It’s a new hopeful trend! Albertans have been inspired lately with the enormous power that lies within a good idea. Creativity is where it’s at. I was honoured last week to take part in Canada’s first Imagination Conversation at Edmonton’s Winspear Centre. It was a collection of Alberta’s most innovative business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators and artists, joining internationally known speakers, creativity advocates and education pioneers. Organized by the good folks at Creative Alberta, it was a chance to build a more, well… creative Alberta!
As an economist, I mused about how creative solutions can solve economic and social problems. So here’s my Top Ten List of issues in our province to which I’d like to see more creativity applied:
1. Oil pipeline leakage or oil tanker spills: Can Alberta assure the rest of the country (and the world) that we’ve put the best creative minds to work on preventing a pipeline rupture or tanker spill from turning into a disaster? Now there’s a problem worth solving.
2. The Edmonton-Calgary corridor: Can we make the QE2 highway corridor safer, more environmentally friendly and more cost efficient? How about that high-speed railway? And if that’s the direction we’re headed, can we find creative solutions to build it in a cost effective manner?
3. Homelessness in Edmonton and Calgary: A lot of work is already being done on this and I respect that. Still, more creative solutions are needed to find additional ways to end homelessness. It is our enduring shame that people in this province live without an address.
4. Education is the best investment: Our provincial government has made enormous strides in addressing the needs in education. But what other creative ideas can be applied? We constantly need to examine what we can do to ensure the best, brightest and most creative students on the planet are from Alberta! That’s where our future really lies.
5. Re-investing our energy riches: It seems to be unanimous that we need to set aside more of our resource revenues for the future. But how? The problem seems simple, but the solutions are, in a practical sense, complex. What creative solutions will pave the way?
6. Rural decline: The slow economic hollowing out of rural Alberta is impacting many rural communities. Are there creative solutions to prevent this? There’s no limit to creative potential, so no rural community should have to settle for death by default.
7. Economic diversity: This is a problem that Albertans have grappled with for generations. Is there a creative solution? Maybe—or maybe not? If not, what’s a creative solution to making peace with our chronic boom-and-bust economy?
8. Water resources: Albertans love their water, be it a river, a lake or a glass of cold, refreshing H2O. But our water resources are in jeopardy. What creative solutions can we come up with to conserve our water resources without damaging our economy?
9. Renewable energy: Alberta has grown into one of the wealthiest, most prosperous places on earth on the wealth of our hydro-carbon resources. With good management, this will continue well into the future. But what creative solutions can be applied to ensure our province will ride the energy wave in the years ahead — including tech-nologies which will go beyond hydrocarbons?
10. Urban renewal: Alberta’s cities need to become places of beauty, inspiration and example. What creative ideas can be applied to make them places people want to be? Plain and uninspiring communities won’t attract the best and brightest workers of the world—and that’s what Alberta is competing for. How can we build more vibrant communities around our province that will be where people (from everywhere) want to work, live, visit and play?
Alberta has been blessed in so many ways—both financially and creatively. But the world is rapidly changing on us. It’s time to tackle our 21st century issues with our creative capacity. New ideas and ways of thinking are needed. And if the calibre of people attending the Imagination Conversation is a good measure, we’re definitely moving in the right direction.
With no shortage of issues—let’s get thinking!