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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Canada 2020 Symposium on Greening the Oilsands Via Science & Technology

In the face of growing oppostion and noise about the Alberta oilsands, there are some rays of hope for adult converstion about responsible and sustainable oilsands development shining through. For example, today in Ottawa there is a Canada 2020 Symposium happening on “Greening” the Oil Sands: Canadian Science and Clean Tech Leads the Way.


This event deals with issues around greening the oilsands.  The context will be introduced by James Rajotte, the MP for Edmonton-Leduc and Chair of the House of Commons Finance Committee, Rich George the President and CEO of Suncor and the Honourable Sandra Pupatello, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade. Minister Pupatello is an eastener that get it about the opportunites and challenges of responsible and sustainable oilsands development. I recently heard her speak in Edmonton at the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association Oilsands Buyer/Seller Forum on the same topic.

My business partner Satya Das and author of “Green Oil” is on a panel that is moderated by former CBC political broadcaster Don Newman. The topic is “The Big Picture – Public Opinion, Politics and Policy.” The context of the panel is the acknowledgement tht theoilsands are a cornerstone of Canada’s future economic prosperity. The fact is the oilsands are seen mostly through an economic lens in Alberta and Saskatchewan but through an environmentl lens in the rest of Canada. Single lens approaches are insufficient and a more balanced local and national perspecitve about oilsands development must be achieved.

After Satya’s opening panel the next panel’s topic will be “How can science contribute to reducing the environmental impact of oilsands development.” Here is where the R&D expertise of the University of Alberta comes into play to develop strategies to meet this need. The U of A has built a powerhouse of research capacity of internatioally recognized experts working in public-private research partnershps to tackle this challenge. This panel is moderated by Dr. Suzanne Fortier, the President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and will contributions from Dr. David Lynch, the U of A Dean of Engineering and Dr. Murray Gray of the U of A Centre for Oilsands Innovation amongsts others.

The final panel has the advantages of the insights of my friend Bob Mitchell of Connco-Phillips and the Co-Chair of the Oilsands Leadership Initiative (OSLI). It is about “What Candian clean technologies are being deployed? Which are having the greatest impact?” Reducing the environmenal footprint of oilsands development through technologies it the core of this panel’s focus. What is working and how do we accelerate these technological innovations while reducing their implemenmtation costs is the challenge facing this panel.

This is a closed session but I am sure Satya, Bob and others will be commenting on the content and context of the symposium after today. I will do my best to bring you the sense and essense of the discussions and recommendations once I have spoken with them about the symposium.

Monday, April 26, 2010

CLPNA Does Interesting Survey on Nursing Care in Alberta

We do some work with the College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta so recognize this blog post is as much about my work as my opinion.


We recently did a random-sample conjoint study of 919 Albertans for the CLPNA on what values Albertans think are most important about providing them with professional nursing care. The results were interesting and more survey results are going to be available at http://www.clpna.com/ soon.

In the meantime I encourage you to visit the CLPNA site for more information on the roles, responsibilities and relationships of LPNs within nursing, healthcare and with patients.  I strongly suggest you read the blog post on the recent KEP study on the appropriateness of the knowledge and education levels of soon-to-be-graduating nurses in Alberta.

There are some interesting attributes the public sees as most important and what they want from professional nurses, be they RN, LPNs or Registered Psychiatric Nurses. The top three expecations by the public are that nurses are to be skilled, knowledgeable as well as caring and compasionate. There were 15 other attributes in the study and all were seen as important, but those are the top three concerns of Albertans when they think about what is imperative for high quality professional nursing care.

With all the changes, uncertainty and volatility happening Alberta's healthcare system the CLPNA has taken this high road approach to better understanding and focused on meeting its professional responsibility to the public. They decided to go directly to Albertans and ask what they thought was important about high quality professional nursing care.

The CLPNA then went a step further and asked those same randomly selected Albertans how satisfied they were with the performance of the nursing profession in providing the kind of care they expected.  There is lots of good news and some significant indications where there is room for improvement by nurses in those satisfaction results.  We say this survey applies to nursing generally here because we did not differentiate between  nurses, be they LPN, RPN or RNs when we asked the survey questions.

This dual approach of measuring expectations and satisfactions gives the CLPNA a clear picture of public expectations and performance impresssions on some 15 different attributes that relate to professional nursing care. What the conjoint study did was also survey members of the Licensed Practical Nursing profession on the same values. What emerged was nothing less than amazing. The over 1460 working LPNs who did the survey were 99.9% aligned with the public's priority for values and expectations of what constitutes high quality professional nursing care in Alberta.

That degree of alignment between what LPNs see as their role and responsibility with the public and patients has to be reassuring to citizens that LPNs get it. As for LPNs, they too can find gratification in the fact that what they perceive as their jobs and responsibilities as professionals are the same as the people they serve in Alberta.

These survey results have been presented and shared with officials in Alberta Health and Wellness, including the Minister Zwozdesky, Deputy Minister Ramotar, Parliamentary Assistant Sherman and head of AHS, Dr. Duckett along with other senior officals in their offices. The survey information was appreciated and well received in all instances. Now it has to be shared with others in government, other healthcare professionals, stakeholders, health advocacy groups and the general public.

So stay tuned. There are lots more interesting information coming out on the survey results.  We will deal with  the implications for providing high quality health care in Alberta soon, both here on this blog and at http://www.clpna.com/ over time.

Looking forward to your comments and questions.

Monday Morning Musings

Meet Calum Graham
As the reality of Monday morning settles in I offer you something completely different...but not in the Monty Python spirit.  Calum Graham is an Alberta artist that astounded me at TEDx Banff last week.  This 18 year old guitarist has a great talent and wonder touch and a warm engaging personality.

Don't watch this video now.  You have to get your day organized - its Monday morning and I know you are going to be busy right now.  Look at it later today, when you need some 5 minutes of solace and peace to get away from the din of the day.  Then come back to this blog post and find some repose.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lNxlnuFHW0

Robert Genn's Letters
I was in Banff on the weekend and stopped in at a showing of new works by Robert Genn, one of my favourite Canadian artists.  The great surprise was the book of collected letters Robert has been writing every two weeks since July 1999.  I scanned some content and was hooked.  This guy can write as well as paint.  Had a nice chat with Robert and we agreed to follow each other on line.  I really recommend the book even though I have only rad a few letters so far.  They are the kind of writing that makes you think, reflect and reason about a wide range of issues, ideas and events.  Here is a link if you are interested in more info. http://www.painterskeys.com/ and want to subscribe to his letters.

