Vicki McLeod.

Untrending: Catalyst for positive change

Maple Ridge hosted Innovation in Emerging Cities Forum.

On April 4, Maple Ridge played host to the Innovation in Emerging Cities Forum.

The event brought together representatives from industry, education, and government to discuss ways to foster a climate of innovation and how to attract, develop and retain the talent required to sustain such a culture.

I had the pleasure of emceeing the event and working with the City of Maple Ridge’s economic development department, which planned and organized the forum.

Discussing the purpose of the forum and the possibilities it offered, I was struck by the long-term view of the presenters and the city host.

Economic development is a long game, and while technology advances at a dizzying speed, and opportunities abound, patience is required to fully realize its potential.

The forum opened with traditional songs and blessings from the Kwantlen First Nation. We were reminded to welcome one another as travellers who may have come a long distance to be together, and to be open-hearted and respectful.

The morning keynote speaker, Steve Dotto, Canada’s most beloved geek, both entertained and enlightened us. His key message urged us to take responsibility for understanding our rapidly changing world in order to provide the kind of insight and leadership needed to navigate change.

Throughout the day, panelists from all levels of government and innovative businesses, both local and global, reiterated that the world of work has changed dramatically, and industry and government must respond.

All emphasized the importance of creating a strong foundation for change by developing the needed infrastructure – technical and human, and starting from where we are. Key to success in the long-term is the development of relationships and meaningful partnerships.

Bestselling author Seth Godin is often quoted as saying, “It is not companies that create innovation, nor organizations, it is people.”

More than 200 citizens registered to attend the forum. Attendees were invited to participate throughout the day via Slido, an audience interaction tool that offers crowdsourced Q&A and real-time engagement. Panelists offered insights and perspectives based on their areas of expertise and addressed questions from the attendees.

The aim of organizers was to bring together local businesses, interested individuals, and industry and government leaders to start a conversation in the community in order to support initiatives in innovation. There were a number of important threads that emerged from the day’s topics.

In addition to bricks and mortar infrastructure, such as post-secondary institutions, manufacturing facilities, and a robust fibre optic network, the kind of creativity and adaptability needed for the community to be truly innovative requires partnership and collaboration between people.

Maple Ridge has a great deal to be proud of in terms of local innovation. Showcasing the large number of innovative businesses in Maple Ridge through tours and open houses and connecting entrepreneurs and industry with local students through job and education fairs are some of the ways we can work together.

Essential to the mix is collaboration amongst all levels of government and industry.

At the forum, Maple Ridge laid out the welcome mat to potential investors, government partners and education leaders. More than that, we came together under one roof to connect local businesses and organizations.

We began talking.

There is power in conversation.

There is power in shared ideas and in asking the right questions.

In our highly connected and technologically advanced world, we have access to a world-wide network to further innovation in education, health care, agriculture, arts and science, and myriad human endeavors.

The recent Innovation in Emerging Cities Forum will be a catalyst for positive change, as long as we carry the conversation forward. Interested? Email invest@mapleridge.ca to find out more.

Vicki McLeod is an author, TEDx speaker, and award-winning entrepreneur. She is a business and personal coach and consultant. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or find her at vickimcleod.com.

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