AgendaCamp Waterloo Recap

On Sunday I was fortunate to participate in AgendaCamp Waterloo, where we were discussing “The Innovation Economy”. For those not there, it was run as an unconference, and the topics that were brought up ranged from “Is the Internet killing arts and literature?” to “Why haven’t social networking tools improved democracy and voter participation?” to the last session I sat in, “What is the Government’s role in Venture Capital?“. Then on Monday, following the AgendaCamp, I had the chance to sit in with the audience at The Agenda (stream online).

For those that weren’t there – here are some of the take-aways that I got from the event.

A lot of local politicians participated – I say “participated” as opposed to “attended” because that’s exactly what itwas they particiated in the discussions. From one of my early groups that had an elected town councillor, to my second group that had people that had run for provincial parliament, to my last session where the Minister of Research and Innovation answered questions for almost an hour – the politicans that were there on Sunday participated actively. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another event, where the participation level was so high – well done TVO on making this happen.

People realize arts are important to innovation – There were several different conversaions going on at the Camp about the arts, and some chose to focus on journalism, and some on digital media, and others were more ecclectic. Either way – they all had similar sentiments: the arts play a crucial role in fostering innovation. I believe this myself, but because I’m always hanging around tech circles, it’s easy to become jaded about how people perceive the arts. AgendaCamp was a reassuring glimpse into a broader audience that value our arts economy. Summary concept: innovation is lead by the spirit of bucking the status-quo, the desire the shake things up; the arts foster a culture where that kind of systemic rebellion is accepted. An active arts culture lets people know that innovation is ok, and that it is encouraged!

A lot of people in Waterloo know of and use Twitter – I was blown away with how many people here in Waterloo know of an use twitter. Everyone in attendance knew what twitter was, and many were tweeting the event like I was. Cool.

Live Blogging is Cool – I’ve attended a few events that were live-blogged, but never one that was so effective. Well done on TVO’s crew and the folks at Scribble live – that was a fun and fascinating experience. It also helped me meet many, many interesting people.

Communitech was missed – This was a weird observation. Typically at an event surrounding innovation in Waterloo, I would expect to see a lot of the same people from Communitech circles – this time, many of them were absent. I suppose TVO used different distribution methods to get the word out about the event, but either way – it was unfortunate that so many local change agents were missing.

The event was missing a call to action – The event did a great job of energizing people – what was missing, was a way to harness that energy. I know that there was someone soliciting impact statements, but there really needed to be more people seedin impact opportunities. I think it would have been really good if there was a rep from the Volunteer Action Centre in attendance to give people a channel for their energ.

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