What is the Future of Cascadia?

Cascadia from Space.

On October 9 and 10th, three Global Shapers from the Vancouver Hub attended the Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference in Vancouver.

Shapers from the Vancouver, including Alex Mitchell, George Benson, and Miguel Rozo, were able to participate thanks to the generous support of the British Columbia Business Council (BCBC), and enabled them to take part in the programming throughout the day.

Shapers were invited to attend because of their existing work on the Corridor, including building linkages with Hubs along the Pacific Coast, particularly Seattle and Vancouver. But most importantly, this May, Shapers co-hosted a workshop with SFU Public Square on the future of the Corridor. With the support of the British Columbia Business Council, UBC, BCTECH, the Cascadia Venture Acceleration Network, and Innovate BC, the workshop lead to a report which gives some initial directions as to where Cascadia can go.

For a new project like this, strange and sometimes blurry, understanding the broad array of opportunities is crucial to narrowing in on quick-wins,

At the Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference, Shapers were there to learn about ongoing work from key actors on the Corridor, like Microsoft and the BCBC, to consider key challenges to it being realised, and to bring their past experience and big ideas to the initial planning of the Corridor itself.

The Conference brought some heavy-weights to the table to talk about their work — like the ongoing development of Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster — but also left space for new players to Cascadia, like WeWork’s (represented by Northwest regional manager and Seattle Shaper, Gina Phillips), to share their vision and ideas, as well.

In the course of the conference, Shapers made several overarching observations:

  • Regional collaboration means global differentiation — The value of a cross-border initiative like Cascadia becomes immediately apparent when you look at the challenges that face our economy — climate change, inequality, technological disruption, and any other number of things. Regional solutions are often the best scale at which these challenges can be addressed.
  • Collaboration is hard work — Though many of the actors involved in Cascadia are formidable persons with long resumes, building a cross-border collaborative like this is a uniquely challenging activity.
  • A clear plan that is inclusive, dynamic, and forward-looking will be needed to keep everyone rowing in the same direction.
  • Inclusion is critical to success — The challenge facing high-income, knowledge-economies like BC and Washington State is that they need to make sure that we make specific effort to support the most vulnerable and in the technological, economic, and social changes that we all collectively face.

Including young people means including the future

It was this theme of inclusion that resonated most strongly with the Global Shapers. As one of the largest global networks of young leaders, Shapers are deeply interested in who is represented in all conversations, and how.

Global Shapers from the Vancouver Hub (L-R) George, Alex, and Miguel.

Whether we are talking about young people as the talent that will work in the many innovative companies and organizations that call Cascadia home, or as the leaders who will (someday soon) be in charge of what Cascadia becomes, the inclusion of young people in the shape of the Corridor will be crucial. Young people — and especially Shapers — bring enthusiasm and passion to projects like this that bridge boundaries, and they can also help add content and direction to what future generations are looking for

But this is just the beginning. Shapers in Vancouver, Seattle and up and down the coast continue to think and work together to bring our networks and initiatives into the Cascadia work. Lessons from the World Economic Forum are ready to be applied, and connectivity to the broader global community of young innovators is at our finger tips.

We don’t know what the future of Cascadia is yet, but we’re working on it.

Written by George P.R. Benson (@georgeprbenson) and Alexandria Mitchell (@alexandriamitch)

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