Monday, 18 February 2013

AN OPEN NOTE TO ONE NOVA SCOTIA: The Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy

About three summers ago I invited about a dozen people to an informal meeting at the Rebekah Music Hall in Bear River.

This was a motley, yet savvy group of Nova Scotians from various backgrounds -- about as grassroots as you can get. I chose the Rebekah because it sat on the border of Annapolis and Digby counties. I saw the place as neutral territory; not government, not academia, not private sector business, not quite Annapolis, not quite Digby. No hidden agenda. And they served coffee.

I asked the group ...

What if there was a small town that could attract 40,000 visitors a year because they built upon one person’s vision?  There is one. It’s in the rural badlands of Alberta. Population 200.

What if there was a dying, one industry town that could grow from one business to over 300 successful, small businesses, because of a desperate mayor and one man’s idea? There is one. It’s on Vancouver Island. Population 4,000.

And then I asked them. What if we could do the same thing here, in Nova Scotia?

I had an idea.

Why don’t we hold a series of Pecha Kucha events, to discover our rural DNA? Let’s find out what makes us tick. People from a variety of backgrounds would come together and each have six minutes to propose an idea, tell a story, offer a challenge, present an opportunity, entertain, inform, motivate and inspire.

The idea was well received, BUT it was suggested that I expand the concept from three to over 12 events and cover the whole of southwest Nova Scotia. For one person with drive and energy but no money that was a lot to ask.

Instead, I chose to initiate TEDxAnnapolisValley in Wolfville. One event was easier to manage and easier on the pocketbook than twelve. Nine speakers from various backgrounds shared ideas in front of 30 organizers and almost 200 attendees at Wolfville’s Al Whittle Theatre.

What that Bear River meeting and Wolfville event taught me was there is a real interest and need to discover what makes us tick and to find ways to improve our well-being.

World-renowned, economic development guru Richard Florida reports that 80% of solutions come from within the community - from the people who live there. His colleague Greg Baeker tells us ... if you chase smokestack industries you gain ZERO economic advantage in today’s economy. A study reported in the Harvard Business Review a couple of years ago showed that long-term job growth was related to the NUMBER of businesses per population. Size did not matter. Quantity did.

We need to promote small-scale “economic gardening”, and it starts in our own backyard. We need a culture to find, incubate and reward innovation in a new economy.

It starts from within; one person at a time.

From CreativeRural to One Nova Scotia

Twitter @CREandET