Restless in Edmonton? Stop complaining, start creating

Yesterday’s front page story in the Edmonton Journal suggests that Edmonton in 2010 is at a tipping point (forget for the moment that this almost certainly is not the first “tipping point” our city has faced). That this is the year in which we decide to be “a big, sprawling town or to move ahead as a city with real urban living.” And that if we don’t make the right choice, our “ambitious, educated and interesting 30-something professionals” will leave for greener pastures. Active Connect2Edmonton member Ian O’Donnell is featured in the story, and he says that the 30-somethings are getting restless.

Why does “getting restless” always have to mean leaving for Vancouver, Toronto, or Calgary? If you want to leave, I say: good luck! I’d rather have NextGen-ers in Edmonton who want to be a part of something great. NextGen-ers who don’t complain when they see something they don’t like, they go and do something about it. NextGen-ers who want to help transform Edmonton into a world class city.

Edmonton Skyline

We need people like William Buchkowsky and Nathan McQuay. They felt their options for connecting with other young business professionals in the city were limited, so they created Emerging Business Leaders. At least 50 people now meet regularly each month.

We need people like Raffaella Loro. She wanted a city government that was more open and accessible, so she championed the Transforming Edmonton blog to help make it happen. The blog is a fantastic complement to the City’s other online activities.

We need people like Dave Cournoyer, Justin Archer, and Michael Janz. They, along with many others, wanted to have a conversation about re-imagining government and citizenship in the age of participation. They brought ChangeCamp to Edmonton, an event attended by hundreds of Edmontonians in person and online.

We need people like Ken Bautista, Cary Williams, and Michael Brechtel. They are passionate about the creative economy in Edmonton, and recognized that strong creative and artistic communities are important for prosperous cities. They brought artsScene to Edmonton, an organization that connects young professionals with the arts, culture, and creative organizations of Edmonton.

We need people like Mark Donovan, Cam Linke, and Kevin Swan. All are very involved in the local tech scene with things like DemoCamp, and all have experience with technology startups. They recognized a lack of support for local startups, and have created Startup Edmonton to do something about it. The organization will help to ensure that next gen talent builds successful local companies that make it past the seed stage.

These are just a few of the incredible NextGen-ers making a difference in Edmonton. There are many others too, such as the members of Avenue Edmonton’s Top 40 Under 40, and the members of Edmonton Next Gen (who have brought Pecha Kucha to Edmonton, among other things).

Downtown is an opportunity!

Much of the article focuses on downtown, in a negative way. I’m not going to try to convince you that we have an amazing downtown, because I agree that there’s a lot of room for improvement. But I see that as an opportunity, not as a problem. There are some incredible things on the horizon for downtown Edmonton, and increasingly it is a focus for organizations like EEDC. NextGen-ers need to educate themselves and then work to ensure our city’s decision makers follow through. Small efforts really can have a big impact – I think the City Centre Airport debate is proof of that.

We have the capacity in Edmonton to be world class. All we have to do is stop complaining and start creating.

You can read more reaction to the story in the comments and at Connect2Edmonton.

17 thoughts on “Restless in Edmonton? Stop complaining, start creating

  1. I really like your attitude! Being positive is contagious. I liked your examples of people who are making a difference in Edm.
    I live in Calgary but appreciate your positive outlook and desire to make Edmonton the best it can be.
    Happy New Year!

  2. I wanted to see a punk rock label in Edmonton, so I moved to Leduc and started it.

    Let the 30 somethings move out of town, they have gotten old and Lazy it seems, no one wants to start anything or be responsible for anything,

    just move 30 somethings, lawn bowling in Vancouver looks fun.

  3. I’m in total agreement – and as an ex Torontonian I see much more “hunger” to organize and get things done hwere in edmonton. I’m not a gen exer by age but have the same hunger for change and transformation. Credit to Mack and all those he has cited for acting rather than complaining.

  4. Mack:

    Great comments. Also, Edmonton Next Gen has set to have their inaugural Engage Event near the end of this month and it will be themed around “Life in the Urban Core”.

    I have been asked to be the event host/facilitator and it is set to be very exciting. I think they will have some information coming out on the event soon.

