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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Is There a Wave of Change Coming to Alberta's Politics?

REBOOTALBERTA 2.0 GOES THIS WEEKEND FEB 26-28 IN KANANASKIS


The gathering of Alberta progressives called RebootAlberta2.0 is happening in Kananaskis this weekend. The instigators expect to draw over 120 progressive thinking Albertans together to talk about how they feel about Alberta and its future.

Reboot Alberta is an emerging citizen’s movement that is focusing on four theme streams of interest. Some Reboot progressives believe a new centrist political party has to be formed to respond to the dramatic shift to the right of Alberta’s political culture. Others are committed to changing the existing political parties and governing institutions from within to consider more progressive approaches to policy making. Still others want democratic and electoral reform in Alberta. Then there is a large group of Reboot people who are part of volunteer based, not-for-profit civil society organizations who want to look at changing the very nature of Alberta’s political culture.

The civil society people at Reboot want to move beyond old-fashioned adversarial decision models at makes marginal winners and disgruntled loser. The feel we need a more collaborative, networked, integrated and responsible decision making model for public policy.

Reboot2.0 is essentially about creating more citizen engagement. It will see all of these approaches used by participants to look at what can be done to enable and encourage citizens to be engaged in public policy design and development. The already engaged citizens of the civil society sector are going to be a strong basis to work with to start changing the Alberta political culture. All change starts with a thought and a conversation and Reboot2.0 will be all about people taking about what they are thinking about.

In a resent conjoint survey of 544 self identified Alberta progressives identified some major values they wanted law and policy makers to use when decisions are being made that affect people’s lives. The top five values progressive Albertans want to see used to drive and guide public policy are Integrity, Honest, Accountability, Transparency and Environmental Stewardship.

It is interesting that such fundamental values are top of mind for progressive Albertans. Is that because they are so fundamentally necessary for a strong democracy? Or is it because progressives feel they are missing from our democracy and governance that they need to be reaffirmed? Reboot2.0 people will no doubt spend some time to clarify that difference.

Another interesting finding from the Citizen’s Values Survey was the level of Influentials and Cultural Creatives who participated in the survey and in Reboot Alberta. Influentials are that group of people whose opinions are sought out and respected. They are trend spotters, trend setters and opinion leaders. Influentials are community activists and engaged citizens. They have large and active personal networks and help others decide many things, include who to vote for.

Influentials make up about 10% of the general population but 88% of those who answered the Reboot Citizen’s Value Survey were Influentials. These are people who can make a difference and set trends and a very large portion of the Reboot community is Influential.

The other interesting survey result was around the Cultural Creatives. These are the people who work and live in creative endeavours. They are not just artists, but include people architects, lawyers, writers, educators, media-types and anyone else who works with their imagination and design skills. They have been studied by Paul Ray since the mid 1990s when about 23% of the American population fit the description.  He wrote a very interesting book called The Cultural Creatives that I recommend you read.

Updated research found that this Culture Creative group has grown to about 43% of the American population. These are the people who create and thrive in the information, knowledge and cultural industries economy. The Reboot Alberta Citizen’s Values Survey found that 86% of participants met the criteria for Cultural Creatives.

There were 76% of the Reboot Alberta Citizen’s Values Survey participants who are both Influential and Cultural Creatives. Measuring their interests and levels of engagement saw that 87% of them wanted politics and government resources to have more emphasis on children’s education, well-being and on rebuilding neighborhoods and communities. Around 80% of them volunteer for one or more good causes and place a great deal of importance on developing and maintaining relationships.

So with this as a base and the growing concerns about the direction Alberta is heading economically, environmentally, socially and politically, Reboot Alberta is tapping into some fear, uncertainty and doubt progressives are expressing about the future of the Province. So far Reboot Alberta has been about conversations but, as one person said at the first Reboot Alberta gathering, “Conversations are game-changers.”

Time will tell but there is a sense that a wave of change is coming to Alberta politics. If that is the case the next vital question is what will that wave of change do to the political landscape of Alberta? Will it go far right and be like a little Republican Alberta? Or will the Influential, Cultural Creatives and Progressives be the leaders of the next and new Alberta? Yes, time will tell, but I sense it will be sooner than later that the change takes shape and shows what direction will prevail.