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EconoUs Conference ‘Success’ Was Place-Based

It’s a wrap! After more than 12 months in the making we are thrilled to say EconoUs2017, the 8th annual community economic development conference, and our first-go at co-organizing an event of this scale was a success.
Quantifying ‘success’ in this instance is more than being on budget and exceeding our attendance targets (don’t get us wrong, we’re celebrating that too). But the conference, very much like the work we’re involved in with building a thriving and resilient local economy for all, was a success largely because of the unto Calgary experience that unfolded through the collaborative approach to everything from program development to communications and logistics.
Seven partners and more than 30 sponsors invested human, social and financial capital in making this conference happen. We had the arts community involved. We had the business community involved. We had students and seniors and community groups involved. The event was made inclusive through a bursary program and an audit of the physical spaces and venues for accessibility. The food was largely local, and we showcased some of the very best of our city’s social enterprise, coop, tech, creative living and entrepreneurial endeavors. We know Calgary is an inspiring place to call home and we were truly honored to have had the chance to celebrate and share it with almost 400 community leaders from near and far.
Like the work we’re doing to build healthy communities, EconoUs2017 was the result of iterative processes, place-based solutions, and cross-sectoral collaboration. Our co-host and conference organizing body The Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet) captured the essence of our experience in their pre-event blog We’ve Got to Work Together.
Central to the CED approach is having people within a community (whether one of place, identity, or organized around specific issues) work together to identify their collective strengths, find opportunities and collectively make an action plan. What a CED plan looks like and how it is developed in one community could be totally different in another community.
We will continue to take this place-based and collaborative approach forward in our work at Thrive to raise awareness and advocate for community economic development (CED) as an approach to poverty reduction, community building, and economic planning. As a learning organization, it was affirming to discover workshop survey participants were most interested in attending sessions on place based CED and leadership development. To this end, we will be continuing to empower CED practitioners in Calgary to cultivate their leadership in the local economy, collaborate on enterprising ideas in their communities, and accelerate businesses with social purpose.
But we couldn’t have done it without the help of so many people and inspiring organizations in and around Calgary. A heartfelt thank you to our partners Calgary Economic Development, Momentum, REAP, Mount Royal’s Institute for Community Prosperity and the Calgary Regional Partnership. We are also immensely grateful to the contributions of our many incredible sponsors.
To close, we wanted to share a few of our favorite comments from the post-event survey question – What parts of EconoUs2017 were most beneficial/valuable to you and your work?
“Networking breaks, the conversations that occurred ‘offline’”
“…The mix of content that is all related to building a more prosperous local economy for everyone – eg local social enterprises, workforce development and community development approaches.”
“Hearing from other Social Enterprises and having the opportunity to actually meet and work with other professionals.”

Written by Elisha Kittson and originally posted to Thrive News.

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