Lost in the Wilderness!!!

Snowshoeing Moon Lake

Help!!!  We arrived in “total desolation” not knowing what to expect.  It was a “barren wasteland”.  The waiver we signed said “not responsible for death caused by wild animals and parasites”.  Oh-oh! They said this was going to be fun.  They said we were going to learn to partner, to build relationships, and to experience the “T” (tourism) word in a funky value-added format. This was going to be new, fun, interactive, exciting and ultimately beneficial to the bottom line. Ok…sure..whatever…  We had our doubts initially…but now we’re believers!!

The next day was looking up…a bit, at least.  Breakfast was great…generally a good sign, so all was not lost.  Our group was obviously in the same frame of mind.  They didn’t know what to expect either.  However, after a little tongue-wagging we soon learned that their trepidations and expectations were quite similar to our own.

Earth Rhythms was phenomenal!!  The experiential outings were enlightening.  We were drawn to the local customs and traditions.  We were absorbed in the uniqueness of a distinct culture and way of life, feeling as if we belonged to it ourselves and that it had always been our own.  That’s the power of experience and it’s something that everyone can benefit from.  We never dreamed we would dance a traditional Ukrainian jig that looked so amazing in its natural state…until it was utterly destroyed by a couple of rookie bluenosers.  Fortunately for us, we weren’t alone.  The others in our group were as equally “talented” and forgiving.  We felt much better!

It all boils down to this…no matter who you are, or where you go, everyone is the same.  We’re all interdependent and herein lies our strength as human beings.  Together, we can tap into a vast supply of resources that, with a little ingenuity, can benefit one and all.  Together, we can experience, learn, adapt, grow, and profit from each other’s experiences, perceptions and opinions.

We’ve learned to look in our own backyards for the plethora of valuable resources that go un-utilized every day.  These do exist and they’re there for the taking, but sometimes they aren’t revealed until another point of view is expressed.  The full value of those hidden treasures then manifest in a flash of insight, and the hidden economic potential that lies just under our noses is finally revealed.

Our backyards, like the Manitoba “wilderness” may at times seem barren, cold and forbidding, but they can also be warm and inviting.  A cozy bonfire, starting with a tiny glowing ember of warmth – friendship, camaraderie, revelation, and knowledge – eventually grows into a fiery, consuming blaze.  That’s the power of “experiencing” over “observing”.  That’s the power of networking, building solid relationships and lasting partnerships. That’s the power of Best Practices Missions in Manitoba.

Thank you Earth Rhythms!

Blog post by Gem Johnson & Dave Hovey,

Participants on the Nova Scotia Best Practices Mission to Manitoba, February 2010

Canadian Human Rights Museum asks for a new Director, Learning and Programming

The Canadian Human Rights Museum is taking a really great step forward with its advertising today for a new Director, Learning and Programming.  From my perspective, this is a very good strategic direction.   In my experience across this country, we are still living on the coat-tails of a “build it and they will come” mentality that has not lost its shine for rural municipalities who go after infrastructure money as the be-all and end-all for tourism investment.

The fallacy of this kind of business decision-making at the community level is that the community gets federal and/or provincial grant money, combined with local fund-raising. Local residents are fueled by high hopes for a signature facility within their community.  What they have not recognized is that infrastructure investment has to be paralleled by “programming investment”.  Programming is why audiences or visitors come, not facilities – unless the facility has a very specific and significant architectural motif (with international stature or cultural significance), and even then the lure for seeing the building may only last for a little while.  People want to “experience” music, arts, culture, tradition, speakers, celebrations, recognitions, and many other things.  They wish to take part, to learn, to interact.  This is “programming”.  Programming is what generates revenue over the long-term. And, programming that is experiential generates higher yields, and attracts additional markets.

This community tourism business strategy which emphasizes programming takes sustained effort over time, and different investments and often different community champions to develop experiences, programs, and market these programs to the right visitors.  Often, the people who have worked so hard to bring capital investments in the form of a new facility are not the right people to drive the development of revenue-generating programming.  To drive programming development requires a skill set of community members including an understanding of tourism, product development, programming, web marketing, niche marketing, quality assurance, and entrepreneurship in which new pricing and revenue models can be developed.  These people are also strong collaborators and know how to leverage new resources.

Community recreation facilities, museums, and many other community tourism organizations would do well to hire local directors of learning and programming (another name might be community development and programming officers).  The Canadian Museum of Human Rights is on the right track!