Alphabetize the Heights

Photo courtesy of Leo Reynolds,, under creative commons license.

“Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.”

Larry Page stated as much in his first letter to shareholders, and repeats this important thought when announcing that the concept of Google that existed before Aug. 10, 2015 would now be known as Alphabet. Everything previously known under the domain of Google, from Web search tools to self-driving cars, will be under the new Alphabet umbrella.

Alphabet’s structure allows for —oversight and guidance from its founders, while companies under the behemoth—Google X, Calico, Nesteach operate with their own CEO. Page recognizes the importance of empowering these future leaders, stating, “Alphabet is about businesses prospering through strong leaders and independence.”

What lessons can the Heights draw from the epic unfolding of a mammoth’s restructuring?

Regionalization has been the outcry of more than a few solitary individuals as a method of saving our cities from the crushing weight of their own bureaucratic blunders.  Indeed, through changes such as Cuyahoga County becoming a chartered entity, the creation of organizations like RITA, and discussions of the merger of cities, we are shown that this methodology can be effective for reducing cost and increasing efficiency and transparency. The question then becomes, what else can we do in an effort to become a stronger community?

Another area of opportunity may be right under our noses. Cleveland Heights is home to an innumerable not-for-profit organizations. It is time for them to take a page from the playmaking storybook of giants.

With the current glut of nonprofits in the Heights, and with so many areas of focus, it makes it difficult for grant-making institutions to offer multiple sums of money of substantial amounts. Leaders of these organizations are each vying for the attention of citizens, foundations and policymakers. This affects the bottom line of all nonprofits: impact. Finally, Cleveland Heights nonprofits fail to cover an extremely important area: that of the creation of a community development corporation. We are, in a word, scattered.

The solution is both simple and similar to Alphabet: the creation of a prodigious umbrella organization that houses local nonprofits' multiple foci, with a major focus on community development. Communities like Shaker Heights and Lakewood got their start long ago, and thus have a competitive edge. But the Heights, to echo Page's headlining statement, is not a conventional community. And if you believe in the creative forces that draw enterprises like Big Fun and Trapped, we don’t intend to become one.

Chris Hanson

Chris Hanson, coordinator of GrowingHeights, graduated from Cleveland State University with a B.A. in Urban Studies, and is an advocate of community building.

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Volume 8, Issue 9, Posted 11:18 PM, 08.31.2015