“Citizens, not government, should set the community agenda.
“Demographics, social and structural forces within a society and community rather than macroeconomic government policies determine who will have jobs and who will not.” Harold Wilenski, University of California.
The above quote is still applicable in 2011 as we hear promises and announcements from all levels of government regarding the creation of jobs and programs that will be implemented if they win the election. All evidence indicates that jobs that do not grow from ideas germinated within the community are rarely sustainable.
In 2000, I had the privilege of working with a community-based initiative under the auspices of the late Frank Mazzuca, chairman of the former Regional Municipality of Sudbury, who asked me to engage the community in a process that would identify the essential strategies that would provide some coherent direction up to the year 2010-11. It was not about projects, but instilling an attitude in the community to think about the future.
Now is time for reflection as we ask the question – Was the engagement successful and have we moved in the right direction?
Assembling a committed group was essential. We must recognize the time, effort and commitment of special people who spent hours listening, discussing and developing this innovative approach. Special thanks to Chris Cecutti, Smart Technology; Audrey Anderson, Working Smarter-Training Smarter; Paul Marleau, Learning & Research; Anne Cole, Tourism & Leisure Experiences; Janet Gasparini, Community Health, Wellness & Caring; Gerard Labelle, Arts; Ron Purcell, Accessing Capital; Pat Aitken, Mentoring; Dr. Greg Baiden, Developing The Planets Resources; and Don Stewart, Transportation Road Rail Air & Water.
We were supported by key support staff in Paul Philion and the amazing Lynn O’Farrell.
In addition to these sectors, there was a Community Forum, Sharing a Vision for the Future, co-chaired by me and Gisele Chretien. A dynamic event titled, “A Young Minds and Invention Fair,” was attended by hundreds of young minds within the region. There was also an exciting musical arts evening with local talent at Laurentian University.
Some of the suggestions and results are summarized below and it appears we were on the right track by any measurement.
Smart Technology: Did Sudbury embrace high technology as an infrastructure and support innovative environments as a new way to promote entrepreneurship, the incubation of new ideas and the emergence of economic clusters, opportunities and “leaders in the field of Innovation?
Results: The positive results are absolutely evident throughout all sectors especially in the mining supply and service sector and health.
Learning & Research: Did we develop training and education partnerships that are streamlined, inclusive, learner-oriented, lifelong, flexible, and adaptable? Skills training were of greatest importance and co-operation between all public sector educational institutions needed to be enhanced.
Result: its working and the latest effort on identifying the capacity of The Learning City of Greater Sudbury is in the early stages.
Innovation: Did Sudbury embrace the need to develop an innovation agenda for all sectors that embraces the need to increase R&D efforts and develop an Innovation Park in health and mining?
Result: This was absolutely achieved at the Sudbury Regional Hospital, Cancer Centre, Medical School and NORCAT (Northern Centre for Advanced Technology) along with multiple private sector mining supply companies joining SAMSSA.
Tourism and Leisure Activities: Did we see the expansion of multiple partnerships extolling our leisure services, outdoor experiences and visitor centres and implementation of the necessary infrastructure?
Result: Expansion of Science North, Dynamic Earth, four season trails and a friendly, receptive and a co-operative tourism industry has flourished and continues to grow.
Caring Community: Did the community envision a need to encompass social, economic and environmental factors? The Healthy Community needs to works together on all three dimensions.
Result: Sudbury has been blessed with champions and organizations who believe in an integrated model for success. These successes are seen in the many community initiatives in this area.
The above represents only several of the many sectors who have all achieved levels of success through improvement and implementation.
The New Way was a success. It was community based with over 3000 participants and was embraced by leaders and champions in every sector.’
Perhaps it is time to renew this process, and make it more inclusive. Citizens collectively should set the community agenda by providing all three levels of government with our plan for jobs and change in Greater Sudbury.
*Dick DeStefano is the executive director of the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association (SAMSSA) and former coordinator of New Way-Sudbury Tomorrow 2000.*