Fil Fraser has a new book too!
My long time friend and author Fil Fraser is launching his new book "How the Blacks Created Canada."  The event is at Audrey's Books 10702 Jasper Avenue in Edmonton at 7:30 pm Tuesday April 27, 2010.  Fil is the lead on the monthly column we do (with others) on business ethics entitled "The Right Call" for Ruth Kelly's Alberta Venture magazine.

Learning Our Way to the Next Alberta
Cambridge Strategies Inc. is co-sponsoring a lecture series in Calgary (May 31) and Edmonton (June 1) with authors Gwynne Dyer ("Climate Wars"), David Peat ("Certainty to Uncertainty: The Story of Science and Ideas in the Twentieth Century") and Scott Murray, a senior advisor in Human Resources in Science and Technology, Stats Canada.  Scott has just completed some amazing research on the literacy ;levels and essentail skills gap in various labour, industry and professional sectors in Alberta.  For tickets and more information go to http://www.learningourway.ca/ or email me at ken@cambridgestrategies.com

Moving On!
OK that is the good news for Monday morning.  Now into the serious stuff of being Albertan and how we can be better at it.  The first example will be the next post.  It will be about the Greening the Oilsands:  Canadian Science and Clean Tech Leads the Way symposium my business partner Satya Das and "Green Oil" author  is participating in at Ottawa on April 29th.  He is on a panel entitled "The Big Picture - Public Opinion, Politics, Policy." A very interesting event focused on federal government decision makers that is being organized by our friends at BlueSky Strategy Group Inc. with Canada 2020.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

EYJAFJALLAJOKULL

Mother Nature at her magnificent best!

 http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/04/more_from_eyjafjallajokull.html

Will Integrity Be Returned to Alberta's Public Accounts Committee Tomorrow?

Will wisdom prevail tomorrow at the Public Accounts Committee and the decisoin to effectively muzzle the Chair of the committee be reversed.  I expect most Albertnas have no clue that yet another erosion of accountable and transparent democracy was done to us by the governmet recently. 

There are rumours that the anti-democratic decision may be proposed to reveresed at the Public Accounts Committee meeting tomorrow by the same PC MLA that put the motion forward in the first instance.  Here is a link to an audio broadcast of the Public Accounts Committee meeting scheduled for 8:30 am tomorrow.  You might want to tune in.

Here are some links to news items and some key blog posts that will give you some background on these events.
http://communities.canada.com/EDMONTONJOURNAL/blogs/electionnotebook/archive/2010/04/20/tories-on-muzzling-public-accounts-committee-never-mind.aspx

http://daveberta.ca/?p=2492

http://daveberta.ca/?p=2401

http://www.calgaryherald.com/columnists/Braid+Dave+Rodney+veto+power+puts+democracy+peril/2927067/story.html

The price of democracy is vigilance.  Tune in on-line and hear what those who have your consent to govern you are doing.

Nature is Disrupting Our Lives! Can We Change or Will Nature Have to Change?

I love the fuzzy logic of climate change deniers that the “science is not conclusive.” What they can’t get their head aroudn is that is why we call it science. New ideas, innovations, realizations, discoveries and understandings are replacing old ideas all the time, thanks to science. Inconclusiveness and change is the essence of science.


That said, my real motivation behind this blog post is to consider the way we, as a species, cope and adapt to the impluses of Nature that disrupt our lives. The Iceland volcano impacted the world, most obviously parts of Europe but the ripple effect of grounded airlines is a global story of enormous economic proportion. It has shown us, in no uncertain terms, just how much humanitiy is embedded in the planet and how much we humans are embedded in each other - and how uncertainty is the default state of nature and man.

As I have said before the future of planet Earth is fine. Nature will adapt and evolve. The real over arching question for humanity is what is our future, as a species, going to be on the planet? Are we going to be adaptable and nimble enough to survive? Or are we, self-consious, self-satisfied and self-distructing in the face of what we are doing to the planet’s ecology. One thing for sure, the planet won’t miss us and does not need us. The converse is not so true.

In the short term we are being inconvenienced by Nature’s Icelandic antics that disrupt has many lives but nobody had died from this event. We have other serious disruptions of Nature going on right now that are causing death and dispair like earthquakes, floods, tsunamis. The point about the effect of disruptions is well made by Harvard’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter. In her blog, “Surprise! Four Strategies for Coping with Disruptions” she aptly notes that “Surprises are the new normal, and they are not fun.”

She outlines manmade disruptions like “…financial crises, currency fluctuations, disruptive technologies, job restructurings, shortages of vital drugs, populists’ rebellons, possible pandemics, and terrorist threats….” Those are some of the joys of us humans being embedded in each other. She then notes we get to add on the “…devastating earthquakes and extraordinary weather events.” Man embedded in Nature!

The consequences of the unexpected, according to Kanter, are a “leadership imperative” and that is about the ability to make fast effective decisions in the face of surprises. She outlines four leadership based strategies for quick response and to minimize disruptions. They are Backup, in the form of a Plan B. Communications that must be quick and spread virally. Collaboration based on human relationships grounded in commitment to one another and resiliency that empowers people to act. Finally she points out the importance of values and principles. Clear standards and values are needed to guide people in deciding on what is the right thing to do and doing it without waiting for permission.

Good food for thought. At Reboot Alberta we have taken extra effort to look at communications, collaboration and values and prinicples in our political and governing culture in Alberta. Reboot people feel there is a leadership shortfall and a shallow aenimic public policy agenda in Alberta these days. What Albertans have not come up with yet is a viable alternaitve to the status quo. We have not yet engaged in making a Plan B and turning it into the Plan A.

In the future Reboot Alberta progressive citizen’s movement has to move beyond bitching and complaining about the democratic deficit and leadership shortcomings. We have to quit merely admiring the problems and get into an activist solution space for citizens to re-imagine the purpose of politics in a more modern democracy. We need to get serious about designing some alternatives that will replace the conventional political institutions. In short we need more than a reboot of the existing political and governance culture of Alberta. We need a system upgrade.

