Recap: ONEdmonton Leaders Forum #2

Yesterday morning was the second ONEdmonton Leaders Forum, hosted by EEDC at the Shaw Conference Centre. After a good experience at the first one, I was excited for another opportunity to chat with everyone and eager to see if the organizers would indeed make more time for that. EEDC Board Chair Henry Yip and EEDC President Ron Gilbertson gave very brief introductory remarks, and we got down to business.

Our moderator for the day was Anne McLellan. She started by presenting the following question (I’m paraphrasing a bit):

What are your top five opportunities, challenges, and priorities for Edmonton as we work toward becoming one of the world’s leading mid-size cities?

She then numbered everyone off into 8 groups, and we started discussing. For about half an hour, groups talked amongst themselves, with each member having the chance to share their top 5 issues (or less). This exercise was something I was prepared for, given my Pecha Kucha 7 talk, so I started in my group. Here are the three I shared:

  1. Density
  2. Storytelling
  3. Creative Economy

I added “Living Local” after everyone had shared their issues, and I agreed with most of the table who mentioned EXPO 2017. There were some other duplicates, but I wrote down over 20 things from our group alone. It was a great discussion and it was really interesting to hear where everyone was at. Some of the more memorable things mentioned at my table were “winter city”, “homelessness”, and “waterfront development”.

During a short break the organizers tallied up all the lists to identify the overall group’s top 10 opportunities, challenges, and priorities. Here’s the result (issue with percentage of the group that identified it):

  1. Downtown revitalization (46%)
  2. Crime (29%)
  3. Education / R&D (29%)
  4. Transportation / Infrastructure (25%)
  5. Homelessness (19%)
  6. Brand / Identity (19%)
  7. River Valley Development (17%)
  8. Regional Partnerships (15%)
  9. Promoting the city (15%)
  10. Aboriginal Integration (14%)

A moderated discussion followed, which of course felt like it wasn’t long enough. A few really good comments were made. One I’ll share was from Homeward Trust Executive Director Susan McGee, who said that language is important, and that the word “integration” in #10 on the list probably was not the best choice of words. I thought it was a great point.

Crime & Safety

We finished off the morning with a presentation from EPS Deputy Chief of Police Norm Lipinski. He shared some really great information about the EPS approach, as well as some positive stories about crime in Edmonton. Here are the EPS objectives:

  1. Reduce Crime
  2. Reduce Disorder
  3. Enhance Traffic Safety
  4. Maintain Public Trust

Some of the ways they accomplish those objectives are through community policing, hot spot management, offender management, and business practices. He mentioned the broken window theory, and said he was a big fan of having a visible presence. Norm’s takeaways were that overall crime is down in Edmonton over the last three years, that the rate of solving crime is up, and that we have a top tier police service (also a very young police service). He finished with a funny slide comparing his appearance to that of Kevin Bacon (the resemblance is uncanny). A discussion followed his presentation but I had to leave so I missed it.

I thought the second ONEdmonton forum was great – kudos to EEDC for acting on the feedback for the first event to make this one a success. I look forward to the next forum, where we’ll hopefully start trying to address the execution side of becoming one of the world’s top five mid-size cities.

Recap: ONEdmonton Leaders Forum

Yesterday morning was EEDC’s first ONEdmonton Leaders Forum. The series of events aims to “bring together the region’s most influential leaders to discuss key topics affecting our community.” I am honored to have been invited to participate, likely to represent “youth” along with Cary Williams and a few others. Just over 90 of the 150 or so invited leaders attended the event, and while I’m not going to name any names (aside from the speakers) rest assured it was a very impressive collection of individuals.

The morning started with a welcome and overview from EEDC Board Chair and COO of ProCura, Randy Ferguson. He invited EEDC President & CEO Ron Gilbertson to set the stage for the event. Ron talked about where Edmonton is today (one of 307 mid-size cities in the world) and where we’d like to be. He focused on two key areas: economic success, and quality of life, referencing the Conference Board of Canada’s prosperity ratings as he went. After providing some context, Randy and Ron shared EEDC’s Vision (PDF):

To ensure Edmonton is recognized as one of the world’s top 5 mid-size cities by 2030.

I like it, and I think others in the room did too. That’s the vision the group will be aligning on and working toward achieving. The idea is to try to speak with one voice, hence the title of the forum.

