What will be your legacy?

From a recent TJ column:

I recently appeared before the Nova Scotia Commission on Building our New Economy to provide my views on how Nova Scotia could foster a stronger economic foundation for the future. The commission is chaired by the president of Acadia University and is mandated to tour the province and consult with business, community and academic stakeholders and then report back to the premier and the legislature.

I talked with the commission on a variety of topics that I thought would help Nova Scotia move toward a stronger economy. I provided my thoughts on how we could attract more investment to the province and on how we may be able to foster more high growth potential entrepreneurs.

I talked about the need to view immigration through a more strategic lens and how we are not leveraging our pervasive broadband infrastructure for employment opportunities around the region.

The last question put to me by the chairman was an interesting one. He is determined the commission’s work will be more than just an academic exercise. He asked me how we could encourage Nova Scotians to embrace a new economic agenda.

This is the crux of the problem. It has been hard to appeal to people on the grounds of personal economic insecurity. Most Nova Scotians and New Brunswickers are doing quite well.

It’s becoming harder and harder to use the “do it for your kids” argument as many have seen their children move away already.

I suggested that ‘shame’ might be a good motivator. Do we really want to be the generation of leaders that lets Nova Scotia (and New Brunswick) become even more economically unstable? Ultimately that is a nonstarter as people aren’t really motivated by shame.

Driving home in my car after meeting the Commission, I settled on the issue of ‘legacy’ as the organizing principle for engaging the current generation of community leaders to move forward a bold new agenda for economic prosperity.

It is common today to hear politicians say they aren’t concerned about their legacy. I say this is a problem. Today’s politicians should hold themselves and their actions up against the best of the best in their province from decades past.

Today’s senior public servants should do likewise. In New Brunswick they should look back at the years when medicare was rolled out and when equal opportunity became the law of the land.

They should remember times when the public service did very interesting things and helped turn the big ideas of politicians into workable public policy.

The province’s business leaders should also consider their legacy – not only as businesspeople but as builders of community. What good is it if an entrepreneur builds a successful business as the community around them falters?

When they are writing up your biography for admission to the Order of Canada what will they say? That you worked tirelessly to build up your business and your community?

When they are carving your bronze bust for prominent display in a public park, what will be written on the front? That you were the quintessential community leader? That you helped turn things around during a fairly bleak time?

Many of the challenges facing Nova Scotia are similar to New Brunswick. It is unlikely either province will fall off a cliff anytime soon. We will muddle through. There are constitutional commitments that essentially ensure the federal government will continue to top up provincial tax revenues so that we can access health care and other public services.

But muddle through shouldn’t be good enough. What kind of legacy is that? You wouldn’t want your epitaph to read “he just muddled through.” The same should hold for our communities and for the province.

Let’s put legacy front and centre again. Maybe that will be just the motivator to get people serious about working to change our economic trajectory.

5 thoughts on “What will be your legacy?

  1. I couldn’t find this TJ article (your population ‘conspiracy’ article was excellent though). I think perhaps either you or the President of Acadia misunderstand the point of this ‘exercise’. What it sounds to me like you are assuming is that ‘economic growth’ MEANS “how do we get these idiots to back up shale gas or other industries WE like”.

    IF that is the point, then you have a problem and I don’t see a real solution. Again, in NB even if there IS tons of gas, the price is so low that its virtually a non starter. The pipeline may be a short term boost, but given how royalties from the natural gas pipeline played out, it certainly is doubtful whether it will be the cash cow Frank McKenna thinks it will be.

    IF, however, economic growth means something more akin to ‘prosperity’ then that’s something completely different. Fredericton brags about its new startups, which is a bit of a stretch, but anyway, ANYTHING is a step up-and how many people are out there grumbling about “all these dang computer companies”. What environment are they wrecking? What resources are they using?

    In short, I have a hard time believing that people don’t want economic growth just because ‘most are doing all right’. It’s true that they may not want the things that poor government planning brings-namely, increased traffic and higher taxes to service growing government desires-like convention centres and recreational facilities.

    I think you may be tainted a little too much by the shale gas issue here, where ‘economic growth’ is practically defined by reliance on shale gas or oil pipelines. Nova Scotia is a little different, so I don’t think people need to be SHAMED into economic growth. I think you are forgetting that economic growth-when it is REAL and RESPONSIBLE, is a GOOD thing. The vast majority would probably LOVE it, if its done in a responsible manner. As a final example, on their facebook page is the mention of a wind farm in Lunenberg. Like NB, there is NO reason why a wind farm needs to be right next to a municipality, there is TONS of crown land out there. In NB the windiest place is around Mount Carleton, where nobody has lived in hundreds of years or within hundreds of kilometers.

    And finally, if they REALLY don’t want it to be an academic exercise they should pay more than a token amount of interest to social media. It takes more than sticking up a facebook page, a dozen boring lectures on youtube from old guys in suits, and a ‘wordle’ from each meeting. When your idea of ‘inclusion’ means that when people take time out of their busy lives to attend such a meeting, you do more than put people in a group and ask them to come up with marketing phrases.

  2. Thanks for the commentary, David. The legacy idea reminds me of something a Quechua-Aymara (indigenous person in Bolivia) man once told me: that his goal in all decision-making was to be a good ancestor.

    Mikel, who does social media well and what are they doing? What you described (tossing up a Facebook page, posting old-guy videos, and a Wordle) is certainly not enough ..we also patrol obscure New Brunswick blogs for cranky comments deriding our efforts. In fact, we post 2 Wordles per meeting ..50% more than you give us credit for ..and some of the old guys are women not in suits and even youngish.

