How to participate in TVO AgendaCamp from your couch

Sunday is the first TVO AgendaCamp, taking place at the Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor’s jewel overlooking the beautiful riverside walk and the Detroit skyline. A stunning location for an innovative new format in citizen-powered exploration and social-media enhanced journalism.

Creative facilitator-ninja Dan Rose and I will be helping to run a 3-ring circus of citizen journalism and economic policy thinking.  Linking social media, a BarCamp-inspired unconference and one of Canada’s premier public issues broadcast journalism platforms is a very exciting opportunity for me. The topic – Ontario’s changing economy with a focus on the manufacturing sector and places like Windsor that depend upon it – couldn’t be more relevant or timely.

For those of you who can’t make it to Windsor, will be the place to be from 10:00 am Sunday until 4:30pm. Arm-chair policy wonks and social media junkies can follow along as video is streamed live, as citizen-journalist YouTube videos and Flickr images are uploaded, the Wiki is populated with content and the whole event is live-blogged and Twittered. Use and follow the tag: AgendaCamp. We have MacBooks and FlipVideo cameras available on-site for participants, plus pro equipment and staff from TVO helping to capture the content and stories.

The strategy and platform for this was built by’s great production team, helped along with insight and guidance from Sean Howard.

We have a great platform, an amazing group of on-site participants, a bunch of technology and a beautiful and inspiring venue. I really can’t wait! I hope you can join us online and help us start an important new conversation.

AgendaCamp: Citizen-driven economic intelligence

The global economy is undergoing what appears to be the finance equivalent of a heart attack, the circulatory system of credit now frozen.  The policy response looks like shock therapy. $700 billion in public bailouts (or is that ‘investment’) hanging in the balance, $630 billion in new money being printed by the Federal Reserve together with central banks around the world and sudden and frightening drops in global stock markets. Meanwhile, news that talks on Canada-EU economic integration are due to begin mere days after the Canadian federal election has gone largely unnoticed. It is clear that we are not living in normal times.

How will this instability in the system affect citizens and businesses in the places they call home?  Even before the Wall Street meltdown, Ontario’s local and regional economies were under stress and changing rapidly. The current crisis appears likely to accelerate and exacerbate these changes.

It is said that all politics are local. What about economies?

Dan Dunsky, Executive Producer of TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin, believes that we need to think about Ontario’s economies in the plural and his team has identified that major sectors of Ontario’s economy correspond to our geographic landscape and its people in specific places. How do these places and people adapt to global forces that are largely outside of their control? How can we get ahead of the change curve and make our regions more resilient and adaptable to accelerating change?

To tackle this critically important question about our future well-being, TVO is launching an innovative new project that brings together collaborative events and social media together with premier broadcast journalism and expert inquiry.  I am advising and supporting TVO for this project, “The Agenda with Steve Paikin: on the Road” & AgendaCamp.

We’re looking for participants – like you. More after the jump…

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Boom, Bust, Echo and gas price sensitivity

Cross-posted from
The Cost of Gas Today by Will Gotshall-Maxon

Friday’s Globe and Mail featured a prediction by Jeffrey Rubin, the CIBC World Markets economist, that damage from Hurricane Gustav and other intense storms this season could cause a sudden spike in gas prices to $1.75 a litre.

Every time there is a price spike, the media runs to the local gas station to cover the “pain at the pumps”. But does that pain translate into a change in behaviour? How much of an impact do gas prices have on the commuting public in the GTA? Do increasing gas prices cause people to make different personal transportation decisions, or are households just absorbing the extra costs?

It appears that gas prices are affecting vehicle purchasing decisions (sorry GM), but are consumers switching from private vehicles to other modes of transportation? I would love to see the research on that. (Perhaps our friends at Metrolinx have some sources they can share? If readers know of recent research on this question, please leave a link in the comments.)

