May 2016
Layla Belmahi

Amplifier Montréal at C2 Montreal

Amplifier Montréal was invited to participate in C2 Montréal this year. The event, billed as the meeting point of commerce and creativity, with several thousand attendees each year, is welcoming more and more social entrepreneurs. So, we were there!

First, the layout of the Arsenal site was spectacular: a ball pool, an indoor walk with snow falling, electric boat tours on the Lachine Canal, and talks by major figures in the creative industry scattered all around the venue. Of course, the price of a ticket is prohibitive, but the organizers and their partners had the great idea of inviting several people who would not be able to justify or afford that kind of expenditure.

So, Amplifier Montréal had its twenty minutes of fame. Since our strategic planning is still on the drawing board, it was too early to present our game plan. But we wanted to talk about what motivates us to take action. On C2’s Big Top stage, our three guests discussed issues that stem from urban living, as well as solutions that we can promote to positively influence Montréal's transformation.

The panel, moderated by Diane Bérard, columnist on new capitalism for Les Affaires, consisted of Mary Rowe, a facilitator on urban issues based in New York, Claude Pinard, of the Mirella and Lino Saputo Foundation, and Erica Barbosa Vargas, of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.

After having stated that Canada is home to 3 of the cities that best represent how cities should be in the 21 st  century (she didn't specify which ones...we’ll let you take a guess!), Mary spoke of the economic, cultural, creative, and unifying potential of urban areas. She especially emphasized the importance of citizens reflecting on what could make their cities better and working on the mutual strengthening of their capacities. It’s logical, yet a very new concept: citizens don't simply live in cities, they define and build them (or destroy them). Mary also believes that we should not be content with being “good” instead of “bad”, but should aspire to become “better” rather than “good.” A relevant notion for Montréal, where we often seem to have the mentality that “as least it's better than it was,” as opposed to aiming for excellence.

Erica, from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, who—I’m highlighting this because I’m so impressed—grew up in Bolivia, studied at one of the best universities in London, but chose to work in Montréal, which she presented as the ideal behind the Amplifier Montréal project. As Je vois Mtl, je fais Mtl, PIC, and all the other activities surrounding the city's 375 th anniversary demonstrate, Montréal is undergoing a process of transformation. However, we don’t believe that Montréal needs a new “structure” or a new “white elephant.” We need to establish more connections between the different existing initiatives and foster collaborations, thereby amplifying our successes so that they have a larger impact and can take on the world. Amplifier Montréal hopes to continue this objective through different initiatives to be unveiled in the coming weeks (Erica gave a few concrete examples...but I’m keeping my lips sealed to whet your appetite for my future posts!).

Claude Pinard stressed the importance of an infrastructure that encourages innovation. As an example, he cited the dozen incubators that have recently set up shop in Montréal, but they are (and should be) only the first wave. Claude also declared that he’s in favour of “radical collaboration” and wanted as many people as possible from all sectors to come together to discuss points of agreement and work cooperatively. At Amplifier Montréal, we say that the city needs to change from “a city of a hundred steeples to a city where ideas flow freely.” Claude also stated that he supports the adoption of original and more experimental pedagogical approaches. He's working on a MAJOR project to that effect. Stay tuned...

In short, an extremely successful 20 minutes of fame, some unforgettable encounters, and a valuable experience that confirmed my choice of joining the Amplifier Montréal team. I hope my blog inspires you to follow us and, who knows, maybe join the movement!