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President's Column: ‘Teleological planning’: My $64,000 phrase for Michigan in 2060

Translation: ‘What’s your vision?’
‘Teleological planning’: My $64,000 phrase for Michigan in 2060 Translation: ‘What’s your vision?’ When I was at the University of Michigan, Dr. Greg Daneke taught energy policy. Besides introducing us to amazing ideas and cutting-edge thinkers (e.g., Amory Lovins), he taught a concept called “teleological planning.” That was and still is my $64,000 phrase.

Teleological planning is, more simply, “end point” planning: developing public policy by knowing where you want to end up. Too often public policymaking is a meandering, incremental process that doesn’t necessarily get you where you want to go. By first determining your destination you can choose the best of alternative paths to get there.

It is like planning a trip from Michigan to Colorado; there are many routes you could take, but the requirement of all paths is that they get you to Colorado. Too often our public policy decisions are made in a vacuum, with no clearly defined end point or destination. It is like jumping into a car and driving without a map. You might or might not get to Colorado. That’s fun for a weekend getaway, but it is no way to craft public policy.

I have asked the MEC staff to create a shared vision for what Michigan should look like in 50 years. What should our state be like? What would a sustainable Michigan look like if MEC and our allies succeed in our vision?

What is it you want to tell your grandchildren that you did to help make Michigan a sustainable state? Obviously, we’re talking about big strokes vision, but every organization needs to know where it is going and the end point they are trying to reach.

This vision will help us build a strategy to get there and to determine what role MEC needs to play in helping Michigan become the state we wish it to be. It will help us assess how MEC might need to grow and change to fulfill that role. From our staff-generated vision, we will incorporate our board of directors’ views and our member organizations’ vision(s). I urge each of you to join this process and share your own vision for Michigan.

Why 50 years? Because that is how long today’s public policy decisions will have impact. Example: Do we invest in clean energy technology or more coal-fired power plants? These are two different paths with two different futures for energy in Michigan. If we choose the coal path, we have to understand that each new plant is a 40- or 50-year commitment. It will require a revenue stream that diminishes the potential investment for the other, clean energy, path. Likewise, transportation investments are decade-long investments. Investing in more and wider roads is one path, investing in mass transit and other non-vehicular-based transit options are another. These paths may or may not be mutually exclusive, but investment in one too often limits investment in the other.

From our vision, we will build a strategic plan with near-, mid- and long-term measurable outcomes. It will be a strategic plan grounded in knowing where we want to go, how we want to get there and what role we need to fulfill in achieving that vision of Michigan of 2060.

The goal is a Michigan that we can be proud of, a state where families and individuals want to move to, a state where access to clean air, clean water, clean land and clean energy is a protected right and not a privilege only for those who can afford it. A state that we can proudly tell our grandchildren we helped transform.

So I ask you to think about your vision of Michigan in 50 years. What role can your organization play? What role do you see MEC playing in making that vision a reality? Please reach out to me by phone, email, letter or in person to share your organization’s vision for Michigan. Together we can provide the leadership, the vision and action to make Michigan the Great Lakes State we know it can be.
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