Industrial heartlands: holding the key to a more democratic future

What are the current challenges faced by post-industrial heartland communities and regions?

The future of industrial heartlands on both sides of the Atlantic stands at a crossroads. In both Germany and the United States, 2016 was characterised by the ascendance of right-wing politics, a trend exacerbated by the ascendance of right-wing politics bolstered by a perception of abandonment among the constituents of heartland communities.

In this working paper, through our own uniquely developed lenses, we reflect on the current challenges faced by post-industrial heartland communities and regions, spanning three specific areas:

1. Work and Workforce
2. Democratic and Local Participation
3. The Political Future and Elections

For each area, we address what we believe to be the issues as they currently stand, discuss their importance to the future of the industrial heartlands, and work to develop our line of inquiry as a cohort.


Viktoria Bechstein

Special advisor to the state minister and commissioner for East Germany at the German federal chance
Viktoria Bechstein currently works as a political advisor to the State Minister for Eastern Germany at the German Federal Chancellery.

Colleen Dougherty

Research officer at the Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel University
Colleen Dougherty (she/her) serves as a Research Officer at the Nowak Metro Finance Lab based at Drexel University. Her primary project is Leveraging SSBCI 2.0: Remaking America’s Small Business Capital Landscape.

Benjamin Harrington

Community development director for the city of Saline, Michigan
Ben is currently the Community Development Director for the City of Saline, MI where he guides the city’s housing, planning, zoning, and economic development policies/initiatives.

Christopher McClain

Founder and president of the McClain Corporation
Christopher B. McClain is a native of Detroit, Michigan. His portfolio of policy expertise includes international trade, economic development, and maritime policy.

Linus Platzer

Policy officer "Transformation Rheinisches Revier" at NABU NRW
Linus is supporting NABU NRW, the largest member-based German environmental organization, in its large regional just transition efforts in the Rhine lignite mining area.

Milad Tabesch

Founder and manger of "Ruhrpott für Europa“ project / sponsored talent at Joinpolitics
Milad Tabesch holds a Bachelor’s degree in European Studies and Law from Osnabrück and a double Master’s degree in Public Policy and Public Administration from the Hertie School & Columbia University.

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