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YOU 177
YOU 177 Economic Innovation Forum
York University
Whitchurch-Stouffville Public Library
Stouffville Chamber of Commerce
The YMCA of Greater Toronto
United Way Toronto York Region
Ontario Trillium Foundation

Bring Your Telescope, Magnifying Glass,
and Paintbrush to the YOU 177
Economic Innovation Forum

What's your vision for our economic future? It's a challenging question given that our long-term economic, ecological, physical and social health are inextricably intertwined.

The YOU 177 Economic Innovation Forum will surprise, inspire and inform you. It will help you better understand the big picture while zooming in on specifics. Join us on Monday, November 2, 9:00 am to 4:30 pm at York University.

The forum will be opened by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

With thought-provoking speakers and a community case study focusing on Whitchurch-Stouffville, we're bringing together a diverse group of people and perspectives. It's an opportunity to start a new way to live and do business in communities.

The forum will encourage participants to move between using a telescope and a magnifying glass – connecting the local with the global, and identifying how real change can start at the local level. The way we currently "do things" has been found wanting on many counts of performance – benefits to our society, our environment, and our local economies. The call for change is loud – from both within and outside the business sphere. Entrepreneurial voices, in particular, can be leaders.

The Big Picture

Old way or new way? © Diane Labombarbe, iStock

We're at a crossroads. Business leaders and community leaders, as well as citizens, have a choice: do we work toward a new kind of "living economy," or stick with the old? Businesses can't truly thrive unless the system within which they operate is itself sustainable, and is also supportive of the health and well-being of people of all ages, as well as the planet we all share.

Springboarding from ideas in the Beyond GDP symposium that took place at Humber College this past spring, we'll explore big-picture questions from a community perspective. What do we value (e.g. money, land, clean air and water, time, health, learning, relationships, comfort, meaning), how do we value it, and what does that look like in our communities? How can we consider and operationalize value in a bigger picture, 7-Generation context of lifetimes across generations?

Wellbeing in Santa Monica

Groups around the world are looking at new ways to view what growth, development, prosperity, and wellbeing can look like and how we can achieve them. For example, ecological economics is studying the relationships and interactions between economies and the ecosystems that support them. The Social Progress Index puts social progress alongside economic prosperity. In Canada, the University of Waterloo has developed the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. The City of Santa Monica, CA, led by the Mayor's Office, is exploring a broad definition of wellbeing in a community context (made up of six areas – outlook, community, places/spaces, learning, health, economy).

A better future requires both a high-level vision and a nuts-and-bolts strategy. It's about global reach, based on shared principles and vision, but very much locally rooted – a different way of thinking about "scale" and a renewed sense of what community should be.

Stronger Community

The new economics of interdependence recognizes that we do operate within one system. The big-picture challenges of climate change, social inequity, an aging population and more chronic health issues, global markets and economic instability are converging to create a perfect storm. They need to be addressed at a systems level – solutions will be all about optimization of the whole system, rather than maximization of just one element.

7-Generation Innovation

At the community level, can we shift to what some have called "smart growth" – involving business models based on ideas such as sharing, creativity, and resilience, focused on building genuine community and based on real need. Can we move toward more locally-rooted economies with more independent, locally-owned, "human scale" enterprises, devoted to serving the needs of people, community and nature?

Technology can be a key enabler in the move towards more re-localized economies. In addition to communications technology, connecting people everywhere, there are other important advances; for example, 3-D printing allows production in much smaller quantities than is currently economically feasible, enabling low cost customized production for new niche products and opening up new market opportunities for innovative small and medium-sized enterprises.

In a healthy economic ecosystem, we need to see more locally owned enterprises – to enable responsibility, for risk and reward to be more closely aligned with true ownership. Markets can be refreshingly different – less emphasis on manufactured and secondary wants, and more on real and primary needs like food, shelter, transportation and mobility, and infrastructure to support and enhance life.

This is a great time for entrepreneurs, especially those focused on social and environmental markets, and could certainly open up food and other essentials, too. It will be the start of new kinds of dialogue and relationships between the business and social sectors of our communities.

Whitchurch-Stouffville Case Study

The morning of November 2 will consist of a general session with thought-provoking speakers on the big-picture themes. In the afternoon, we'll use Whitchurch-Stouffville (WS) as a case study for interactive 7-Generation innovation exploration. Can we start painting a new kind of picture?

Whitchurch-Stouffville, ON

WS is in many ways a microcosm of the world, since growth is physically constrained by the fact that so much of the municipality is part of the Oak Ridges Moraine/Greenbelt and cannot be developed. WS has also been identified by United Way as a priority community in need of social infrastructure. With significant growth over the last few years to a current population of 45,000, and one of the largest concentrations of older adults in York Region, it's facing both social and economic challenges. Yet with vision and will, it's small enough to nimbly experiment with ideas that could be breakthroughs for all communities.

Whitchurch-Stouffville, ON; photo courtesy of Stouffville Sun-Tribune

In terms of local economic themes for WS, there are the limits and opportunities that come with the large area of natural environment; the Town's stated interest in encouraging entrepreneurial and creative/knowledge-based businesses; the community's agricultural/food roots; and a significant artistic community. Another local potential draw is the Huron-Wendat Mantle archaeological site.

WS is constrained by the larger global market economy. At the same time, real innovation comes not from what exists, but what can emerge through the cracks of what exists.

The goal is to end the day with actionable ideas – to begin to paint a new kind of economic vision for community that goes beyond current conceptions to empower and connect local business, health and social services, and be a model for other communities.

Join Us on November 2

With support from United Way and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, YOU 177 started in Whitchurch-Stouffville. It's now beginning to ripple out across York Region and beyond. YOU 177 was developed by the Legacy Project, an independent research and education group based in York Region. Big challenges in communities and globally demand a new way to interconnect the dots. Based on a decade of multidisciplinary research, YOU 177 is a strategic, systems-level social innovation initiative. It offers a 7-Generation vision and framework supported by an action process. It's about big-picture, long-term thinking and action – bridging silos, multiplying resources, and sparking transformation across all issue areas.

For the YOU 177 Economic Innovation Forum, the WS Public Library and the Chamber of Commerce are bringing together local social and economic perspectives. Content and planning is being done by the Legacy Project. Other collaborators on the forum include York University, YMCA of Greater Toronto, ventureLAB, United Way Toronto & York Region, and York Region.

Date and Time:
Monday, November 2, 2015. Registration starts at 8:00 am, with the program running 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. Refreshment breaks and lunch will be provided for participants.

Location: York University, 4700 Keele Street, Kaneff Tower, Room 519.

Parking: Click on this map to locate the building (number 95) on the York University campus and the parking options (lot 71 beside building is $15/day; parking garage 72 is $20/day; far lot 66 is $10/day).

Speakers and Program:
Click here for speaker profiles and for the forum program.

Cost: There is no cost to attend, but you must register in advance. Space is limited.

Registration and Questions: Brian Puppa, Director at the Legacy Project, e-mail or (905) 852-3777.

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