Monday, April 19, 2010

School Closures Never Easy But How Are They Decided?

The recent process that the Edmonton Public School Board went through resulted in the closure of a number of schools.  There was a very interesting Edmonton Journal story that only ran in the on-line editions.  It will help citizens get an idea on what basis the elected Trustees used to come to those decisions.

 http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Edmonton+public+school+trustees+talk+about+closures/2783750/story.html

I think it is terrific that the public gets to see and read the opinions and reasoning behind those opinions of each of the elected school Trustees.  You don't see that kind of accountability and transparency in the hyper-partisan message managing, command and contol world of provincial government politics these days.  We can actually see the different perspectives and personal thinking of the School Trustee policy makers in this Edmonton Journal piece.  Whether yo agree or disagree, this openness is refreshing!

Full disclosure:  My firm did some research for the EPSB on the values that Edmontonians thought should guide Trustees around school closures. Here is a link to an earlier blog post where I linked to the findings of that research.  

The earllier blog post also outlines my feelings about finding more collaborative and creative set of solutions as viable alternatives to school closures.  That search for viable alternatives will take cooperation between School Trustees and municipal politicians and their respective administrations.  There are barriers to coming up with a reasonable set of alternative proposals but they are mostly due to an ineffective adherance to a traditional political culture bias and just plain hide-bound thinking . 

There must be pressure applied on local politicians, at the school board and municipal levels, to find mutually acceptable proposals to preserve schools and enhance communities.  They will then have to be presented to the provincial government to bring them on board too but if there is a demonstrated and overt demands by taxpayers/voters for change, it will happen.  We saw it in health care - public education should be next.

The current provincial, school board and municipal policy approaches around school clousres are not adept at serving the best interests of citizens, parents, students, taxpayers or other potential users of such facilities.  There are municipal and school board elections in October and a provincial election in 2 years.  The political timing seems perfect to make some serious policy changes and to update the principles and approaches to school use and community use of schools too. 

What do you think Edmonton?  Should we find better alternatives to low enrollment schools other than closure and consolidation?  Can't we make the facilities community based in ways that serve kids, families and the needs of the surrounding community?  Looking forward to your comments.  I will make more specific suggestions on how to do this in future blog posts -  so stay tuned.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dave King on the Politics of Fear and Politics of Hope

We have a few statesmen in Alberta politics. Peter Lougheed always comes to mind. Well there is another Alberta man worthy of the respect as a statesman. That is Dave King. Dave was an energetic young man who spent three years on the road with Peter Lougheed as they criss-crossed the province meeting folks to revive and revitalize the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. They did the hard on-the-ground work that was needed to create the confidence and the policy base that the PC party has been living off for almost 40 years.


Dave King is retiring soon and is returning to his roots of political organization. He is going to be working just as hard and doing the travel and personally connecting with Albertans to re-engage in the progressive politics of the province. This time he will be working on two fronts. As a fellow instigator of Reboot Alberta Dave intends to continue to foster a progressive citizen's movement all over Alberta. He will also be organizing for the revived and revitalizing Alberta Party as an alternative political party for progressive thinking Albertans to support.

To get a sense of the mind and the substance of Dave King and to see why I see him as an Alberta statesman, read his latest blog post: The Politics of Fear and the Politics of Hope. We know that many people are being intimidated and bullied by the current government as they try to retain power by political force and not good government.

That culture of fear in the poilitical culture of Alberta was a major part of the conversations at Reboot 2.0. Dave has picked up on this reality and I encourage all Albertans to ensure that this kind of intimidation is stopped. Send the link to Dave's blog post to your networks and friends in the social service sectors and not-for-profit volunteer based organizations so they can be encouraged to stand up to intimidation and bullying.  That is the best way to stop it.

Jaffer Affirms Martin Luther King's Aspiration

My business partner Satya Das had an interesting observation at the end of the day on Friday. He said one of Martin Luther King's aspirations is being affirmed in Canada. He noted that Rahim Jaffer is being "judged on the content of his character and not the colour of his skin."


This is still a strange situation that gets stranger every day. It is as much about Prime Minister Harper's character these days.  Glad to see the Toronto Star and the CBC still have the resources and journalist chops to stay on the story to get us some facts. We are not getting much integrity, honesty, transparency and accountability from our Prime Minister on this matter. That is obvious and very disappointing for Canadians.  Citizens should be able to presume these values from our Prime Minister. Anything less is a betrayal of the public's trust. That is not the first time Harper has betrayed the trust of Canadians.

What more does Prime Minister Harper know about Guergis situation that he is not saying? He needs much more substantial evidence than what has been uncovered by media sources so far. Why has Harper stonewalled again?  Why is Harper refusing to tell us the truth about what he knows?  Why isn't our Prime Minister hading the facts that caused him to kick Guergis out of Cabinet and the Caucus.

Why did Harper try to leave the impression about the seriousness of the situation by saying he "referred" it to the Conflicts of Interest Commissioner and the RCMP. How does the representations of our Prime Minister square with the Commissioner saying she has no Prime Minister referral and no evidence about the concerns from the Prime Minister, except what she has read in the media. OUCH!  Is this serious stuff! The most serious concerns of Canadian citizens so far are the misleading statements from Prime Minister Harper.  That is the really serious stuff! 

Please tell us Mr. Prime Minister that this action was not political and that was based more than sketchy third-party representations from less than credible sources.  Please tell us Mr. Prime Minister that you had some substantial evidence to justify targetting Guergis and Jaffer in this way. If all Harper had to make his call to throw Guergis under the bus is what we have been told by investigative media reports, one has to presume Harper's judgment is impaired.  This is looking like yet another incident of cover-up, deceit and misleadling politics that tend to prove Harper's character is impaired too. This incident seems to be moving towards being more about power politics and personal vengeance of the Prime Minister than the good of the country...at least from what we know so far.  Time to come clean Mr. Prime Minister.

Remember the Harper attack ads on Stephane Dion saying he was not a leader? Seems to me what goes around comes around. We have mounting proof that Harper is not a leader. He is proving to us yet again that his deceptive, reckless and often abusive political style does not align with the values of Canadians.

