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I had the opportunity last week to volunteer as a blogger and roving rapporteur at the South Island Prosperity Partnership’s Rising Economy 2022 conference. I had not attended any of the previous conferences and was delighted, as many participants, to be back in a live conference venue – on this occasion the spectacular Songhees Wellness Centre.

The calibre of keynote speakers and panellists was as outstanding as the range of provocative topics covered. Our collective pursuit of a RISE economy – one that is Resilient, Innovative,  Sustainable and Equitable – received quite a boost from the three-day agenda. Under the conference’s “clarity” theme,  many paths to a better future were illuminated. Participants included dozens of newly elected regional mayors and councillors, social enterprise leaders, academics and local tech entrepreneurs from a wide range of companies.

I will not try to summarise the conference here but, instead, would like to highlight some of the ideas presented that left a great impression on me.

  • How can great ideas that are happening somewhere, happen everywhere  … and happen here?” The climate emergency allows us no time to re-invent the wheel. More active participation by our municipalities in solution-sharing networks can mean there is no need to re-invent the wheel either. Former Toronto Mayor David Miller and Canadian Urban Foundation CEO Mary Rowe provided excellent examples of climate solutions around the world that could be adopted and adapted by our South Island municipalities
  • Indigenomics – Carol Anne Hilton and Christina Clarke presented a new approach to economic reconciliation with First Nations that addresses the economic isolation and lack of intellectual property protection in previous economic models and strives for a new reality of partnerships.
  • Hope exists among the “worry bombs” – best selling author Thomas Homer-Dixon (“Commanding Hope”) suggested that today’s global mess is best understood as a global “polycrises”. As humanity deals with a complex knot of seemingly distinct but actually deeply entangled crises, we will need to redefine what we mean by “prosperity” along the way in a manner that was very neatly aligned with the Conference’s RISE theme. 
  • A fantastic healthcare detective story by Dr. Jennifer Grady of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation about how a team of BC genomic epidemiologists used open-sourced big data to help crack the mRNA code – that became the backbone of COVID vaccines
  • Shachi Kurl of the Angus Reid Institute reminded us that Canada is – gratefully – not the U.S. when it comes to attacks on our democracy. Since 2019, we have seen two of the closest elections in Canadian history – and neither resulted in the type of protests, accusations of rigged ballots and court challenges that have plagued US elections.
  • And – bringing it all back home – a Sidney-based company is supplying seaweed to cattle feed producers that is successfully reducing methane emissions from one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases – the “burps and farts” of cows.

For me, Rising Economy 2022 was a buzzing, brain-charger of a conference. Thank you SIPP for allowing me to volunteer at the conference and report on the wide range of topics covered. I look forward to attending next year.

Stuart Culbertson is a former Deputy Minister in the government of British Columbia. He volunteered as a guest blogger and roving rapporteur at the South Island Prosperity Partnership’s Rising Economy 2022 conference in Victoria last week.