    Personally, as the guy mainly responsible for engaging through social media on this, it seems somewhat fatuous at times, simply a place for ranting, but then we get directed to profoundly interesting resources or hear personal stories that bring data to life. We are not getting a lot of uptake on post-a-video via our website other than corporate vids and the ones we do of talking heads. This is understandable given our rather broad topic (a Commission on shale gas would likely elicit more). ‘Sticking up a Facebook page’ takes little effort and, if an end in itself, is disingenuous uni-directional engagement for optics. Ours has generated many new conversations, user-connections, research trails, interaction between citizen and Commission, broad circulation of event notices, generated private e-conversations, and some laughs. It has also been quite a bit of work. Still, I would like to take it deeper beginning in May with a tool called Convo.

    The material generated in meetings and small group discussions is forming the bulk of our interim report/discussion paper.

    One more thing: I hope you noticed that the posting about the wind farm was prefaced by a ‘what-do-you-think?’ lead in. It wasn’t an endorsement or opinion post. Intuitively, it does seem odd that so many sites are chosen so close to communities; in the case of the Queens’ County project, cottagers are nearby. Of course, the three most considered factors in these choices for the proponents seem to be proximity to grid, roads for access, and wind conditions.

    Thanks for your thoughts ..next time, could you throw in some nifty marketing phrases? Mark Austin, Dir. Research & Defensive Communications, NS ONE Commission, Old Barns, NS

  3. If you want to see interesting social media and what they are doing check out kickstarter, citizinvestor, designcrowd.ca, even the causes application on facebook (it may have been on your site, but if so, I didn’t see it), and startupgenome.com. However, the main problem is that the commission exists for ‘conversations’. 240 ‘likes’ on facebook and 36 people ‘talking about this’ should be clue enough that when most people hear “government commission” the response is to run screaming in the other direction.

    If people haven’t learned it yet, they are about to when your ‘report’ gets filed and then forgotten. The point with social media 2.0 is that people DO something, they don’t TALK about something.

    A recent CBC report in Toronto talked about how many billions would stay in the local economy if people simply sourced local food. On this website I didn’t even see a MENTION of ‘buying local’. There’s one video from the fruit growers, and instead of saying how wonderful Nova Scotia apples are, its a gripe about how there are too many regulations on fruit growers (which basically tells the viewer that those in the industry want more power to apply whatever pesticides they want, hire who they want and under whatever conditions). Worst of all, she doesn’t even say what the regulations ARE! In short, OneNS features as one of its few videos a warning for people who are maybe thinking about getting into fruit growing-don’t even think about it, there are too many regulations! Yikes!

    There are hardly any videos at all, and its interesting to note that NONE of them are of any of the actual participants at the public meetings. Anybody who HASN”T yet gone screaming in the other direction will see the ‘wordle’ stuff and state the obvious that one facebook commenter said “most of these are all the same and will anything even come from this?”

    As for Convo, there is little point in developing new social media tools when everybody is ignoring the ones you are using. Its a bad sign when you think setting up a facebook account is ‘unidirectional’ at the outset, but if you think that, there is really NO point in doing all the work to advance to convo in order to, what, get even more unidirectional conversations?

    Here’s some helpful advice: if you are trying to talk about a ‘new’ economy, for the Love of God stop talking to old people who spend most of their time complaining about how too much has changed. Get off your butt, grab a video camera or even just your cellphone and go over to the nearest high school and start talking to the people who will be BUILDING the ‘new economy’. Too many people in social media are wonderful with the media, but lousy with the social.

  4. “In New Brunswick they should look back at the years when medicare was rolled out and when equal opportunity became the law of the land.”

    So, we had some people who had the guts to do things back then, even when they knew many would not like what they did. Today, our ‘leaders’ are afraid to say or do anything that might offend, and the commentariat is full of those who have achieved little, have no demonstrable expertise on anything, yet are full of certainty on how to develop the ‘new economy’.

  5. Good grief man, what province are you living in? OUR ‘leaders’ say almost nothing EXCEPT to offend. Have you listened to Flemming talk about doctors? Alward lectures everybody on the benefits of shale gas, even protestors. The minister of finance is usually a little low key, but he’s been preaching austerity ever since the election-even while axing the property taxes for apartment owners and those with second homes.

    The only people protesting medicare was doctors, and equal opportunity ONLY succeeded because of the byrne report, and the protests in Moncton by the french when french was not recognized in city hall even though almost half the population at the time was french.

    Today in front of the legislature there is almost weekly protest, something even the stormy sixties never saw in NB (except for more rights for the french). Heck, Robichaud had it easy compared to Alward. The people who were protesting were on HIS side.

    Maybe your last shot is aimed at me, even though you don’t know anything about me, or maybe a shot at David or Mr. Austin’s entire enterprise of trying to build conversations with all those people who ‘have achieved little’, but I’m really not sure WHO you think has ‘demonstrable expertise’. Even successful entrepreneurs may know something about how to create a business, but that doesn’t necessarily mean knowledge of how to ‘create an economy’. I’m yet to meet ANYBODY who can make that claim. Heck Richard Florida just commented on the new economy and was universally derided here.

    I think the Nova Scotia Commission is at least a step up from not having any conversations AT ALL. And while the public in some people’s opinion is pretty low, it is the public which is the whole point of developing the economy. And having read an awful lot from those who DO have demonstrable expertise, and who HAVE achieved some measure of success, I can say that usually I see very little difference in the views of them and the rest of the general public. Heck Man, Frank McKenna just gave a speech where he claimed that New Brunswick can get $7 BILLION dollars in royalties from gas and oil! And you think the PUBLIC are the dumb ones??

Comments are closed.