It is time to terminate this Harper fiasco and failed experiment. We have no peace, disorder and nothing approaching good government.  Harper has to go. It is time for an election!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What do Progressive Albertan's Believe and Why?

The last blog post on the Reboot Alberta Progressive Values survey covered the priority ranking and intensity levels of some 22 values we tracked that relate to a progressive point of view for a 21st century Alberta. If you have not read it yet you should. It will help you to understand this related blog post. Here is a link.


This survey was part of the process to help people get a better understanding of what people in the Reboot Alberta citizen’s movement meant by the term “progressive.” There is more discussion exploring the modern meaning of the term “progressive” in a series of blog posts at http://www.rebootalberta.org/ at the “What is a Progressive” button.

This post is focused more on how the Reboot Alberta progressive thinking survey participants saw themselves in terms of Paul Ray’s research on Cultural Creative values in the United States. It was research conducted over more than 20 years and included over 100,000 people and hundreds of focus groups. I recommend his book "The Cultural Creatives" if you want to get a better understanding of the rise of powerand influence of this group of citizens.

It is an open question if this research can translate directly into the Alberta context. But for the purposes of getting some insight into what progressive Albertans see as some priority issues and what level of concern they have, the American Cultural Creatives survey results are instructive. Ray says all Cultural Creatives are progressives but not all progressives are necessarily Cultural Creatives. My sense is the same in meeting and working with both types of people for over a decade in Alberta.

Cultural Creative Citizen Movement Rooted in the 60s:
Rebooters and other progressive Albertans need some context on the roots of the current consciousness of Cultural Creatives. For that, Ray takes us back to the struggles in the various social justice and protest movements of the 60’s. The women’s movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement, the race issues in the American south, the emergence of the environmental movement, according to Ray, all “…fed the longings and hopes of a vast population.” He notes at the same time there were “…new consciousness movements for spirituality, new forms of psychology, and holistic healing and health” happening.

These earlier movements changed the world views and mindsets, especially of the Baby Boomers who are still dominant the control of weath, opinions and the thoughtscapes of our society and culture today. Some significant progress has been made on these concerns but ironically the cynical indifference and distain for politics by these same people who were at the centre of the 60’s movements have put us back into protesting the same kind of crap today. Our democracy is frail, fragile and disappearing. Power gets more centralized in a reckless and abusive command and control, authority driven, politically expedient governance culture.

This retreat to traditionalist culture represented by the Wildrose Alliance is socially, environmentally and economically unacceptable, especially to progressives. The current government’s modernist mindset based on rapid, unrestricted growth in the consumption of natural resources to feed the short-term brand of success found in the Stelmach government is also being rejected by progressives. That is why Reboot Alberta is resonating with so many people. It is seen as a gathering place to transform the current political culture into something more representative, responsible, sustainable, conservationist, inclusive and participatory than the current conventional institutional models allow.

The Progressive Albertan's Worldview and Mindset:
So what exactly is the Alberta progressive worldview and mindset? One can’t be totally comprehensive in answering that question but the key is a 21st century progressive Albertan does have a different worldview and mindset from the current conventional conservative or the ultra-conservative options being touted today as worthy of our consent to govern us.

From the answers to the Cultural Creatives survey results we have some indication of where the hearts and minds are at of those progressive Albertans who are gathering together in a community and an adventure called Reboot Alberta. Here is a sampling of what they said:

When asked if they wanted Alberta’s politics and government spending to put more emphasis on children’s education and well-being, on rebuilding neighbourhoods and communities, 87% agreed.

Consistent with the enormous commitment of progressive Albertans to engage in helping make Alberta a better place, 86% of survey participants said they wanted to be involved in creating a new and better way of life in our country and province.

There were 85% who said they were concerned about violence and abuse of women and children, including when it happens around the world. There are 80% who volunteer for one or more good causes as well. Some 70% want more priority focused on equality for women in the workplace and more women in leadership roles in business and politics.

Consistent with being Influentials and having many vibrant and active personal networks, 83% said they placed a great deal of importance in developing and maintaining personal relationships. Progressives are very concerned about their relationships with nature, 79% said they love nature and are deeply concerned about its destriction and 76% are stongly aware of problems of the whole planet including concerns over global warming, destruction of forests and the lack of ecological sustainability. Given this ecological concern 76% said they would be prepared to pay more taxes for consumer goods if they were assured the money would go to clean up the environment and stop global warming.

Some 67% of Progressives are unhappy with the old-style left versus right of conventional politics and want to find a new way that is not the “mushy middle.” There were 64% who said they were somewhat optimistic about the future but they distrust the dominant cynical and pessimistic view as perpetrated in the mainstream media.

There are 74% who reject the consumption model of “making it.” This is aptly expressed in the rejection of the bumper sticker philosophy of “He who dies with the most toys wins” mentaility. There are 77% who are also concerned about what big corporations see as success in merely making more and more short-term profits by cutting costs and creating social, safety and environmental problems as a result.

Is it Time to Return to Progressive Citizen Activism?
In conclusion I see progressive Albertans preparing for the 21st century with a potential for a very positive image of the future. But many things will have to change, including citizens returning to active participation in creating that positive future. Without a positive image of the future a culture stagnates, declines and eventually dies. Remember we also found in this survey that Albertans are not as proud of being Albertan as the mythology suggests.

There is nothing inevitable about being an Albertan these days, nor about the kind of future that lies ahead of us. Progressives in Alberta are pretty clear that the future they want for their province and it is not to be alienated or disconnected from Canada and the larger world even with its complex and inter-related issues.

With every single citizen of Alberta holds the ownership benefit and burden of the oilsands our responsbilities are clear. We need to start acting like owners and making demands of our government and industry tenants so that they align with our better Alberta values and citizenship expectations. With the world attention on Alberta and our “world famous” oilsands that means we are under a microscope environmentally, economically, politically, and socially. The chance for Alberta to be an isolated island and aloof from engagement with the planet and its people is nil.

