Engage Nova Scotia wants to open discussion to move Nova Scotia forward

43% of Nova Scotians believe province is unified in efforts to make the province a better place

Last week, I was in a meeting of concerned citizens. We discussed what's needed to bring change to Nova Scotia.

Near the end, a respected business leader from Pictou County summed up by declaring: "Culture trumps strategy every time." He was saying that how we think is as important as what we do.

I found his comments surprising — not because I disagreed with him, but because he was speaking to an audience craving urgent action, and they were nodding their agreement to the importance of understanding the roots of the cultural traps that hold Nova Scotia back.

At Engage Nova Scotia, we are deeply interested in these questions. Over the next five weeks, we're hoping to prompt a province-wide discussion about the beliefs of Nova Scotians — what we value, our willingness to change, how we work together and who is best suited to lead change.

The Ivany report says: "Overcoming the psychological barriers of division, distrust and discouragement may be just as important as raising capital, producing new products or finding new markets.

"Indeed, we may need to accomplish the former transformation before we can make much progress in the practical aspects of economic development." 

1,000 Nova Scotians

Everyone seems to have opinions about our culture and not all of it is flattering. 

But how much of what we believe is based on guesswork and how much of it is true? 

To find out, we commissioned an independent poll of 1,000 Nova Scotians. 

Perhaps the greatest surprise was that, across all demographics, Nova Scotians are more alike than we are different. 

Discussion on regionalism

We are starting this series with a discussion of regionalism and unity, because it has distracted Nova Scotians from the time Cape Breton was a separate colony — until the early 1800s — and continues to today. 

I was born in Antigonish and return there to the Highland Games every summer. I grew up in Sydney, which means I can hold my own at a tarabish table. And I've spent most of my adult life in Halifax, so I can carry on a conversation about the top Moosehead hockey prospects over the past 20 years.

I can describe with precision what it means to be from each of these regions, but I don't quite know what it means to be a "Nova Scotian."

And it turns out I'm not alone. 

Our polling asked, on a scale of 1-10, whether Nova Scotians identify with their region of the province first or the province overall.


When we asked whether we are unified in our efforts to make the province a better place, the opinion was equally clear that we are not.


Interesting, eh? Is this good or bad? Is this unique to our province? Should something be done?

If "culture trumps strategy" what is it about our culture that we need to face, plan for, and execute on in order for Nova Scotia to live up to its potential? How can we act in a more united and coordinated manner?

In a world where China alone has 160 cities with a higher population than Nova Scotia, what is needed for us to be our best and succeed? 

Please join us in a conversation about these and other questions by listening to CBC's Mainstreet in Halifax and Sydney, and by connecting with us on Twitter and Facebook.

Danny Graham is the chief engagement officer of Engage Nova Scotia, an unaffiliated, province-wide charitable organization that is working to cultivate engagement, catalyze change and support the emergence of a new Nova Scotia narrative.

Engage aspires to a future in which we better understand ourselves and our situation; we are more collaborative, inclusive and embracing of change; and where more people are stepping up with greater ability to improve our shared quality of life.

This article was originally posted on cbc.ca/news/ on April 11, 2016. Reposted with permission.


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