group cooperative methods designed to foster higher order thinking, and this experience came back to help her years later when she began running public meetings as part of planning projects.
Della’s public participation approach emphasizes hands-on, meaningful experiences that actually get residents and stakeholders deeply involved with the work of analyzing challenges and figuring out potential solutions. Della calls this approach crowdsourcing wisdom — enabling the people who know a community best to constructively contribute that knowledge to make their community better. Participants are happier, more energized and more likely to support the final recommendations, city people get the information they actually need, and everyone enjoys a process that leaves no room for complaints, grandstanding, confrontation and people who just want to hear themselves talk.
Additionally, Della has been at the forefront of the use, training and development of online tools for better public engagement.
You can read more about Della’s public participation approach here and in her book, Crowdsourcing Wisdom. You can read more about emerging issues in online public engagement here and in the upcoming book, Online Public Engagement: a guide to effective use, due out in late 2016 from Routledge Press.
Open Data and Civic Technology
In addition to her work at the Wise Economy Workshop, Della is also the Managing Editor of EngagingCities, an online magazine and digest that covers technology in planning and public engagement worldwide. With over 40,000 readers, EngagingCities produces and curates the best available content on open data, civic technology, open government and similar topics. You can get a taste of EngagingCities here.
Entrepreneurship, Start-ups and Small Business Ecosystems Development
As an entrepreneur and a fifth-generation small business owner herself, Della came into this field with an already-deep understanding of what small businesses and entrepreneurs need to thrive — an expertise that she has been honing for more than 20 years. Della’s expertise spans both traditional small businesses and tech start-ups, and she focuses much of her attention on how both types of small business can help each other grow and thrive. She has trained economic developers and nonprofit administrators on how to create manageable programs to support small businesses, she has written extensively about the myths and realities of small business and entrepreneurship, and she is one of the most active current thinkers about how to successfully support entrepreneurs in disadvantages and historically underrepresented communities.