It is Not About Alberta Being the Best Place IN THE WORLD But the Best Place FOR THE WORLD:
Our challenge as Albertans is not to be the best place in the world but rather be the best place for the world. That capacity to realize such an aspiration is within us as a people and a province but we cannot achieve it with the limitations and ineptness of the current political and governing culture. Citizen’s let this happen and citizens have to fix it. Reboot Alberta is one way to get responsible citizenship as a means to regaining responsible representative government in Alberta.

Rebooting Alberta is all about Controls, Alternatives and Deletions. It means we have to return contol of democracy to citizens. The politicians are merely our agents, not our masters. We have to design some new alternative political institutions that are more effective to replace the current atrophied institutions. I think it was Buckminster Fuller who said in effect, you don’t change things by opposing the current realities. You design new models that made the old ways obsolete. Then we have to delete some of the destructive directions, decisions and policy approaches that are inappropriate because they are not responsible, sustainable, accountable, and transparent nor even honest in too many cases.

If this intrigues you and you are a progressive who want to help make a difference to Alberta’s destiny, then go to http://www.rebootalberta.org./ Sign up, show up and step up as a re-engaged citizen. You will be glad you did and you will find your tribe there too.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Report on Reboot Alberta's Progressive Values Survey

Reboot Alberta (http://www.rebootalberta.org/) is an emerging movement of progressive Albertans who are re-engaging as citizens and taking on more personal responsibility for the changing nature and the fluid future of the province. The Reboot Alberta movement people were asking what it meant to be a “progressive” in Alberta in the 21st century. To help answer that question a conjoint survey was done tracking 22 progressive values to see what were the most important to those in the Reboot Alberta community. The survey results were shared with the Reboot Alberta participants at a gathering called Reboot 2.0 in late February 2010. I will now share the results with you in some blog posts.

THE REBOOTERS VALUE PROPOSITION FOR GOOD GOVERNMENT:

When we asked what values progressive Albertans wanted politician and policy makers to apply in making laws and decisions that impact the lives of citizens we found some dominant values that were to guide and drive those decisions. The top level values of the 544 non-random, self-selecting Reboot Alberta people who completed the survey, in order of priority, were:

Integrity which should bring a sense of soundness; unimpared or uncorrupted, wholeness and completeness to any policy decision making process.

Honesty which means policy processes and outcomes should be free of deceit and untruthfulness, sincere, fair and just in character and behaviour in coming to a decision.

Accountability is about taking responsibility for one’s actions and conduct and being understandable too in reaching and explaining a decision.

Transparency which means citizens must easily see through and easily discern the motives as well as the intent of actions and clarity of intended consequences of policy positions and decisions.

Environmental Stewardship which has to see political and policy decisions being concerned with a longer-term, integrated management of the entire environmental element of Alberta's natural capital.  This must include promoting biodiversity, conservation, reclamation and mitigation in conjunction with economic and social considerations in an inter-related protection and preservation perspectives.

SOME CONTEXT ON THE RESULTS:

What was interesting about these values, except perhaps for Environmental Stewardship, was their normative nature.  By that I mean they are standard answers to the normal questions we get day to day. It is like people say "fine" when you casually as them  how they are.  That is not necessarilly the truth, just a customary answer.  I tested that normative answer theory at Reboot 2.0 where about 80% of those in attendance had done the survey.  The reply was that these values were chosen because they are important not just the usual answers. What is more they were chosen by people because they do not feel the present political culture of Alberta is delivering on these most important values for them.

If that is the case, transformational political change may be in the air and coming sooner than you think.  Will Alberta shift to the far right with the Wildrose Alliance?  What will happen to the PC Party in the next few years leading up to the next election?  Why aren't the Liberals and the New Democrats getting bumps in the polls from progressive voters?  What will those who can't fathom a reactionary right-wing governing party do if they are concerned about a political culture to best serve Alberta's interests in the future?  Will voters just stay home in even larger numbers and grow more cynicial than they are now?

For more context about the progressive value mindset here is the next group of mid level values that Alberta’s progressives perceive as foundational to forming sound public policy.  They were concerned about policy and political decisions that showed Wisdom, promoted Well-being, were Equitable, committed to Fiscal Responsibility, illustrated Respect for Diversity and supported Learning.  Again this is in the order of priority.  The other eleven attributes were all below the median and while still considered important even though they were significantly lower priorities.

ARE REBOOTERS ENGAGED PROGRESSIVE ALBERTA CITIZENS?

These findings in some ways were expected because they reflected previous opinion poll results done by other pollsters. For example 86% of Rebooter’s were dissatisfied to some degree with the Stelmach government and 77% felt strongly negative towards the current government. That is consistent with previous poll findings.

Another 83% of Rebooters do not feel that their government listens to them and 72% do not believe that their opinions have any influence on the government of Alberta. If this sense of isolation and alienation will happen with the highly informed, influential, opinionated and progressive Reboot people how is the ordinary citizen going to stand a chance of having their voice heard by a largely indifferent government...except at election time?

Before anyone presumes the prior paragraph is merely dripping with self-aggrandizing arrogance of progressives in Reboot Alberta, consider that 88% of them are Influentials compared to 10% of the general population. The Influentials according to Jonathan Berry and Edward Keller’s book of the same name are connected to between 5 and 7 personal social networks. They have opinions that are trusted by others and their advice is sought by others too. They are trend spotters and trend setters and more likely to get involved in organizations, issues and causes.  Influentials and the thought leaders and opinion leaders in any group or society.  They usually are in the small groups that Margret Mead said should never be underestimated in changing the world.  The question is will Rebooters become a citizen's movement that is intent on change in Alberta?

The Reboot Alberta survey of progressive Albertans also revealed that 86% of Rebooters are Cultural Creatives. The characteristics these people are big picture types who have serious concerns for ecological and planetary perspectives.  If any group of Albertans are gong to see the good, bad, ugly and potential implications of the oilsands as owners of the resource, progressives will be at the front of the line.

Cultuiral Creatives have a strong personal emphasis on relationships, they have personal commitments to personal development and spirituality, but religion, not so much. They are distrusting of large institutions of modern life including left versus right old-style adversarial politics. They reject conspicuous consumption and avoid displays of status.  They are focused on solutions that entail a change in worldviews that is values based including changes in personal lifestyle about how you spend you time and livelihoods, about how you make and spend your money. Cultural creatives demand authenticity in all things, especially in politics.

