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Lessons on leadership in St. Louis and beyond

Professors Robin Hambleton (L) and Todd Swanstrom (R) joined "St. Louis on the Air" host Don Marsh on April 22, 2015.
Alex Heuer
St. Louis Public Radio

What happened in Ferguson following the shooting death of Michael Brown and the ensuing protests has garnered worldwide attention.

Robin Hambleton works at developing innovative polices and leadership in cities throughout the world. He’s a professor at the University of West England in Bristol and the author of a new book, “Leading the Inclusive City: Place Based Innovation for a Bounded Planet.”

“We’ve had our own troubles [in Bristol], often around the friction between police and minorities,” Hambleton said.

Further, Hambleton said globalization contributes to a failure of leadership because it leads to a “growth of placeless power,” where leaders make decisions without caring about the impact to other places.

The fragmentation of the St. Louis area includes the existence of 91 municipalities.

“In some ways it’s good because it gives you many entry points,” said Todd Swanstrom, professor of community collaboration and public policy administration at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “But, I would argue that you can get involved but oftentimes it’s a hollow prize,” he said.

Before arriving at the studio, Swanstrom and Hambleton drove throughout the metro area.

“We just drove around the communities around Ferguson and often you get the sense that there’s placelessness, there’s a lack of identity, of a place for people to convene,” Swanstrom said.

Having gathering space and good public transit are both important qualities to creating an inclusive city and developing leaders.

But who are St. Louis’ leaders?

“It used to be major corporate leaders – Civic Progress – but it’s no longer the big industrial corporations,” Swanstrom said. “It’s rather institutions like Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the major nonprofits.”

The event at which Hambleton will speak on Wednesday includes a panel discussion about lessons that can be learned from leadership and policies in the St. Louis area.

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.