Work the map


We had a deep-dive conversation around the Strategy Road Map during yesterday's Nexus North COMMUNITY session hosted in the gallery space at Keyano College.  It was very well attended, with a good mix of people who were somewhat familiar with the map and others who were seeing it for the first time.

Right now, the Strategy Road Map is in a two-dimensional form.  You'll see a large printed version on my bulletin board if you happen to be in my office.  Arianna Johnson from the Wood Buffalo Food Bank has it up in her space, as do likely a broad cross-section of leaders from the social profit, business, public and government sectors.  We're all represented in this complex illustration that appears to include islands, tributaries and a huge body of water.

The circles are OUTCOMES.  The larger the circle, the further downstream and the larger the aspiration.  Outcomes are driven by ACTIONS, which are denoted by the rectangles.  All the actions and outcomes were gleaned from multiple documents including the Municipal Development Plan, Future Forward, Lower Athabasca Regional Plan, and many others. These were then vetted and adjusted through a number of cross-sectoral gatherings over the last three months.  Over 1,300 outcomes were distilled, grouped together and organized - 283 in all - to form this latest version of Wood Buffalo's Strategy Road Map.

Furthest downstream is our most ambitious aspirational outcome:  Wood Buffalo is a global model of sustainable living in the north.

But before we can do that, we really have to prove ourselves:  Wood Buffalo offers a high quality of life for its people, now and in future generations.

But before we can get to the point of offering this consistent, high quality of life, we have to deal with this tumultuous period of incredible growth and change:  Wood Buffalo is responsive and resilient when faced with the volatility of a natural resource dominated economy.

Through a series of meetings in the fall and yesterday's robust dialogue, I am convinced that this roap map offers a solid beginning to achieve resilience and responsiveness in these dynamic times.

It seems clear that if this remains in the two-dimensional form, on large pieces of paper scattered throughout offices and boardrooms, it will likely die on the vine.  Instead of gathering dust on the shelf with a vast collection of plans, it would be rolled up and gathering dust in the corner.  If we really and truly want to "work the map," as constantly suggested by consultant Keith Jones, one of the masterminds behind this planning framework, then we need to take it to a completely different level.

I'm seeing the map in a digital form, with multiple layers and intense interactivity, so that it can be a living, breathing, treasure trove of information - a new way of illustrating complex systems, opportunities, challenges, and risk.


Imagine a GREEN-AMBER-RED system within the architecture of the map.  Imagine being able to look at the regional eco-system through the STATUS lens, where each action and outcome lights up, giving you an instant visual sense of the state of the region.

SOLID GREEN: Making good progress or achieved
SOLID AMBER: Slow but study progress, might need attention
SOLID RED: No forward progress
FLASHING GREEN: Opportunity
FLASHING AMBER: Risk
FLASHING RED: Gap

Imagine being able to go to the who layer, to see what people, organizations and sectors are connected to particular outcomes.  Very quickly, we could see natural collaborative opportunities and synergies that might accelerate forward progress.

Imagine going to an indicators layer.  Click on an outcome and discover an indicator, metric, or data set that offers insight into whether we are moving in the right direction, or if we have lost momentum in a certain area.

ie. Volunteerism has dropped 5% over the previous year.  Is it a blip, and not to be worried about, or are there internal and external factors that are impeding our residents' abilities to engage in voluntary activities? What can we do to respond to this change?

Imagine an artistic layer, where you can see our young peoples' interpretations of the outcomes and aspirations.  This was an idea offered by Ken Chapman, founding chair of Arts Council Wood Buffalo.  Connecting students to this new way of regional planning and visioning would provide amazing insights; they will inherent the future that we are designing.

Imagine a narrative layer, where we can easily pull out stories of authentic collaboration, innovation and resilience.  Leveraging words, pictures and video, we can help champion people and organizations who are getting us closer and closer to being the global model that we aspire to be.

Imagine being a newcomer to Fort McMurray and being able to search on "Childcare", and in an instant being able to see the Strategy Road Map through this lens.  Who is involved?  What services are available? Are there gaps?


Many of these ideas bubbled to the surface yesterday, including a discernible excitement as people began seeing the personal and organizational value that this platform could provide.  But like one participant pointed out: "We do things once, really well."  This can't just be the flavour of the day, as it will quickly lose favour and go the way of many processes, plans and aspirations that have come before it.


If the Strategy Road Map and our dream of being a global model for sustainable living in the north is to be fulfilled, we need to "work the map", and grow it into a multi-layered platform that becomes our primary tool for being resilient, maximizing opportunities, identifying and mitigating risk, creating authentic and purposeful collaborations, and taking complete ownership and control of the future we seek.

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