The more amazing thing from the Reboot survey participants was that 76% of us were both Influentials and Cultural Creatives. The potential for a transformative movement to change the political culture of Alberta is potentially to be found in these Reboot progressives who are pushing for policy solutions that go beyond merely updating enviromental regulations and moving into real sustainable ecologically based integrated solutions.
DO PROGRESSIVE ALBERTANS MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

While we do not think our government is listening to us or care about what we think Reboot Alberta progressives believe they are making a difference. While 93% of us believe our personal actions are making Alberta a better place and 96% of progressives are committed to improving the future of Alberta, we are not walking the talk very well. With all that personal commitment only 51% of us strongly agree that we will tell others great things about living in Alberta. What is worse, only 44% of us would strongly recommend that a friend move to Alberta to live. Then consider that only about 46% of us have an intense desire to remain in Alberta or feel strongly that it would take a lot to get us to leave the province.

So we have great hopes and aspirations for the province and our personal commitment to the place is exemplary. However it would appear that we are not all that proud of the place we are committed to improve, given what we are prepared to say to others about how great Alberta is and even the tepid response to our intent to stay in the province. I wonder how that reflects the feelings of the more general population, or is this unique to progressives. Based on these responses it appears that only about 56% of the progressive survey participants are in any way really engaged in their citizenship responsibilities as Albertans.

WHAT IS NEXT?

The next blog post will be about the various responses of survey particpants as Influentials and Cultural Creatives. We will get into the kinds of issues that interest Alberta progressives and the implications for the future of the Reboot Alberta citizen engagement movement.  There is a lot to do to make this movement more of a force to influence the future directions and desitinations of Alberta but given that Reboot Alberta is only 4 months old, a lot of awareness and engagement has already been accomplished.

If you want to know more about the Reboot Alberta community go to http://www.rebootalberta.org/ and explore the website.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Survey Says Where Reboot Alberta Should Go as a Citizen's Movement.

Reboot Alberta was started by Ken Chapman, Dave King, Don Schurman and Michael Brechtel who came up with the idea at a lunch meeting at Rigoloettos restaurant in the late summer of 2009. The concept was to invite some folks we all know and invite them to get together and see if anyone was really interested in finding and facilitating a progressive voice in Alberta’s politics. That was the question.


The answer from those people who were contacted was an overwhelming YES and Reboot Alberta was born. Reboot Alberta is an early-stage and emerging citizen’s movement of progressive thinking Albertans. It started in late November 2009 with the first gathering in Red Deer and the second gathering happened in Kananaskis at the end of February.

Over 540 individual Albertans have signed up so far at http://www.rebootalberta.org/. This group of individual citizens is now forming into a diverse on-line and real life like-minded community of citizens who are concerned about the future of Alberta and the political trends they see shifting the province too far to the reactionary right.

Coming out of the gathering in K-country was the request for a newsletter to keep people informed and to help organize local events under the Reboot Alberta banner in communities throughout Alberta. We did a short survey to get a clearer sense of what was wanted by Rebooters for the future of this citizen’s movement. Here are some of the key findings of the 100 survey participants and it moves Reboot Alberta into the next stage.

Communications Key to Reboot Alberta as a Citizen's Movement:
Two newsletters have been sent out so far and 87% of Rebooters are reading them with 65% wanting it to come by email to them on a monthly basis but with they what other emailed information on more current events and issues.

According to 60% the newsletter should be used to connect Rebooters to interesting community events and progressive websites and 87% want more of this kind of content in the newsletter. The newsletter information is used by 57% of Rebooters in their conversations with others about Reboot Alberta and issues of citizen engagement. This is not surprising when you consider that 88% of Rebooters are Influentials and 86% are Cultural Creatives. They are natural connectors. The desire for a continuing sense of community amongst progressive thinking Albertans is obvious from these numbers.

Making it Relevant but Local and Provincial at the Same Time:
In terms of local community events for progressives to get together there are 75% who have not yet contemplated organizing such a meeting using Tweet-Ups or Meet-Ups but 60% want to know how to do it and 70% want tips on how to find other progressive thinking Albertans in their communities.

If there are going to be help in organizing local gatherings and events for Rebooters and other progressives, 67% wanted suggestions on topics and questions to be the focus of such meetings and 57% want updated information on those questions concerns and issues to be provided by Reboot Alberta too.

Sustaining Reboot Alberta Focus and Momentum is a Key Issue:
How to sustain Reboot Alberta is a fundamental question too and 85% said it was acceptable for the organization to accept donations to help lower event costs, administer the organization like maintaining the website and keeping up the communications. Province-wide face to face gatherings are important to Rebooters and 42% want them to happen twice a year, 23% want it annually and 22% want to have larger events three times a year.

Reboot is About Influence and Issues but Not About Political Parties:
As to what Reboot Alberta should focus its efforts on going forward 79% of survey participants want it to organize and sponsor issues oriented political and public policy events. Some 73% say Reboot Alberta should be a citizens-based political movement to communicate with Albertans and politicians. There is an obvious desire to influence public policy considering 63% want Reboot Alberta to advertise and advocate on public policy issues of concern to progressives. This is not to be done in a partisan context as only 24% of Rebooters want to promote political parties or platforms and 38.5% are in favour of supporting individual candidates, regardless of party affiliation.

So the future direction being dictated by these survey results are pretty clear. There are new faces and new energy being brought to Reboot Alberta all the time.  This growing movement is intent on making Reboot Alberta a force for the common good of Alberta.  It is focused on making a difference with a non-partisan citizen-based approach and promoting progressive perspectives on public policy issues. Of course you can ask what those progressive public policy issues are.  That will be decided on a decentralized basis by Rebooters self-selcting amongst themselves over time.

Suffice to say Reboot Alberta is not going to be a political party but a way of thinking and an approach to political culture based on a consistent values set of like-minded progressive Albertans. We have the results of another conjoint survey of Rebooters that shows us what are those progressive values. I will be doing a series of blog posts on Rebooters this coming week and will clarify those progressive values.  I will also shed some light on what is progressive thinking in Alberta in a 21st century context.

