Idea: Empower passionate individuals to improve Alberta

As you can imagine, the discussion I had over lunch yesterday with DJ and Andrew was quite interesting and left me with a lot to think about. We’re all passionate and deeply involved in local projects, trying to make the places we live better. At one point we were ranting about the money government wastes on certain projects. A little while later, DJ remarked that he could do so much more if he didn’t have to worry about paying the bills. A light bulb went off for me then.

What would happen if we took ten passionate and involved Albertans and enabled them to focus on their extracurricular activities? Pay the bills for a year, and let them focus on improving their communities. What would they come up with? How big of an impact would they have on the province?

Now, I recognize there are many potential issues with the idea. First and foremost, if you pay those individuals for their “fun” extracurricular activities, there’s a danger that those activities become “work”. I’m sure you can think of many other issues. But imagine the possibilities! Let’s say, as DJ suggests, that you pay each individual $50,000 for the year – that’s only $500,000. We could easily come up with a list of things our municipal and provincial governments have done in the last few months that cost as much but will have a far smaller return.

Funding this idea needn’t fall to the government, either. Wealthy Albertans or large companies could fund it. Anyone with the money and the desire to make Alberta a better place. Think of it like the unconference version of the X Prize or the Netflix Prize (in that there’s less structure and no pre-defined goals).

The idea is to simply set ten individuals free for a year, knowing that they’ll rise to the ultimate challenge: twelve uninterrupted months to make your city and province a better place.

Thoughts? Know of anything like this happening elsewhere? Let me know!

Check out DJ’s blog for another take on the idea.

7 thoughts on “Idea: Empower passionate individuals to improve Alberta

  1. This is a tremendous idea… Almost like a sabbatical for casual citizens, with the caveat they do something they love but is ultimately productive and beneficial to the greater community.

    Were I a wealthy benefactor, I’d definitely help fund this project.

  2. Passionate individuals are already paid to improve Alberta: companies and foundations around the province already pay their own management and hire consultants to study and implement strategies to improve the lives of potential clients, which those clients turn around and receive in return for a monetary fee.

    The aggregate impact of all these small- or medium-sized transactions does much of what you’re planning to do with even more bang for the buck.

  3. The problem with both elected officials and consultants is that they are limited by the parameters of their positions. There are certain expectations and limitations.

    The idea here is to take a very different approach: we have no idea what the individuals will do, but we’re willing to trust that it’ll benefit us.

  4. As Mack says any Albertans work to make Alberta a better place through their job: be it an elected position or a corporation or a not-for-profit organization. But they are limited by the parameters of that organization.

    There is another group too. I think Mack and I both fall into the category of regular citizens who do what we can to make Alberta a better place. However we are limited by time we can dedicate to the projects we are working on.

    The idea behind a programme like this is to provide as few barriers as possible to have new projects spring up. New projects that fill a void not being met by one of the groups mentioned above.

  5. I think this is one of the best ideas I’ve heard in a long time. There are lots of very intelligent, innovative citizens whose ideas could be harnessed in this type of program. They may very well be limited by their current employment, time restrictions etc.
    I truly believe this could work – and would make Edmonton a real leader in citizen engagement as well as the actual solutions that could come out of this.

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