ROMA Wrapup

After just two nights and three busy days away, my brain took the rest of the week off. Apparently I’m not a young man anymore.

The last day of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association 2023 conference was light on learning sessions, and the plenary sessions were sparsely attended as delegates left early. Too bad; they missed out on some powerful presentations. I’ll leave my commentary light, because I highly recommend you use your time to just watch them.

Housing and Homelessness

This presentation was powerful, well worth the hour (but you can speed it up to 1.5x speed by clicking the gear and adjusting the speed settings if you want to go faster).

The guy second from the left is NOT Matt Damon with a beard. He also has a lot of good stuff to say.

Commanding Hope

I had hoped to be able to post a video of Dr Thomas Homer-Dixon’s closing keynote presentation as well, but I can’t find it anywhere – maybe it wasn’t even recorded. What a shame!

The choice of Dr Homer-Dixon for a closing speaker was a very pleasant surprise to me, and the reason I chose the ROMA conference over other options this year. His book, Commanding Hope: The Power We Have to Renew a World in Peril is a great read full of powerful insights about how we can enter the future with our eyes wide open, taking purposeful action to address the complex challenges we face, together.

As a Complexity Scientist, Thomas Homer-Dixon uses a lot of tools that I’ve been studying and working with for the past few years. In 2021 I had the privilege of working with a great team of people to create a course we called Managing Complexity in the 21st Century for Centennial College. It combined introductory lessons in:

  • Systems Thinking (learning to recognize the way that different things exist in relation to each other, often in complex ways that produce new outputs and properties that no part of the system on its own could produce);
  • Futures Thinking (learning to manage and embrace uncertainty, allowing ourselves to approach the future with intentionality and hope);
  • Collaboration (learning how to work well with others to achieve more together, much harder than it sounds!);
  • Emotional Intelligence (learning to recognize and address emotional states in ourselves and others, allowing for clearer thinking and better collaboration).

All of these were approached through an entrepreneurial lens, and each of these topics are interrelated to each other: if we can understand the systems in the world around us, we can better spot the signals and trends that allow us to project their future outcomes; if we can understand the emotional states of others and the ways that humans tend to behave, we can better understand the systems we’re all part of and work together to change them for better futures; etc.

If this sounds like a lot to take in, it is; complexity is overwhelming, which is why it’s so important that we learn to manage it. ALL of the major problems we face, here in Brighton and around the world, are highly complex. The fact that the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and their Rural arm brought in a Complexity Scientist to their major conference should give us all confidence that the organization is forward-thinking and barking up the right trees!

In the absence of a video of his presentation, I looked for another video about him and his book. This one is from a YouTube channel run by one of his former students, and seems to be the most general (one thing I’ve noticed about Homer-Dixon is that he molds his talks to his specific audience, maybe because his subject is so universally applicable). If you don’t like this one, there are many others!

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