I encourage all Albertans who are concerned about the future of Alberta and see the issues in terms of an integrated economic, environmental, social, political and even spiritually you will find your tribe at Reboot Alberta.  So join in the Reboot Alberta citizen's movement and sign up at http://www.rebootalberta.org/.  It is time to re-engage and assert your citizenship once again.

Don't Close Schools! Integrate and Adapt Schools into the Community!

There are more Reboot Alberta people speaking out in the Edmonton Journal's Letters to the Editor.  This time it is about school closures in Edmonton by the Edmonton Public School Board. 

This time Dick Baker is commenting and noting that communities need more say in what happens to a school. 

Also read the letter from Rebooter Christopher Spencer on school closure.

Full disclosure:  Last year my firm, Cambridge Strategies Inc. did  a conjoint study for the Edmonton Public School Board.  It focused on the key values that Edmontonian feel that should guide and drive issues and approaches to school closure.  Here is a link to the Powerpoint on the survey findings that underscores the points being made in these letters from Rebooters

The most important values attributed to a school to a community were dominated by two criteria.  There is the balance between space and cost issues but the dominant need was for a focus on being able to provide a quality education.  Distance from school was not so critical povided kids did not have to go beyond 3 kms.

Schools were seen as vital to the health and vibrancy of the overall community.  So the school closure issues are much more than cost, it is about education quality and the sense of community. There was a dominant value focus on keeping a school open and adpated to meet community needs regardless of enrollment statistics.


The education focus of a school was the most important consideration.  That was seem as providing extensive programming, with a focus on an adaptive school culture that really prepares students for their future.  The key education element there was seen as a focus on creativity and social integration skills, preparation for post-secondary.  Other important educational concerns was about developing the individual skills of students to prepare them for the workforce and also deal with citizenship and character development. Standardized test results were not highly vallued as measures of quality education.

This all begs questions of governance and how the province, school boards, municipalities and community groups work together to not only save a school but turn it into a community facility that provides quality education and better integrates and also serves larger community needs.  It is a culture shift that is all about integration of uses and recources to meet more community needs including education.
 
The studies have been done and wrap-around schools are concepts that are well proven to work and benefit education and community outcomes.  The full cost and life cycle accounting methods for multi-use adaptive facility design is ready to be made the new standard for educational infrastructure decisions.  The political will is there to make this cultural shift from the current Minister of Education.  There a need for a more effective collaborative linking of the local community, the municipality and school boards to serve the greater good of neighbourhoods and students best interests when considering school closure decisions. 
 
The question is larger than just enrollment levels.  It  is about what we "value" as a society and not just about what it "costs" in dollar terms alone.  Citizens know this and have told us that they value community needs and school services as integrated wholes, not as isolated silos.  It is time for some comprehenseive, forward thinking good governance coupled with a dash of political courage.  We need to change the old culture about such decisions where school closures are mostly about dollar costs and not the value of a school and its facilities to serve community concerns.  Simply closing a school forecloses the adaptive and imaginative opportunity costs and chances for community capacity building.  Those options are lost in a shortsighted school closure decision.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Connectivity is Key to Improved Productivity

I harp about Harper a lot on this blog.  But when they do something right I like to applaud the effort.  There is a disasterous state of digitization in Canada.  There is poor rural access to high-speed Internet. We have userous wireless cost structures run by the oilgarchy of Rogers, Bell and Telus.  An we have the indifference of the CRTC to the pubic good in terms of effective regulation.

Now the Harper government seems intent on at least shedding light on this situation.

In Alberta we have a wonderful opportnity to leap ahead in terms of digital connectivity and productivity because of the foresight of the SuperNet. However our goverment seems disinterested in making it available to every citizen, which is possible if you have a copperwire telephone line in you home or business.


Telus owns those lines and have refused to negotiate Internet access to the SuperNet through them. The CRTC recently bought a bogus argument that such use would interfere with other telephone use, something called crosstalk. The technology has advanced way past that problem. Nevertheless, the CRTC recently refused a complaint by an Edmonton based Internet Service Provider to require competative acces to the Telus copper wire and in the process the Commission embarassed themselves in holding to such an arcaine misunderstanding of the technological reality of today.

Poor productivity is a major issue facing the Canadian and Alberta economies. Connectivity is a key to improved productivity. The world gets it and has started to move way past the pedantic and pathetic connectivity policies of Canada. Alberta is perhaps the most to bear the brunt of such criticism. We have the SuperNet and a government with no sense of its potential or how to realize it for the benfit of Albertans. Sad but true.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Feature Story on Reboot Alberta Supporter Fred Martin is Worth a Read

I met Fred Martin for coffee and a chat in anticipation of Reboot Alberta 2.0 at the end of February.  We talked a bit of shop as lawyers do but mostly we talked about the need for change in the political culture of Alberta.

Fred is part of the Reboot Alberta progressive citizen's movement.  We talked about what it meant to be a progressive in Alberta in the 21st century and how it had to be different from the values that dominated the 20th century. The new progressive movements that are forming in the States are grounded in the kinds of consciousness that was so much part of the social justice movements in the 1960s.  Fred Martin was there!

Fred is featured in the Edmonton Journal today around his personal involvement and commitment to social justice issues in the States back in the day and yes, even today.  Fred's story is worth a read.  It will help those of us already in the Reboot Alberta movement and others who are still at the curious stage to get a sense of what Reboot Alberta is about.  It is an emerging citizens movement intent on influencing the direction and destination of politics in Alberta.  It is not a political party. 

I don't remember who said that "History does not repeat itself.  It rhymes."  We can learn a lot from the values, commitment and socila justice experiences of citizens like Fred Martin.  What we learn is to build on past strengths and events but do not presume tomorrow  will be a repeat of yesterday.

Modernists, like the PC Party, and Traditionalists, like the Wildrose Alliance Party make that mistake all the time.  For example, PCs seem to be waiting for oil and gas prices to return and that will be enough to attract the same old kind of economic investments of the past.  The oilsands are the exception to such short term thinking because they are long term investments.  Oilsands companies as tenants and Albertans as resource owners have lots of work to do on the social and environment impacts of oilsands development. 