Surely demographic factors influence gas price sensitivity and the substitution of one mode of transportation for another. It makes sense that household incomes will affect price sensitivity, with the working poor being hit hardest. At the same time, many service workers need to use private vehicles to get to or perform their work (i.e. not the GO train Bay Street crowd) and have few alternatives. This creates a political problem that will bring calls for action.

But I also believe that there is a relationship to a another familiar demographic trend with political and policy implications: Boomer parents versus their Gen Y children.

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The Politics of the End of Suburbia

Cross-posted from

The economic conditions that supported the tremendous growth of North American suburbs during the last half of the 20th century – cheap energy and the modern industrial production system – appear to be undergoing a sharp reversal. What do these signals of the future mean for the suburbs and the demands that will be placed on politicians asked to respond to these changes?

You don’t have to be a peak oil theorist to recognize – as James Smith, CEO of Shell UK has – that “the era of easy oil is over”. The reality that we are not going to ever return to an age of cheap oil is just starting to sink into the consciousness of the marketplace, electorate and policy-makers. Scenarios of a serious supply crunch and $200 a barrel oil are no longer on the fringe.

The Freakonomics blog at NY Times recently held a quorum inviting a small group of smart and opinionated experts to imagine the future of American suburbia in 40 years time. The responses vary from James Kunstler’s “the suburbs have three destinies, none of them exclusive: as materials salvage, as slums, and as ruins” to the more hopeful “Suburbia will be flexible, it will be smarter, and it will be hybrid” of John Archer.

What about in the Toronto region?

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Ontario government is panning for NextGen Jobs

Digital Media is the hot sector du jour in Ontario, and for good reason. It is one of those rising sectors that are the great hope to support economic growth in an age of de-industrialization. In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a bit of a government-led gold rush going on.

At ICE08, we learned that Ontario’s Ministry of Research & Innovation is investing $9 million in OCAD’s’ Digital Futures Initiative to expand training and research programs in digital media. Sara Diamond, President of OCAD, is a remarkable force of nature and under her leadership, OCAD is aggressively pursuing a reinvigorated research agenda and building partnerships with technology and content industry partners large and small.

We also learned that $10 million is being invested in a new Stratford campus for the University of Waterloo, bringing UW’s acknowledged strength in technology together with Stratford’s vibrant arts and culture community, focusing on digital media.


Both announcements came out of are in addition to the new Next Generation of Jobs Fund, a $1.15 billion initiative modelled after Ontario’s Auto Investment Strategy, which put $500 million into strategic projects and leveraged private investment of $7 billion. The Next Generation of Jobs Fund focuses on three broad sectors: green/clean tech, bio/pharma/health and digital media/ICT. There are three program streams:

What is a “Strategic Opportunity?”

An opportunity where:

  • A large scale global market opportunity exists, coupled with a unique strategy to deal with the competition, or a niche global market opportunity where Ontario has significant capacity and little competition and;
  • Ontario has a demonstrated competitive advantage such as strong private sector strengths including global market leadership, and globally competitive research strength.

Now, here’s an innovation challenge for the Strategic Opportunities Program itself:

How do you identify and evaluate the best strategic opportunities?

The Ministry is holding a series of workshops and doing a SWOT analysis within each of the three focus areas. (sigh)

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good SWOT analysis as much as the next strategy consultant. But have you seen a SWOT analysis yet that provides the needed insight or foresight implied by the goal of developing “next generation jobs”, particularly in an environment of accelerating tech and cultural change?

In the auto industry, panning for job gold is pretty straightforward – you call up the Big 3, the major import manufacturers, the parts and auto technology makers and you’ve got a pretty manageable group to work with. Eventually BIGCO installs some equipment or builds a plant somewhere. Now look at a map of the 11,000 enterprises in the entertainment and creative industries in the Toronto CMA, including digital media and ICT, and you’ll see the problem: 77% of this $9 billion industry are sole practitioners or micro-enterprises. That’s a mighty big river to pan in!

