Calgary’s window of opportunity: Lucy’s blog

Every society has windows of opportunity where it becomes possible to accelerate change.

These are windows when all the stars seem to align for innovation to occur. Sometimes the opportunity comes about in response to negative circumstances, such as when so many women entered the workforce during the war. Other times it is in response to a unique need. Then there are times when a combination of circumstances just seems to create a fertile environment for innovation.

This is what is happening in Calgary right now.

Our city has changed so much in the past 10 years. With this rapid growth comes a variety of complex issues. As the city continues to evolve, governments, not-for-profits, and corporate Calgary are coming together to respond in new and innovative ways. The focus is on the interconnectedness and interdependence of our work. It’s about working more closely together with shared priorities, language and outcomes. It’s about a more coordinated and collaborative response to need in our city.

There is a common understanding that our shared future will be positively impacted by the extent to which we can maximize our resources and assets. If we think of Calgary as a huge grid of people, services, institutions, and opportunities, then making sure that our grid is strong and that everybody can access and participate in the grid is fundamental to our progress.

That is exactly what many of us are working towards.

United Way of Calgary and Area and the City of Calgary have brought people together around poverty. The Calgary Police Service is bringing people together around Calgary’s most vulnerable with the Safe Communities Opportunity and Resource Centre. The Calgary Homeless Foundation has brought us all together with the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. All the required players have come together around successfully transitioning new Canadians into our city and workforce, and are also working together on education issues.

These things are not happening in isolation. We are all working together to maximize resources and minimize duplication. All of this is also linked to provincial work to strengthen our communities, such as the Social Policy Framework and Crime Prevention Framework.

Policy changes are taking place (see city council’s recent decisions on transit affordability for low-income Calgarians, for example) and there is a sense of: “We are all in this together.”

Seamus Heaney once said that when new life is at its term, in that moment when hope and history rhyme, the social innovator may experience both hope and despair, birth cry and outcry, beginnings and endings. When this occurs, we know that social innovation is really happening.

By coming together to respond to the changing needs of a growing city, we will have others looking to us for guidance. They will discover that this is just how we do things in Calgary.

When something needs to be done, we do it.

—Dr. Lucy Miller is President and CEO of United Way of Calgary and Area

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