This is an excerpt from my ebook “Who Gets to Lead When We Don’t Know Where We Are Going or What We Want to Become?”, co-written with John McLaughlin, president emeritus of the University of New Brunswick.
Let’s cut to the chase: We believe New Brunswick can change, if its traditional leadership embraces the power of the commons. They, or should we say “we,” hold the keys to the province’s success.
In truth, the technological and social changes now disrupting life within New Brunswick are also creating opportunities for the province in the wider world. Open networks are flattening traditional hierarchies and breaking down barriers to participation and no jurisdiction, regardless of size or location, is immune.
We know we don’t have all the answers, but we know enough – having listened, written, and talked about New Brunswick society for close to two decades – to take the first steps on the road to deep change and fundamental reform.
This is not about false cheerleading – we can all agree we’ve had enough of that. This is about taking the pieces of the puzzle that we understand and linking them together so we can begin to map out a new direction.
In that spirit, we offer our recommendations for forging a new, pragmatically optimistic, path for New Brunswick.
Generate wealth: This is New Brunswick’s most pressing issue and needs to addressed in three concurrent ways. Within the next 18 months we should:
- Develop a new, integrated energy strategy that rebalances our energy mix by introducing new sources of renewable energy, while continuing to develop more efficient use of fossil fuels, led by natural gas. Included in that is a need to accelerate development of a province-wide distributed energy system that rewards users and communities that produce and conserve electricity.
- Invest in urban infrastructure that will attract and retain more people and businesses – the key ingredients needed to generate greater personal wealth for New Brunswickers. We need to create age-friendly communities that connect people via multi-modal (vehicle/biking/walking) public transportation routes, high-density mixed use neighbourhoods, multi-service primary health care centres, community-led schools and modern parks and recreation facilities, both publicly and privately financed.
- Build a sustainable culture of entrepreneurship, centred around organizations such as PropelICT, BioNB, the Pond-Deshpande Centre, 21inc, the Wallace McCain Institute, Planet Hatch, Place aux compétences, The Gaia Project, ArtsLinkNB, Brilliant Labs, and Venn Innovation (formerly Tech South East) that encourage creative people to put structure to their ideas and turn them into products and services. It is not our job to pick the winners; the markets will do that. Our job is to develop strong players with scalable ideas across multiple sectors, disciplines and locations, with the endurance and financial backing to succeed.
Change the conversation: The past 40 years have been marked by a steady decline in public trust in governments, corporations and media. Journalists contributed by emphasizing problems in order to spur reform, and social media exacerbated it because of the speed ideas spread online. We need to reestablish our trust in each other and in our institutions. We are enthusiastically jumping into the fray with Wicked Ideas, which engages citizens in a deeper conversation about our shared values and the way forward.
Select a team of all-stars – and get moving: No single political party has all the answers; neither does any one economic or social sector. Premier Brian Gallant needs to build a non-partisan team of creative thinkers, project developers, and community leaders with deep integrity to chart our path forward. Like the war cabinets of past national governments, New Brunswick needs to set aside partisan divisions and get the best people working on solutions to our most pressing problems. A Liberal Party card should not be a requirement for membership.
A decade ago, when we began our study of how New Brunswick could change, the province was an outlier within Canada and North America, but now everybody’s in the same position. We’re all searching for safe passage through the storm. Why can’t New Brunswick be the first to break out?
We are small, which means we can be nimble. We have tightly-knit social and business networks, which means we trust each other. We live and work outside the centres of power, which means we know how to develop creative solutions.
We have the tools to forge a new path, all we need is the will to do it.
Lisa Hrabluk is the founder of Wicked Ideas. Follow her on Twitter @lisahrabluk.
About our e-book; John and I think of it as a working document, designed to get you thinking and prompt you to join us – in person and online – to expand upon the ideas in this e-book and to add your own ideas to the mix.
But we don’t just want to sit around talking – we want to identify a new cadre of community leaders who will step up and lead the charge for change.
We know who some of you are – and we’re excited to meet more of you and to hear what you’re doing.
Look forward to chatting!
Lisa & John