The qualities that Albertans will need to face the future with are still here, among and within us. That is one important take-away from the two Possibility Panel warm-up sessions hosted recently by The Next 30.
The first session on November 26th explored this question directly. Innovation, resourcefulness, entrepreneurial, hard-working, grit, resilient, open, kind; these were the most common words participants used to describe the qualities they appreciate most about Albertans.
In the second session on December 7th we explored the achievements from Alberta’s past that we are most proud of and what we can learn from them to inform the future. People spoke of coming together, being bold, being resilient and adaptive to change, being far-sighted and thoughtful about current and future generations, as important lessons from some of the favoured achievements like the Heritage Fund, provincial parks, the Climate Leadership Plan, and the 1988 Winter Olympics.
We can be forgiven, I think, in these challenging times of pandemic and polarization, for lamenting the absence of these qualities in our province today. But if there’s one thing that the warm-up sessions showed, these qualities are some of the things we hold most dear. When you scratch the surface, our culture is still rooted in these qualities.
Our concern is not mis-placed though. We don’t like to talk about it in public, but privately many of us worry that our kids and grand-kids may not have it as good as we’ve had it here. In Alberta, this goes beyond the general malaise about the state of the world that we likely share with people in so many other places. And it pre-dates the pandemic too. Here, it also has to do with the specific conditions facing our economy and communities, and the recognition that some of the things that have driven our way of life likely cannot continue to do so in the same way for much longer. We know it, even if we don’t always want to admit it to each other.
There’s no doubt Alberta is facing some serious challenges. Economic diversification, building an inclusive social fabric, reconciling our energy industry’s future with growing concern about climate change, and many more. We’ll explore these challenges and other tough questions about Alberta’s future in the main Possibility Panel sessions that begin on January 20th. The sessions will be designed to dig deeper, surface new and practical ideas for moving Alberta forward, and ultimately to bring forward solutions that individuals, organizations, communities, and governments can consider as we plan for Alberta’s next 30 years.
Our hunch at The Next 30 is that we are up for the challenge, especially if we can draw on all of those important lessons from when we have met challenges together before. If there’s one thing I know from my own work, it’s that Alberta is full of highly capable, highly innovative, good and noble people. Out of the spotlight, Albertans are already working on some of the world’s biggest challenges. These are not the Albertans who generally make the headlines, but we need to hear more of them and more from them. We hope the Possibility Panel sessions will help them find their voice.
Better preparing ourselves for the future will also mean letting go of a little bit of some of what has defined us, as we also discussed in the recent warm-up sessions. That is not going to be easy. But in doing it, there’s a good chance we will discover that what actually connects us is deeper than what industry we work for or what political party we support. It is the land, the seasons, the community, the attitude. It is the fundamental decency, the kindness, the openness to others, the willingness to work hard, the conviction that hard work should be rewarded, and the belief that we can make something happen.
We have before. And we will again.
The Next 30 team and the Possibility Panel look forward to what’s coming in 2021. See you on the other side!