What do a Canadian bestselling author, a handful of painters, poets, teachers and storytellers and over 200 audience members from an incredible cross section of the Okanagan community have in common? They believe meaningful change is possible.
On Wednesday March 9th, these folks gathered at a powerful evening of storytelling, dialogue art and music hosted by Urban Matters CCC and Valley First at the Laurel Packing House called “Unlaunching the Okanagan.”
Although inspired by the launch (or rather unlaunch) of an important new book—IMPACT—Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation—written by world-renowned social entrepreneur Al Etmanski, the night also showcased a panel of local innovators as well as musicians, artists and poets. From local food, drink and live music to bold original paintings and more, the event was full of lively energy.
“The evening was beyond my wildest expectations,” says Etmanski. “Walking into that hall brimming with people and creativity was thrilling. I’m tickled to be part of a renaissance of social change making in the Okanagan. Its roots are deep and its flowers are blooming.”
Etmanski’s book shines a light on remarkable social innovations in Canada and looks at the difference between short-term success and lasting impact. He opened his discussion by talking about how the patterns in his book are reflected in some of the exciting social ventures happening in the Okanagan right now. Etmanski reminded the audience that everyone has a role to play in social change—that making the world a better place is about paying attention to the right signals, believing change is possible and operating from your heart.
The evening’s presenters represented carefully handpicked organizations that are living the patterns outlined in IMPACT. Interspersed with poets and musicians, a panel of three social change champions each took seven minutes to tell the story of how their organization is tipping the system to achieve lasting social change. Etmanski and Laurence East moderated the event and a Q&A session. The evening wrapped up with a social gathering, live music and a book signing.
“Dialogue and convening are more than a means to an end. They give structure to our need to belong, to be part of something bigger than ourselves.” -From IMPACT
Urban Matters President Ken Gauthier explains that the night was an exciting opportunity for dialogue and learning.
“Big things are happening in the Okanagan right now. We were very happy to put people doing amazing things in this community up on stage. Gatherings like this are all about softening the ground, connecting people and feathering the nest for systems changing initiatives of the future. We’re excited to help nurture this movement. There’s this realization we have this community. Let’s create excuses to get together—let’s think like a movement and keep building this momentum.”
Okanagan College student Alisa Cassidy, who is doing her honours project on the Kelowna Child Care Society says that events like this are critical to bring together the newly burgeoning community of social entrepreneurs in the Okanagan.
“What an outstanding night. This evening showed in practical terms how social innovation can take place and looked at the lasting positive impact it can have. The speakers were engaging and it was a great chance to connect with people doing creative work in our community.”
Urban Matters CCC looks forward to hosting more of such events in the future. Watch this space for some in-depth profiles of the organizations and artists featured at Unlaunching the Okanagan, but for now, a recap:
Sarah Alexis, Syilx Citizen and ONA Natural Resource staff – Sockeye salmon are returning to the southern Okanagan Valley and are now thriving in its dessert climate—an incredible accomplishment. Sarah discussed the work being done to return sockeye salmon to the Okanagan and her own journey in social entrepreneurship. (Sarah also wore a very cool t-shirt emblazoned with the words “RETURN OF THE SOCKEYE”).
Dr. Kyleen Myrah, Prof for Okanagan College Tomorrow’s Social Innovators Program – Dr. Kyleen Myrah is the Professor of Business at the Okanagan School of Business. She discussed ways to build impact into education and the fantastic opportunities for students in the Okanagan to make a difference in their community. Dr. Myrah is a Faculty Advisor for a non-profit student organization, Enactus Okanagan, which develops and implements projects to improve the quality of life across the region.
Ted Gross, President, Big Brother Big Sisters of the Okanagan – Ted talked about the evolution of Big Brother Big Sisters, its challenges and the crucial step of engaging the community and taking charge of its economic power to achieve success.
Laurence East – Laurence moderated the gathering and is Lead Pastor at the Metro Community, a street level church in Kelowna. He has a passion for justice issues and helped launch Child of Mine and East Meets West Orphans Foundation.
Erin Scott, Spoken Word Poet and Playwright – Erin Scott is an artist interested in community art development, youth and female empowerment. She is also very, very funny and had the entire crowd in stitches with her tongue-in-cheek appraisal of Al’s book and ideas.
Harold Rhenisch, Writer – Harold Rhenisch writes the blog www.okanaganokanogan.com and has a long literary career (30 books in 5 genres). Harold talked about stories, from the loons of Kokanee Bay to a fascinating tale about the emergence of the ambrosia apple, and about the importance of art and slowing down to truly pay attention.
Other participants who helped make the evening a huge success included: Sarah Mainland – Musician, Nils Loewen Trio – Band, Adrian Russouw – Musician, Sarah Lewke – Artist, Liz Ranney – Artist, Dylan Ranney – Artist – Thank you to all sponsors, participants and audience members who came together for such a fantastic evening.