After a quick break, we heard from four speakers:

  1. Reg Milley, President & CEO, Edmonton Airports. Reg talked about the new Stop The Calgary Habit campaign, and about the importance of a healthy local airport. The slogan for the campaign, “when you go south, so does your air service” says it all. Reg implored everyone to “shop local” for air travel.
  2. Jim Taylor, Executive Director, Downtown Business Association. Jim talked about the incredible transformations that have happened downtown in the last decade, and a little about what’s coming. He mentioned that the “cumulative story” is what’s important – all of the changes in aggregate are pretty impressive.
  3. Sol Rolingher, C.St. J., Q.C., Duncan & Craig LLP, River Valley Alliance Chair. Sol talked about the importance of preserving, protecting, and enhancing the river valley, and about local heritage. He has been working with others to preserve some Edmonton artifacts throughout the river valley. I thought he was an incredible speaker, very passionate. He also gave everyone a copy of this awesome map.
  4. Dave Mowat, President & CEO, ATB Financial, EXPO Bid Committee. Dave, with a little help from Randy, talked about the EXPO 2017 bid. I got the feeling that many in the room are excited for the bid, because it’s an opportunity to achieve big things all at once. There was nothing new for me in the presentation, but it was still a good overview.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of time for questions or further discussion, but it sounds like they’ll be working on improving that for future forums. I would have made the following comment, had there been time:

We know we have successes here, but we often don’t do a very good job of telling our story. Like Jim’s “cumulative story” on downtown, or the thriving local tech startup scene (reference by someone else in the group). We need to become better storytellers in order to achieve the vision.

Looking forward to the next forum!

Thoughts on Edmonton 2030

A video entitled “Edmonton 2030 – It’s Our Time” is being broadcast on Global and Citytv today. It was first shown to students at Edmonton Public and Catholic schools on May 20th, and was broadcast on Access on May 23rd. Here’s what it is about:

The video links the ideas of the leaders of our major organizations and institutions with the hopes, dreams, and imagination of Edmonton’s youth. Edmonton 2030 is a provocative teaser that challenges us to consider the many positive attributes of our city and how we might imagine them in the future. It reminds us that the decisions and plans of today are creating the Edmonton our young people will inherit tomorrow.

You can watch the video online at Access.

It’s related in some way to Edmonton Stories, though how isn’t quite clear. The video was developed independently by Doug Goss and was produced by Don Metz of Aquila Productions. Funding and other contributions came from the City of Edmonton, the University of Alberta, NAIT, MacEwan, the Province of Alberta, and Alberta Health Services. Craig Simpson narrates and hosts the 24 minute video.

Doug Goss is more than just an Edmonton-based lawyer (with Bryan and Company). He’s a passionate and extremely involved Edmontonian. Doug is Chairman of the NAIT Board of Governors, Chairman of the Edmonton Eskimos Board of Directors, Chairman of the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation Board of Directors, Co-Chair of the 2010 Grey Cup, and was Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the Heritage Hockey Classic, among other things. He clearly loves this city.

I give Doug lots of credit for getting everyone on board and for creating the video. Anything that causes Edmontonians to think about the future of the city is a good thing as far as I am concerned. I think the core message of the video – the time for us to start building the Edmonton of 2030 is now – is powerful, if somewhat obvious.

The video is far from perfect, however. Here are some of my thoughts on it:

  • There are dozens of Edmontonians who speak in the video, but none of them are members of the so-called next generation (aged 18-40). It’s the people in that demographic who will be building the Edmonton of 2030, so it’s a glaring omission.
  • On the whole, the video seems scattered. There are a few “sections” including education and health, but I think they could be more clearly defined.
  • The use of young children throughout certainly makes the video more approachable, but it also makes the video less about Edmonton specifically. Hovercraft? Holographs? Cure for cancer?
  • At the other end of the spectrum are the more senior vanguard of Edmonton’s post-secondary institutions. All of them receive some great marketing throughout the video but contribute little in the way of vision.
  • The truly provocative and futuristic ideas of the video, including a downtown entertainment complex and a boardwalk in the river valley, receive just a few seconds of screen time and should have played a more prominent role.
  • I find it extremely annoying that the video looks at 2030, while all of the Transforming Edmonton plans look at 2040 (though I recognize that ten years probably doesn’t matter much that far into the future).

I do think the video could be useful for marketing, as Doug points out, and it will get people talking and thinking. As a visionary piece however, I think it misses the mark. Watch the video for yourself – what do you think?