The WAP wants to return Alberta to an even older and even more inappropriate set of parternalistic authoritarian social values.  They want to take Alberta all the way back tothe 1950s where government, as the father who knows best, controls our morality and defines our society on an "Us versus Them" approach.  That old-style Tea-Party kind of anger and anguish comes from people who are longing for a time that is has outlived its usefullness and effectiveness decades ago. But they are becoming a force in Alberta's politics these days.      

Progressive values for the 21st century come from a place in the hearts and minds of people like Fred Martin.  Alberta is full of such people but we have to find each other and reactivate our responsibilities as citizens in some forceful and effective way.  Progressive Albertans have to reassert ourselves and return to activistists in the political culture of the province.  Progressive values and ideas are vital if we, as a people and a province, are ever going to realize our full potential in a responsible and sustainable way. 

Reboot Alberta is trying to facilitate that renewed sense of responsible citizenship in Alberta.  Check it out and join us in helping the next Alberta to become more than the last Alberta was.  Reboot Alberta is only 5 months old so give it some time to gel and get some focus. We know the value drivers of the Reboot Alberta movement members from a recent conjoint survey that will be published soon. A new survey of what Reboot Alberta should become is being circulated to current members and that will bring some clarity of where this citizen's movement goes next.

If you are concerned about the legacy of debt, environmental degradation and social problems that we are leaving our children and grand-children you might want to get involved in Reboot Alberta.
 

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Derek Sivers TED Talk How to Start a Movement

Anticipating Alberta's Inspiring Education Report as a Game Changer

I know it is tough to herd cats.  Imagine trying to do that with informed, articulate and engaged cats.  That is a near impossible challenge but only if you are presecriptive about the desired outcome in advance.  These kind of cats are near impossible to direct in any predetermined way once they are deployed.  That has to be a metaphorical description of the task of the committee reporting on the outcomes of Dave Hancock's Inspiring Education consultation process.

Will we get a distilled report from a department perspective that is designed to be politically safe (a.k.a. bland and pointless).  Or will the informed, articulate and engaged cats from the larger community have the pen and rule the day?  If so, then I expect we be given a feast for thought and a call for further citizen engagement in public education.  I will then anticipate some definite declarations of what ought to be our educational aspirations for Alberta moving forward..

Alberta's political culture is in turmoil and turbulent.  It has retreated from good governance into a command and control topdown governing philsophy motivated by partisan political survival.  Intimidation, coersion, pressure and threats from politicians, power brokers and even program managers against vulnerable citizens, community organizations, agencies and public service providers are becoming all too prevalent.  It is more proof of the mounting evidence that our government, and many of our governing institutions, have lost their way; policy-wise, politically and morally.  

In such a corrosive political culture we can expect meaningless double-speak and obfuscation if the government gets to politically frame the outcomes of an Inspiring Education report.  On the other hand, if educators, Trustees and community members hold the pen, I hope for an expansive, inclusive, dynamic, comprehensive, generative warts-and-all aspirational and challenging report. I want to know from the report on the Inspiring Education process what our best minds think we need to do about the protecting and adpating public education in Alberta so our students are ready to face the future.

There are thousands of Albertans who know and care about the future of public education and many of them came together in the Inspiring Education process.  We in Alberta, and Edmonton in particular,  have a public education system that is the envy of the world.  It has survived the attacks from those shallow thinkers who imposed simple minded "solutions" like competition and test standardization. That was no way to adapt a complex systems like public education to meet the changing world of the 21st century.

The open question going forward is will those Albertans who know and care about public education become engaged and rise to the political and public policy challenges ahead?  In particular will they have the courage and character to rise to resist the partisan, self-preserving, politically motiviated challenges that are emerging and threatening to undermine and destroy public education in Alberta?

The great paradox of self-preserving political "leadership" is its tone deafness and ineptness for authentic communication with citizens.  The problem, and the solution, is always seen by those who see their power and authority in decline, as a failure to communicate.  When the citizens are way ahead of the politicians and the bureaucracy in understanding the problems, priorities, preferences and solutions the self-preserving politicians become paralyzed. 

That is the cause of the real failure to effectively and authenticaly communicate.  It is pretty much the political situation in Alberta today.  It is not new.  It was this way in the late 80's early 90's over debt and deficit.  The Alberta population was way ahead of the political class on those issues.  The communications broke down and the population expressed their displeasure.  It eventually lead to the end of Don Getty's Premiership.

Polls tell us public confidence in the institutional powers-that-be and the political leadership in Alberta is now at, or approaching, an all time low.  Systems are breaking down at a time when Alberta is poised to be one of the most compelling, renoun and quite possibly most celebrated places on the planet, thanks to the oilsands. All of this transformational possiblity can and will be squandered if Albertans don't get seriously re-engaged and reaffirm the rights and responsibilities of our citizenship. 

We have to Reboot Alberta.  We can do this by Progressive citizens taking Control back from the politicians, the media and the behind- the door power-brokers in the energy industry.  We have to create Alternative 21st century institutions based on horizontal inclusive governance models that is citizen based and working in networked connected inclusive communities.  We have to Delete concentrated political power that is centralized topdown command and control by reckless and feckless leadership supported by anemic and self-serving political parties. 

How do we Progressives do it?  There are a number of ways.  One way is to take over the existing political institutions and change them from within.  Another is to create new political institutions that can replace the old, tired, tedious and self-serving groups we have now.  Then there is a citizens movement that is reminescent of the many social change movments of the 1960s.  But now, thanks to the Internet, such movements can be more effective, dynamic and generative. They can actually create and deliver new ideas and express the citizen-based aspirations for the next Alberta.

We have to be up for all of these efforts, and more.  But time is a-wastin' and times are a-changin'.  Reboot Alberta is becoming a gathering place for Albertans who are not only mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, but who may be ready to do something to change the world or at least Alberta's place in it.  If this describes you, then I suggest you join the citizen's movement known as Reboot Alberta.  Dust off your citizenship, park your cynicism, bring your best self and start to Press for Change about where Alberta is going and how we will get there.

Friday, April 02, 2010

New "The Right Call" Column on Lobbying

Here is the link to this months "The Right Call" column on business ethics in Alberta Venture magazine.
http://albertaventure.com/2010/04/to-lobby-or-not-to-lobby/

What do you think about lobbying and open transparent accountable honest government?