Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Team: Reflections on engaging people and change

The Gaining Ground/Resilient Cities conference was an opportunity for the Mayor Robertson to launch the Bright Green Future Report – which he did on the first day of the conference (blogged on this on Wed Oct 22).    The conference was also an opportunity to reflect on the process of the Greenest City Action Team who advised the City on the report.

Soon after Gregor Robertson’s election as Mayor of the City of Vancouver, he brought together a group of citizen advisors to form the Greenest City Action Team  This team was called upon to assist the Mayor in developing a strategy for making Vancouver the greenest city in North America.  A Quick Starts report was issued in the spring and recently endorsed by Council.  The Bright Green Future report  was the second part of the GCAT mandate.

The main idea of the panel was to reflect on the lessons learned during the GCAT process and ponder questions like:  How does the GCAT process compare to other processes that the City has employed historically to get advice? How effective was the process in mobilizing and focusing staff effort in key areas related to becoming “greener”?  What techniques did the GCAT process use to develop recommendations and think through targets?

The participants were:  Gordon Price, Director, SFU City Program; Robert Safrata,  CEO Novex Couriers; Melina Scholefield, Manager, City of Vancouver Sustainability  Group; and, MQ.    The session was moderated by Keith Jardine.

We tried something a bit different and asked each participant to offer up a tweet (140 characters) that expressed both an opportunity and a challenge of the process.  This actually worked well to avoid “presentations” by each of the panelist and instead got us quite quickly into a dialogue with each other and with the participants from the Gaining Ground conference.  It was especially interesting to have people from other municipalities in BC and across Canada.

The Opportunities suggested by the panel were:

  • Accelerating the consensus.
  • For City Hall to build even further integration in our thinking and actions: inter-disciplinary & partnerships
  • Apply to be a GCAT speaker & catalyst.
  • Engaging businesses in the opportunities of the 0 carbon economy.

The Challenges articulated by the panel were:

  • Trivialization and inertia.
  • Risk of diluting focus and dissipating our efforts by “doing a little of everything” instead of making the big, bold moves
  • To turn the words  (GCAT plan) into actions.
  • Transforming our learning environments to inspire and motivate youth.

These “tweets” needless to say don’t do a great job of explaining the discussion that went on in the 2.5h session.  And because I was on the panel — I didn’t take notes.

But the highlights for me were:

  • Gord’s eloquent description of the ‘politics of getting things done’;
  • Melina’s thoughtful reflections on what the GCAT report and the whole process mean to the staff at City Hall in terms of increased motivation and belief that they can make change and make things work for citizens; and,
  • Rob’s both pragmatic and passionate plea for volunteers to get out there and talk about the report and what it means for our future.

This is my last “direct blog” on Gaining Ground — but still lots of ideas swirling.

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