West Wing Wednesday Night #15

Written by  //  June 10, 2009  //  Alexandra T. Greenhill, Cities, West Wing (WWWN)  //  No comments

Isn’t this a most glorious stretch of sunshine? [Obviously not written from Montreal’s WN] Enthralled with being outdoors, I practically forgot it was time to send the next invite – and thanks for the queries some of you sent!
After the great conversation on change we had last time, I wanted to go back to another favorite topic – what makes certain initiatives a success while seemingly similar ones end up in failure? From this month’s New Yorker, I quote Atul Gawande:

 “Woody Powell is a Stanford sociologist who studies the economic culture of cities. Recently, he and his research team studied why certain regions-Boston, San Francisco, San Diego-became leaders in biotechnology while others with a similar concentration of scientific and corporate talent-Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York-did not. The answer they found was what Powell describes as the anchor-tenant theory of economic development. Just as an anchor store will define the character of a mall, anchor tenants in biotechnology, whether it’s a company like Genentech, in South San Francisco, or a university like M.I.T., in Cambridge, define the character of an economic community. They set the norms. The anchor tenants that set norms encouraging the free flow of ideas and collaboration, even with competitors, produced enduringly successful communities, while those that mainly sought to dominate did not.”

So – what is Vancouver’s business culture? What is the anchor-tenant entity for the city? What is it in your field? And how does one convince entire groups that it is more advantageous to give than to get? And yes, UBC’s own Dr. Helliwell is willing to come join us to discuss his findings on why giving 25$ away makes us happier than spending it on ourselves – but unfortunately not this time. It’s problem of aligning schedules… I will keep you posted.
Speaking of giving to get – the WXN‘s breakfast session on June 9th will focus on Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) and put on a panel the Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) CEO. MEC, which was started in 1971 by UBC students who wanted access to good, inexpensive mountaineering gear, has over 10 retail stores across Canada and over 3 million members. The organization reported sales of $247.7 million, up from $195.8 million in 2005.Interesting how profitable and mainstream CSR has become, yet most companies I think still don’t get it. Funny thought – the GM bail out is almost like CSR in reverse… Social Corporate Responsibility seems to be always in vogue no matter which government is concerned. And what happened to the notion that companies were becoming the new trans-national governments?
Another burning issue is GOLD. To buy or not to buy, seems to be the question and reports are so conflicting! Where is our bedrock of stability, our bottom line, our fall back position in the confusing financial universe we inherited from the last century?
Closer to home, let’s also spend a few moments checking in on the gathering’s thoughts on Vancouver Eastside’s Operation Phoenix and the on-going crime and planned crime (e.g. this week’s high-school student arrest). The premise of Operation Phoenix is simple: “Lock them up until they’re clean – Addicts are not in a position to make decisions about their lives – that’s our duty”. Our reactions are not so simple even from the couple of conversations on this that I have had.

So, do come to discuss, be inspired, and exchange ideas and insights, all you of interested, interesting, informed and informative people. For the new invitees, the description of the Wednesday night concept and other important logistical details click on “About us” at the top menu and don’t forget to honor Bacchus with a gift. Please note that arrival is for 7PM and start of the moderated discussion is at 8PM sharp – to end promptly at 10PM so everyone can go to work the next day!

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