    Keep rocking the talking Mack.


  5. For the longest time my biggest fear was being 35 years old and driving down the Whitemud. It felt like I was a passive participant in my own history. Travelling down a path chosen for me or a victim of circumstances beyond my control.

    After moving downtown I’ve made a conscious effort to get more involved in the arts culture and business elements of this city. There are a lot of really great existing and emerging organizations that are doing a to make this city vibrant. I’d like to thank a lot of the new faces I’ve met (many represented in your article) for making moves that have impacted both my life and this city in a positive way.Its nice to see some of these individuals get recongised lately in various online and print publications. Keep it up Nex-Geners!!!!!

  6. Great to see this kind of energy alive in Edmonton! Maybe I’m not allowed to respond becuase I’m in the “40 something” demographic…..??? I have worked in downtown Edmonton for 20 years and the changes between now and 20 years ago are HUGE and it continues to change which is great. Like a large number of people who moved to Edmonton to set up shop I come from a small town and have seen close up the impact that a sense of community and personal stake can bring both here and in the small town setting. I would encourage the nex-geners not to give up on the old-guard, there is hope for us, we care but tend to be bogged down in our “stuff”, maybe we need a shake-up-an-old-guy week?

  7. The city is a hole, its pretty much an overgrown trailer park. How edmontonians figured out how to breed and build houses is beyond me. The rent is ridiculously high for such an unattractive city. I simply can not wait to move. This is by far THE worst city I have seen in all my travels ! I’m sorry to say but its the next generation that will suffer when the realize that the money train coming off the oil industry will eventually stop and they will have to get educated to get good paying jobs. Hopefully this will mean the end to all the ignorant white trash morons driving around in monster trucks with nuts hanging off the back lol.

  8. I moved here 3 years ago from Sydney Australia. It was a total shock to the system. I am actually from the UK and lived most of my life in London and then 6 years Australia before coming to Edmonton. My gut feeling is i hate it here. My husband and I, plus my infant son are actually moving back to Sydney next month as i have been homesick for 3 years. Most people think we are going back because i hate the winter but i am too polite to tell them what the real reason is. I never ever want to live here again, but i will be visiting as we have family here. I really hope that next-gen can help improve Edmonton as it could be a half decent place to live.  Despite my gut feeling, Edmonton has given me the opportunity to meet some very nice and intelligent  people…. and a lot of them do care about the future of their city. I had the honour of working along side Michael Janz, whom i know will be an important figure in the future of Edmonton.  But it really is just a handful. Edmonton is also very geared towards volunteering which is something i have managed to do whilst being here and i will be spreading the importance of volunteering once i get back home. There are some positive things happening around the city, you just have to look really hard to find it and see it. Such as community gardens, edmonton bicycle association, community leagues (that need a lot of revitalization).
    I live in what is considered an older neighbourhood and people here are very friendly i must admit, but you really only get to see them in the summer months.  However i would not rave about the area i live in as there is nothing here except big box stores. I guess i should think myself lucky not to be living in one of those soulless newly development neighbourhoods, where there are no trees, no corner shops except 7/11, no transport and zero atmosphere. Its really sad to see Edmonton rapidly expanding in such a way. I did lively for a brief period near Whyte Avenue and wished that we stayed there as at least it had some atmosphere and some decent independent shops and restaurants. There really is nothing here for me or my family. Nothing that is of interest to us anyway. I don’t want my son to grow in a place where its main attraction is a shopping mall housing wild animals for peoples entertainment, no decent public transport and oil as its main industry. Neither of us work in the oil or construction industry so we really have no big reasons to stay. I don’t understand why people here thinks its ok not to have a decent train system with a population of over a million people. Most other decent size cities have better infrastructure. 
    So i am one of those 30 somethings who has complained for 3 years and is now moving back home to Australia, instead of doing something about it. However my initial intention was only to stay for 2 years and as i am not born and bread in Edmonton, maybe i am let of the hook. When i return i would love to see and hear of positive developments in Edmonton, and maybe even a train line heading north to all those new developments. But for now i am really sorry, but i have my own missions to accomplish back in Australia. However you are right, people should top complaining and start being creative….especially the next gen, as your oil won’t last forever!

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