The evolving evolution of Calgary
July 9, 2012
At times we Calgarians don’t quite know how to describe our city. There is so much change going on that the only thing we can seem to all agree on is that we’re still a work in progress, as evolutions undoubtedly are.
One thing is for sure though, evolution is a necessary part of life. Nature has shown us that those living things that don’t evolve don’t survive. Charles Darwin showed us the importance of evolution. And it strikes me that Calgary is a remarkable city in which to evolve, for it is happening all around us, constantly.
I was fortunate to be asked to speak at last week’s United Way Social Innovation Ideas Festival. I, along with seven other of my fellow Calgarians, were asked to speak about what we need to do to ensure younger generations are prepared for the future. What was clear from all the speakers was that we are in a period of evolution: ATB Financial Senior Economist Todd Hirsch spoke about the need to bring in different perspectives and voices to larger scale change; Beakerhead lead Jasmine Antonick spoke about the blend of right-brain, left-brain thinking to create new ideas and experiences; and Urban Society for Aboriginal Youth Executive Director LeeAnne Ireland spoke about an evolution in how we support Aboriginal youth in becoming a greater part of our workforce. It was clear, the world as we used to do things has changed.
Another example of evolution that may not be as apparent is the new agreement signed by Alberta, Edmonton and Calgary on June 18 to create big city charters. The Calgary Chamber has long been encouraging the province to modernize the way in which our big cities can deal with their increasing myriad of challenges and needs. This agreement marks a significant evolution in how cities will be run, funded and empowered to be in greater control of their destinies. Calgary, and Edmonton, needed an evolution in city governance, and we are now getting that. It will help our cities survive.
One of Calgary’s hallmarks as a business location is our entrepreneurial bedrock, and that we’re a place where business evolution happens constantly. This is the city where things can happen. I was reminded of that the other day over dinner with my friend Paul Hardy. Paul is an internationally recognized fashion designer, based here in Calgary. His career and business has evolved greatly over the past 10 years. From personal shopper, to fashion designer to lifestyle branding, he has evolved his creative genius and is using his talents and applying them to new spheres and new markets. An evolution of creative abilities blended with business.
We got talking of another Calgary entrepreneur, Bernard Callebaut, and how he has evolved from his original chocolatier business to his new venture, Papa Chocolat. The look, feel, colours and designs are all a very marked departure from his original business. It shows that he wanted to make something different, something that was an evolution.
And the list of Calgarians that have evolved their businesses to meet new markets, new demands and new clients goes on, not to mention the groups of people coming together with an idea asking “if I could make this work….”
Calgary is an amazing city in which to evolve. Not only is it a part of the city, but a necessity. With the advancement of technologies, aging demographics, different views of the role of government, fragile markets and a world of information overload, change is a constant; we cannot stay the same. Evolution, while always a work in progress, will be a far better strategy to use. And while there a lot of things we can’t control, we can always work to shape evolution in the face of the direction in which we hope to go.
Image courtesy of Glenbow Museum