Wednesday, September 16, 2015

RCADE project explained to Pincher Creek's councils

Screen cap from John Deere youtube video "Farm Forward"
*corrected for accuracy
Toni Lucas

Dan Crawford and James Van Leeuwen appeared as a delegation before council for the MD of Pincher Creek on Tuesday September 8, and again before council for the Town of Pincher Creek on Monday, September 14,  They requested letters of support for a learning initiative they are championing for Pincher Creek called 'RCADE' (Regional  Centres for Arts, Design and Entrepreneurship).  Crawford illustrated his perspective by hefting a sledgehammer.  "Over the course of time, tools have changed."  Crawford and Van Leeuwen said advances in technology have changed almost every job, including a number of careers that didn't even exist a few years ago.  According to Van Leeuwen, RCADE is to be an "ecosystem for learning, mastering, applying tools and technologies old and new". explained Van Leeuwen.

Participating organizations so far include Southwest Alberta Sustainable Community Initiative (SASCI), Matthew Halton School, St.Michael's School, Pincher Creek and District Municipal Library, and Napi Friendship Association.  According to Crawford and Van Leeuwen, they are currently beginning conversations with the Alberta College of Art and Design, Lethbridge College, and the University of Lethbridge.

RCADE is a community development initiative operating on two levels. At community level, it is an enterprise supporting learning, innovation, and creativity. Regionally, it enables application of expertise and other resources to development of shared-use resources and best practices, and collaborative approaches to economic development. - from RCADE letter to councils
The introductory letter sent by Crawford to the councils lays out what it's about, as excerpted in part below:

"Digital resources and facilities will be shared across four 'startup' venues in Pincher Creek to establish a coordinated,  systemic approach to community engagement  and community development  (Matthew Halton High School; St. Michael's Catholic School; Pincher Creek & District Municipal Library; and Napi Friendship Centre). These venues will communicate with each other and the broader world through an optical fibre network, enabling unfettered access to cloud-based applications and services and more networked, collaborative approaches to learning,  innovation and entrepreneurship.

"RCADE will initially support audio production,  video production,  digital storytelling,  coding, robotics and 30 printing,  and expand into additional areas of application as the user base expands and evolves. RCADE will be available to all community  residents and visitors, and developing marketable knowledge and skills among youth will be a key focus.

"Regionally,  RCADE will help local governments  to organize and coordinate assets and interests as they develop digital resources.  Many communities  are investigating the economic advantages of optical fibre utilities, but few are ready to engage this opportunity confidently and consistently.  RCADE will accelerate community  readiness by catalyzing community interest and engagement  in application of digital tools. Built-in usage metrics will reveal what is working and what is popular,  enabling communities  to confidently build more effective and collaborative  strategies and solutions for development.

"How will this project positively impact our rural community?  RCADE is already positively impacting Pincher Creek, as four previously 'siloed' organizations  now collaborate with a common purpose. Other organizations  are interested to participate, including Allied Arts Council of Pincher Creek, Pincher Creek Community Adult Learning Council, and Pincher Creek & District Historical Society.

"RCADE will enable improvement  of communications  capabilities and practices for all community-based  organizations,  many of which cannot easily afford to upgrade to state-of-
the-art technologies.  RCADE will enable sharing of support for IT maintenance and service development,  helping organizations  to develop and deliver better services while improving the reach of services into the broader community.

"The RCADE team is developing relationships to allow post-secondary  institutions to move their curricula deeper into rural communities.   Lethbridge College is already working with Mathew Halton High School, and a relationship with the Alberta College of Art+  Design (ACAD) is now unfolding. RCADE will provide powerful leverage for reaching into the broader region,  building from the bridgehead established  in Pincher Creek.

"The potential for local community organizations  to collaborate on an equal footing with organizations that serve First Nation communities  represents a profound opportunity for community growth.  RCADE is a way to make practical steps,  following an early gesture of collaboration."

Part of their presentation was the following John Deere "Farm Forward" video, which illustrates how dramatically technology is changing farming, into the foreseeable future.

"The only certainty is that technology will continue to change how we farm." - John Deere

Van Leeuwen said "All these technologies, these tools, they're already available. What you are seeing here is nothing new, there is nothing that doesn't already exist. It's just been put to use in an agricultural setting."

"We are here to introduce an initiative called 'Rcade', which Dan and I have been working on now for about a year and a half, regional centers for arts, design, and entrepreneurship. We are not focusing on the technologies themselves, we are focusing on what the technologies can be used for."

"The tools and technologies enhance a persons ability to develop their knowledge, trade on that knowledge, and put it to the fullest use wherever they happen to be in the economy. It is also particularly valuable to entrepreneurs. People who have good ideas, as how to grow a business."

The initiative is intended to support entrepreneurs of all ages. "We want to support any young person in this community, young or old for that matter, who has a good idea and actually translating that idea into a functioning enterprise, something that can actually create wealth for the community, and create jobs."

Van Leeuwen said the mission focus areas for RCADE include digital design and 3D printing and manufacturing, software, digital media production, digital storytelling, coding, and robotics. "It's rooted in the community, but it has regional reach."

Van Leeuwen said he sees the initiative as a way to create economic opportunities, potentially becoming a draw for new businesses. A needs assessment is planned, as is an asset inventory of the community and work with a design team to create a working model.

"Our economies are going to become increasingly knowledge dependent," said Van Leeuwen, illustrated by a photo of the Digital Meeting Zone in Toronto for Ryerson University. "These people are not playing games, they are creating wealth, they are creating businesses, they are inventing things, they're innovating and they are developing, trading on their knowledge. That is the future of the the global economy, not just the Canadian economy. We are competing with the entire world now for talent."

"It's beneficial to the entire community, but our principle motivation is youth and the future of our children. We could have this in our community."

The two were asked by both councils what the timeline is for their current funding application. The response was that the application is already in, with a review anticipated for October 3.

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