Tagvancouver

Connecting Social Innovators in Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland

I facilitated a session at the Wiring the Social Economy unconference in Vancouver yesterday about connecting social innovators around the Cascadia bioregion. Specifically, the discussion focused on how best to connect folks working on similar issues in Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland. Lots of great folks showed up and offered their thoughts — thanks to everyone who participated!
Here are my raw notes from the session. Notes from other sessions can be found on the conference wiki.

Connecting Social Innovators in Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland
Wiring the Social Economy
Vancouver, BC
December 4, 2010

Session facilitated by: Chris Coldewey – coldewey AT gmail – chriscoldewey.com

Session premise:
Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland are culturally very similar, and are filled with people tackling similar problems. The border shouldn’t be such a hindrance to communication and sharing, but it is. How can we connect social innovators across these three cities so that we can learn what’s working in each city, share best practices, and inspire each other?

Raw session notes:
  • Why
    • Need to create learning community that people in each city can sign on to
    • One benefit could be getting a better understanding of cultural/political diffs
    • Not just about sharing, but BC can project its influence for the larger benefit of the region
  • How
    • Rallying meme: Republic of Cascadia. Create a unifying glossary of terms to brand the movement
    • Tedx as inspiration: Create a “TedxCascadia” or “ChangeCamp” that brings together people from Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland.
    • Create a “Sister Cities” one-day event framework (like Tedx in general) that could be franchised/replicated by people wanting to create similar “sister cities” types of conferences around the world
    • Collaborative organizing
    • Include Victoria too!
  • Kinship areas btw YVR/SEA/PDX
    • Housing
    • Composting
    • Open data
    • Transportation
    • Small business
    • Food carts
    • Community-based broadband
    • Startup tech cos
    • Possible themes: Environment, Culture, Economy
  • Offline vs. offline issues
    • In-person conferences are great, but are expensive and by definition can only include a few people
    • Could have simultaneous conferences and stream video from different locations to each other (like when Tedx confs show videos)
    • Unconference format can be useful, but there may need to be an alternative for more in-depth discussions
  • How to keep the momentum between annual conferences
    • Regional awards / award ceremonies
    • Big event annually, smaller events throughout the year. E.g., Compost or Housing get-together / field trip / mini-conf
    • Online/offline: Universities like Emily Carr are good at connecting offline and online learning
    • Online tools: e.g. Maestroconference (conference call service that enables facilitators to break listeners into groups)
  • What exists now

Big-Head Mode IRL

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Vancouver artist Eric Testreote:

I made this as my costume for Halloween 2009. It was kind of inspired by big-head mode seen in videogames. I really wanted to get the faceted geosphere look with wireframe.

How great is this? So disorienting. Someone please start a make-your-own-big-head (MYOBH) business. I will be your first customer.

via BERG. Yes, I had to go all the way to London in my RSS reader to discover this fellow Vancouver resident.

Vancouver: Come for the mountains, stay because you’re weird

We do more world-changing things [in Vancouver] than the rest of the country combined. Why here? Is it because we have mountains? The best brand-new breakthrough ideas come from people who don’t think like everyone else. They have to be weird people. What was it that got them here and how do we preserve that opportunity?

Michael Brown, executive director of clean tech VC firm Chrysalix, speaking about Vancouver’s tech industry in BC Business.

Vancouver ahead of the curve on open civic data

The O’Reilly Radar blog speculates on what a city with open data access might look like, in a recent post cleverly entitled How Long Is Your City’s Tail?:

It has all of the familiar city-run departments providing all of the services and assistance they’ve always provided – that’s not going away. Then it also has public services offered by the mega companies, the Google Traffic, IBM’s Smarter Cities, and so forth. Those are huge added value to these open cities – they’re used by a large percentage of residents and make life in those cities better.

But THEN, it also has an insane long tail of services set up and run by anyone with an interest in doing so, just by hooking into city data, distributing it in a new way, improving on it, mashing it up, giving it back to the city, etc. These services each individually get used by a small minority of people, but collectively they get used by more than any other single source in the city.

The post namechecks San Francisco and Washington DC as open data leaders – but with wouldbe-Canadian-immigrant pride, I noted: no Vancouver? Didn’t they hear:

As part of its commitment to enhancing citizen engagement, fostering digital innovation and improving service delivery, the City of Vancouver is taking bold steps to provide more of its data to the public…By freely sharing its data in accessible formats — while respecting privacy and security concerns — Vancouver is joining many government agencies in moving to harness the energy and involvement of citizens, community-based organizations and private businesses in everything from creative community problem-solving to the development of new service delivery ideas and solutions.

That language is from Vancouver’s open data portal, which is enabling all kinds of cool applications for civic data — such as Vantrash.ca, which will send you email or twitter reminders before garbage pickup day.

So Vancouver is opening itself up. Will the rest of Canada follow Vancouver’s lead? David Eaves, one of the developers and champions of Vancouver’s open data practices, notes that there are deep-seated political differences between US and Canadian views regarding ownership of public data. He writes:

In the United States the burden is on the government to explain why it is withholding that which the people own (a tradition that admittedly is hardly perfect as anyone alive from the years 2000-2008 will attest to). But don’t underestimate the power of this norm. Its manifestations are everywhere, such as in the legal requirement that any document created by the United States government be published in the public domain (e.g. it cannot have any copyright restrictions placed on it) or in America’s vastly superior Freedom of Information laws.

This is very different notion of sovereignty than exists in Canada. This country never deviated from the European context described above. Sovereignty in Canada does not lie with the people, indeed, it resides in King George the III’s descendant, the present day Queen of England. The government’s data isn’t your, mine, or “our” data. It’s hers. Which means it is at her discretion, or more specifically, the discretion of her government servants, to decide when and if it should be shared. This is the (radically different) context under which our government (both the political and public service), and its expectations around disclosure, have evolved.

Here’s hoping Vancouver’s public servants uphold their enlightened views on data sovereignty, and that Vantrash is just the beginning of Vancouver’s “insane long tail” of open data-driven services!

© 2017 chris coldewey

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