Toronto Tech Week: May 28 to June 1

ICT Toronto bears some fruit. This should create some excitement:

During the week of May 28 – June 1, 2006 Toronto’s ICT (Information and Communication Technology) cluster will come together to celebrate, innovate and develop business over the course of a week called Toronto Technology Week (TTW). During Toronto Technology Week a series of events showcasing the depth and growth of Toronto’s technology sector will be organized such as CIO Breakfast Seminars, Job Fairs, Innovation & Excellence Showcase and other educational seminars.

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U.S. – Incarceration Nation?

A U.S. Justice Department report released on November 30 showed that a record 7 million people — or one in every 32 American adults — were behind bars, on probation or on parole at the end of last year. The incarceration rate in the U.S. was 702 per 100,000, 6 times that in Canada (116) or Australia (112) and compares to England/Wales rate of 139.

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A Social Mission for a Blogging Consultant?

I’ve been wanting to develop a social mission statement for my consulting practice for some time now. It’s in development, and I’ve asked a few people to collaborate, via Google Docs of course. Not ready for prime-time yet, but on its way.

What has been driving this is my experience of the last year blogging and consulting. My work is not value-neutral. It is analytical, but my work is framed by my worldview, as is anyone’s. Blogging forces me to articulate myself more precisely, to hone my arguments in the face of criticism and respond to other very different worldviews. It exposes me to a fantastic collision of perspectives that inform my work.

I am inspired by the Cluetrain idea that markets are conversations, Shel and Scoble’s book Naked Conversations and by Chris and Tara’s work behind BarCamp and Citizen Agency. Making meaning is an important creative act in a market characterized by conversation. Who are you? What do you stand for? Do I want to know you? Do I want to do business with you?

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So why a social mission for a consultant? Aren’t consultants all guns for hire, who swear to objectivity? Isn’t a consultant supposed to be neutral? Doesn’t a social mission belong to the world of nonprofits? Isn’t the exercise dangerously and inherently political?

My point is that so-called consultant objectivity and neutrality is a myth. Consultants are motivated by many things that affect their work: worldviews, past experiences, the hope to get more work, to give the client what they want to hear not what they need to hear. I don’t like these aspects of my adopted profession. The problem with consulting in my opinion is that values are artificially removed when they should actually be central, articulated and transparent.

I can’t help but have a need to place myself in a larger, meaningful context. I am an independent. I am Citizen Wonk. I am an agent of my values. My values infuse my work and help me decide what work I wish to do.

I’m interested to know other consultants who have gone through this exercise themselves, whether in a formal or informal way. What’s your mission and how do you incorporate it into your work? How do you balance your desire to live your values with your need to make a living and get the next gig? Leave a comment or email me.

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John & Malgosia @ Golden Gate Bridge

Ok, apparently John and Malgosia were far too stylish to stay in Toronto anyway. How completely left coast. I love it!

Open Source Innovation Models

Ross at the MaRS blog has an interesting post on Open Source Science. He points to an interview at HBS Working Knowledge with Karim Lakhani. I agree with Ross that the most promising aspects of open-source approaches are the possibilities of collaborating between domains, at Johansson’s intersections.

I told Tom and Jevon at Enterprise2.0Camp that i think one of the most interesting applications of Enterprise 2.0 collaboration tools is to facilitate innovation networks. Innovation networks are not open-source by definition, but they lie on a continuum of closed/proprietary to open/public domain innovation approaches. In my observations of competitive social behaviour among companies, institutions and non-profit organizations, there are many structural, political and social barriers to high-levels of collaboration on such a strategically sensitive area as research, innovation and product development. There are also strong collective economic incentives for doing it: reduced risk, reduced individual capital requirements, faster innovation cycles and giving a cluster of SME’s the research capacity of a large multinational.

Back at BarCampToronto2.0, I facilitated a session where we hoped to understand the economic rationale of open-source. You can see the rough notes from the session here. (Thanks again Deb!)

  • Why do developers contribute to open-source software projects?
  • What is the exchange of value that happens within open-source projects?
  • What is the relationship between companies and open-source communities?
  • What can we learn from open-source software that can be applied to other areas of scientific, technological, business, social and policy innovation?

I hope to continue developing that line of thought, but it now sits on a back-burner with many other ideas waiting for an opportunity to develop them further. In the context of the literature on creative clusters, I believe that open-source innovation and Enterprise 2.0 collaboration are two very promising areas for further research and practice.

My thesis: the global megalopolis that can integrate new innovation models such as these into its structure and culture will, in aggregate, innovate faster and over time become more competitive in a post-industrial, post-information age global economy.

Anybody want to collaborate?

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Gender Bias in Nerdville…er…DemoCamp?

Bryce brought to my attention Jennifer’s post about gender bias in the DemoCamp community. You should also read Rohan’s recent post on the subject of diversity and Web 2.0. I think we can agree that there is a problem. The ways to fix it aren’t obvious or trivial, however. My thoughts on the sources of the problem after the jump.

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“Design is the Mortar in Social Housing that Works”

Today is the final installment of Remarkk’s Shark Week Creative Hubs Week and I wanted to highlight the social sustainability dimension that is sometimes lost in the heavy panting over attracting Richard Florida’s Creative Class and the eagerness of the culture sector to move up the public policy agenda. I’ll save a critique of Florida for another time.

Today’s Globe and Mail has a story about Vancouver architect Gregory Henriquez and his new book Towards an Ethical Architecture, which will be launched at Vancouver’s Interurban Gallery today. The article poses some important challenges to both social-housing advocates, our municipal politicians and the NIMBY crowd.
Towardsethicalarchitecture

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Global Connect: Wonks Gone Wild!

GlobalconnectI will be attending the Global Connect conference at MaRS next week, December 6th-8th. A global network of innovation and commercialization policy types and community leaders, this should be an interesting gathering for a policy nerd like me. Their vision:

Bring the benefits of globalization to regional technology entrepreneurs and local economies.

I am hoping to learn something about what is going on in vibrant innovation and technology clusters in the rest of the world and hope to begin some conversations and establish some connections between emerging (and recently funded) angel networks and the TorCamp community, i.e. Graham’s rich people and nerds.

Within the ICT Toronto framework, it has been well recognized that innovative small startup companies and the talent that drives them are an important part of the future success of the technology cluster in the Toronto region. However, there has been relatively little progress on this front, and it is up to the communities of practice (entrepreneurs, technologists and investors) to develop these missing links. Government can bring the horses to water, but it can’t make them drink.

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