Community Matters: Launching 'The Current'

Daniel Rossi-Keen
Daniel Rossi-Keen

Over the last several months, a handful of Beaver County leaders have been thinking quite a bit about the importance of having strong institutions in our communities. Together, we have been reflecting on the value of creating a shared culture and shared language to describe our collective experience. And, we have been considering ways that we might convene and encourage a more mature conversation about the future of Beaver County.

Emerging out of these conversations, Penn State-Beaver and RiverWise launched a pilot program this past Wednesday for a community lecture and conversation series called “The Current.”

This series seeks to connect community concerns and thought leadership in ways that can positively impact the future of the region and aid us in collectively understanding our role as culture makers. More than a mere lecture series, the goal of this initiative is to generate intentional conversations about who Beaver County has been, what we are becoming, and how we fit into the emerging story of human history.

One of the key reasons for creating this initiative is the growing recognition that Beaver County is a community in transition. Changes are happening all around us and new organizations are cropping up all the time. In such a climate, it is all the more important that we are publicly having conversations about the future we desire to inhabit together. Void of such thought leadership, the future will be foisted upon residents of Beaver County in ways that may or may not be to our greatest benefit. And so, it is essential for us to come together with a vision and purpose and make sure that the future of our region emerges with intention and a clear purpose.

At present, “The Current” is a two-event pilot program. The first event took place this past week and the second will be held on May 17. Both events are hosted by Penn State-Beaver in the Student Union Building Lodge.

This week’s event featured Bill Flanagan, producer and host of Our Region’s Business at WPXI-TV. A longstanding leader in Pittsburgh’s recent history, Flanagan provided an overview of the major economic, social, and cultural forces that have shaped southwestern Pennsylvania over the last century. He also projected what is likely to happen in the near future, and focused squarely on how Beaver County might position itself to gain the greatest advantage in the coming decades.

As both an organizer and a participant in this week’s gathering, I was reminded that Beaver County has a proud past and a promising future. But, as Flanagan clearly explained, unlocking that potential will require civic leaders who are willing to work together to create a shared vision and make it happen. “It never,” as Flanagan said, “just happens.” Instead, “Leaders make it happen.” It is, for this reason, critically important that we initiate regular and ongoing conversations about where we are and where we want to go as a region. Without such intentionality, the future will be driven by merely economic forces that may or may not have our best interest in mind.

This week, and thanks to Bill Flanagan’s thoughtful presentation, I was reminded afresh that communities exist to make and grow culture, to bring people together in the public sphere and to engage in ongoing conversations about the places we live and the things we prioritize. Once again, I was prompted to remember that the future of our region hinges on nurturing these kinds of spaces and that void of such intentional dialogue we will quickly become passive observers of our own history.

Coming out of this week’s launch of “The Current,” I am more energized than ever. I am looking forward to our event in May, followed by a full rollout of the series in the fall.

Though building the future of our region is undoubtedly challenging, it is also exciting and empowering to see such a vision met with passion from the community. I am eager to continue to work alongside Penn State-Beaver on this important project, and I look forward to what residents of the region envision and create out of these admittedly humble beginnings.

Daniel Rossi-Keen, Ph.D., is the co-owner of eQuip Books, a community bookstore in Aliquippa and the executive director of RiverWise, a nonprofit employing sustainable development practices to create a regional identity around the rivers of Beaver County. You can reach Daniel at

This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: Community Matters: Launching 'The Current'