In order for this strategy to be successful, strategic opportunities have to be found, validated by expertise and evaluated against investment criteria in order to be funded. Is there a community engagement strategy that could support this process? What role does strategic foresight, design thinking and collaborative innovation play in its execution? I’m interested in finding out. Leave a comment if you have some thoughts.

Innovation. Creativity. Enterprise.

iStock_000002456857Medium[ICE08] A vision for Canada’s future in digital and interactive media and technology…

In 2018, Canada has embraced its role as a model power of digital innovation and become a key node in the emerging global network economy.

Accelerating technological change has altered human behaviour patterns and radically reduced the transaction costs of communication, negotiation and enforcement between and among firms and individual creators.

The web is us. We are increasingly aware of each other, our interdependency and the artifacts of our physical lives made digital. We are also rediscovering lost aspects of ourselves through our heightened relationship with the Other. Canada’s digital citizens have embraced the creative age and are rediscovering their individual creative agency, sense of purpose and values.

Significant private and public investment in ultra-broadband fibre and the continuous march of accelerating technological change is reducing the cost of moving bits towards zero, both over fixed and wireless networks. This inevitable technosocial reality has reconfigured the relationship between creator, content and audience.

Infinitely abundant digital content itself has been transformed. Content is currency, signal and signifier of resources that are naturally scarce: attention, the rare and valuable relationship between creator and audience, unique experiences of transcendent collectivity and the appreciation of rare social and physical objects of culture.

Canada’s media and technology industry underwent a painful transformation process, remaking the supply chain from a few large companies into open commercialization networks of micro-enterprises building social web tools and embracing the economics of abundance.

The new Canadian broadband and media conglomerates embraced their roles as pools of brand-power and capital within a broader open commercialization ecosystem. They shifted their business models and attention towards the edges, embracing the 1% as important to their future adding new venture investment arms attached to their innovation groups.

Together, this tightly interwoven but loosely structured network economy is accelerating through time, projecting the cultural creative values of Canadians into a hopeful shared global future.

Enter the DEMOCAMP/ICE08 blogging contest.

Duh, Community IS the Framework!

A little more than 2 years after David Crow launched the BarCamp unconference meme in Canada with a mighty yawp, it looks like this “community thing” is catching on in Toronto’s technology scene.

The National Angels Organization has found religion, the Financial Post picked up the excitement, the Toronto Board of Trade loves being host to the energy of DemoCamp, Peter Evans and the crew at MaRS are great supporters of the community, John MacRitchie and the Ontario Centres of Excellence is actively engaged, the organizers of the Mesh Conference are kindred spirits and provide an important platform, Greg Wilson and the University of Toronto are onside, Rick Segal, Austin Hill and other VCs and Angels are joining in, Interactive Ontario sees the value and many other established institutions of the technology and business community are taking note of one of Toronto’s main sources of tech excitement.

The community is an open platform for collaboration, where the interests and resources of a diverse set of private industry organizations, educational and public sector support institutions can be pooled for shared benefit.

So who’s not getting it?

More after the jump…

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LIFT: Holm Friebe and Philipp Albers, “The Hedonistic Company”

Holm Friebe and Philipp Albers delivered a presentation at LIFT on a topic that’s close to my heart: the future of work, exploring new forms of self-organizing “unorganizations” of creative free agents. Of course, I’ve been thinking about similar issues as I consider how to scale Remarkk! Consulting, so I took particular interest and had a great conversation with the guys over fondue. (which, btw, is the best part of LIFT!)

Friebe’s book, Wir nennen es Arbeit (“We call it work”) is a bestseller in Germany that has been described as “youth economic manifesto”. They organized a conference in Berlin also called Wir nennen es Arbeit Festival-Camp, which looked like tremendous fun and is possible inspiration for a Toronto FreeAgentCamp or Future of Work conference. These guys apparently invented Powerpoint Karaoke (fact check anyone?), and put on events like a poetry slam with sms voting and electro-shock feedback. They are looking to develop coworking spaces to accommodate their starfish adhocracy.  This is not your father’s creative agency.
Presentation notes after the jump…

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