Last week I was lending a hand during the Sudbury portion of the Think North ll Summit and was fortunate to catch the opening remarks by New Zealand speaker Stuart Trundle, as well as Ireland's John Gallagher. I was literally captivated by their enthusiastic and straight forward approach to regional and community economic development. Their messages were more than just moving, but extremely powerful, to say the least.
Stuart Trundle, Venture Taranaki Trust's chief executive, is responsible for leading the New Zealand regional economic development agency. During Stuart's presentation, he positioned Venture Taranaki Trust as a very progressive and aggressive economic development agency that focuses on getting only the best individuals to be part of the team - there are no compromises in terms of the best talent.
Speaking to a diverse crowd of Northern Ontario economic development stakeholders, the one aspect of Stuart's commentary that really hit home were his observations on Isolation being a Matter of Perspective. Often, one thinks of Northern Ontario communities as being isolated or distant from their markets, but compared to Taranaki, New Zealand (where cows outnumber residents 7 to 1 and whose closest neighbor is Antarctica), Northern Ontario is relatively strategic and only a short hop to most major North American markets.Stuart is a tough act to follow, but WYG International's John Gallagher simply picked up on Stuart's energy and the audience's attentiveness. Although based in Ireland, John works around the globe to assist communities in understanding how they can develop to their fullest potential. John relayed stories of three separate communities in Africa and Bosnia, with a few people that had enough hope and determination to completely change their community circumstances. Using storytelling to get his message across, John told Three Stories, which took place over a period of Three Years that focused on the efforts, insights and sheer determination of Three People in each community. Three People made a tremendous difference in each of their communities. In the end, the actions and success of Three People was based on the hope that they could make their communities significantly better. I am not sure if it was the message that was delivered by John or his graceful storytelling abilities, or just his Irish accent, but his message of hope and daring to dream big definitely hit the mark - as long as there is hope and determined people willing take action, any community can achieve greatness.