Thursday, 30 August 2012


If you could share and map great "campfire" stories from your area, what would you say? What would you show? What would you write? What would you teach? If you could easily do this online, with friends and colleagues, where would you start?

What would you share about the elder, for example, who still collects rare plants in the area to make native medicines? Or the music historian who has collected local folklore and songs from the past? Or the author who writes about long-lost, ghost towns? Or the lady who makes periwinkle soup? Or the farmer who teaches how to make rich compost in eight weeks?

Destination tourism consultant and guru Roger A. Brooks once wrote "Great Stories Make the Campfire Memorable" in his book "The 25 Immutable Rules of Successful Tourism". If you want to entice visitors you must share interesting stories.

"Generic" map and images of the area around Argyle, Nova Scotia, that can be customized.

Google Map Maker lets you customize a map and post such stories with friends and colleagues, and now share them with the world (text, images, audio, video, links).

You share the map with those you want to help build it. You display the map with those you want to see it. People can comment on the map. They can review/correct the map. They can provide further/new information about the area. 

Google has just made community mapping and sharing easier, so your culture, heritage, geography, industry -- your stories -- could be shown to the world. It's like crowd-sourcing an "organic, breathing map" of your area, making the map richer, more complete and current.

What's your next community map?

Monday, 27 August 2012


"Yes, politics can kill projects - if you let them!", Karl Shutz once wrote me.

Selected murals from Chemainus, British Columbia, Canada.

Back in 1971, way before the internet, Karl Shutz proposed an idea, a vision, to revitalize the small community of Chemainus, British Columbia, population 3,000. 

The town was a fast-fading relic from its past glory in the forest industry. It wasn't until 10 years later, during the recession of the early 80s,  that a young 29-year old Mayor came along to share this vision, and who was in a position to say "let's do it". Karl's vision, the Mayor and community helped to put Chemainus on the cultural map -- a town now nicknamed "Mural Town" for its many murals, with a tagline "The Little Town That Could". 

Chemainus now boasts cultural, craft and culinary fairs, galleries, musical performances, theatre and growing recreation and support industries. This month alone 97 events events were posted to its website; not bad for a town of 3,000 people. 

That theatre in Chemainus, the Chemainus Theatre Festival, has a connection to another leadership story -- one from Rosebud, Alberta, a hamlet of 300+ people.

The connection is LaVerne EricksonHis story dates back to 1973.

About 100km outside Calgary, in the badlands of Alberta, lies the tiny hamlet of Rosebud. It was once a thriving community of ranchers, farmers and miners, but times turned tough and the town faded. Nothing drew people to Rosebud.

In 1973 LaVerne, a high school teacher had a vision. He opened the Rosebud Camp for the Arts as an outreach for city youth, many of whom had not experienced rural life. His original summer camp grew over time and became a Fine Arts High School. Then, in 1988, came a turning point. The Alberta government passed the "Rosebud School of the Arts Act" opening its doors to post-secondary training. Rosebud School of the Arts was based on a guild model, using mentors and outside professionals, that began to attract theatre arts students from all over North America.

Rosebud now attracts over 40,000+ "paying visitors" each year to its theatre and cultural events and a growing cultural community.

Chemainus and Rosebud, to me, are examples where visionary cultural leaders began a creative process that were helped along by the political visionaries. 

Today, our world interacts very differently than the early 1970s. We need, however, to back our cultural visionaries and political leaders who view the creative economy as our new economy. Our political and economic leaders need to understand this change. As, economic developer consultant, Greg Baeker once said "you have zero economic advantage when you choose to chase smokestack industries".

Let's support the visionaries like Karl Schutz and Laverne Erickson. It's time to unearth, celebrate and be inspired by our creative visionaries and use politics to help when and where possible. 

Saturday, 4 August 2012


Italian architect, entrepreneur, community developer, and curious observer, Andrea Paoletti states a case for rural co-working, "If more informal coworking spaces were created in rural and natural settings it would generate a unique opportunity to connect social entrepreneurs with local communities. The ideas and projects created there will have a much better chance of making a direct impact on local rural communities..."

I came across this note from Paoletti after some coworking groups began to follow me on Twitter @CREandET. So I started to do some digging about coworking and ended up signing the Coworking Manifesto. The manifesto supports redefining the way we work; "inspired by the participatory culture of the open source movement and the empowering nature of IT ...".

Wikipedia defines coworking as "a style of work that involves a shared working environment, often an office, and independent activity." Coworking also deals with shared ideas. Apparently coworking attracts entrepreneurs and work-at-home professionals -- people mostly in the creative industries and new media. Its short history is primarily urban, having started in 2006 with the "Hat Factory" in San Fransisco and is now spread worldwide. Coworking involves community building and sustainability.

OK, so how can coworking impact rural communities? 

Wyoming freelance writer, Beth Buczynski notes that the coworking community has seen a surge in rural towns, "... areas where the population is quite small and something other than technology is the main industry", but requires some educational legwork on the concept. Buczynski tells of Mark W. Kidd who is building a coworking community in Whitesburg, Kentucky (population 2,000) and has attracted a diverse cross-section of people. She describes five essential tools for setting up a coworking space:

Diversity in rural communities is seen as a benefit for coworking.

Want to start a rural coworking environment?
"A short commute, reliable internet, coffee, print technologies, proximity to local eateries and services, affordable work space, access to a diverse community of professionals, opportunities for continuing education, and child care were all mentioned as things that attracted rural entrepreneurs to coworking communities." 

LINK: Origins and future of Coworking (YouTube video)