Alright, I made it up, Econo-tural isn’t really a word. I was trying to think of a word that equally considers the essence of an economy and cultural identity. You see I’m a firm believer that these two things go hand-in-hand, forming the expressions of a society.Nine years ago I left a smaller town that didn’t have a very diversified or appealing culture, and you could say the same about it’s economy, at best. Its economy was more visibly collapsing, and I didn’t see it getting any better. The writing was on the wall. I didn’t agree with the depressed bitter culture… the people, the lifeblood of this city, wasn’t one that would thrive in difficult times. The fabric of society was weak there. I made a decision to move to Kitchener-Waterloo a region which displayed a positive culture. A vibe you could feel everywhere. Hints of a promising economy. That was the beginning of 2007. If I’ve ever been absolutely correct in a general assumption, that was one of those times. Waterloo Region has never let me down in that regard, in fact it’s lifted me higher than I thought possible at the time. I’m not the only one who thinks so. The region has gained attention throughout the Province and beyond.
In the spirit of keeping this short and sweet, I’ll spare you the onslaught talk of my deep fondness and pride in this city I now call home. I’ll cut to the chase; one of the things that makes Waterloo Region great is something many of us agree on. Collaboration. The willingness to work, share, learn, and grow together. It’s choosing to be positive and open rather than negative and selfish. It’s a different attitude to how you interact with those around you. Your colleagues. Your clients. Your suppliers. Your friends. The person sitting next to you at the café. It’s a conversation. Realizing it’s a small world, the positive energy is reciprocal. It connects you, and moves you up and around. Doors open. Doors suddenly everywhere. What I’m trying to say is that it’s nothing short of amazing and beneficial for everyone.
I know this isn’t the case in the majority of Ontario cities. In fact, it can be quite the opposite in some regions, like the one I left. And so, I started wondering: “how often do we collaborate as a province?” Ontario is as massive as it is a diverse land complete with natural barriers and a lot of "space in between". (Beautiful space might I add) We’re bigger than most countries in the world, so it’s a lot of space, with room for improvement, such as high-speed rail. But we live in an age that makes it easy to communicate despite these challenges that only 100 years ago would've been significantly more difficult. Modern technology and accessibility makes this easier than ever. A perfect example is this very board of directors (YPNO). The Founders in Thunder Bay understood the need to branch out across the Province, with other directors in Kenora, Hamilton, New Market, Sudbury, and Waterloo to name a few. We meet monthly using web video conferencing, and more recently a web based team communication app, and other online tools.
What if all of us took some time to stop and think about collaborating across the Province? If you’re in Windsor for example, why not reach out to your equivalents in Niagara Falls? Both are border cities with the U.S., perhaps with similar challenges or strengths. Some associations or organizations are using this model to spark creative thought or problem solving.
A lot of Ontario is going through a tough time right now. Some people fail, some people strive when challenged. What if we all connected, bridged those gaps, and bettered each other. What if we created a new energy right across the province? Made some new friends where we may not have thought to. What could that do for you? What could that do for someone else?
I can promise you one thing, it won’t be negative. So jump on the web, open a map, pick a city, take a virtual trip, find your equivalent and reach out! Maybe you’ll have coffee some day and solve the world’s problems. Who knows! It comes down to attitude, and the choices we make.
Past Chair of the Kitchener-Waterloo Young Professionals, and works as the Sales & Marketing Manager at INS Inc.
Director of YPN Development, YPNO