Solutions Agenda

The solutions to modern day issues do not lie only in science and technology, but in political, corporate and personal decision-making.

Modern day problems are more and more frequently caused by local human impacts on air, land and oceans that slowly accumulate to trigger sudden abrupt changes that directly affect the health and innovative capacities of people, the productivity of renewable resources and the well-being of societies everywhere. The very nature of these challenges, and the fact that they continue to exacerbate, demands immediate changes at the individual, industrial, and institutional levels. The increasing globalization of biophysical phenomena, coupled with globalization of trade and with large scale movements of people, collapses traditional notions of sovereignty and scale dependency. Because of this, we are witnessing an intensification of the problems across both space and time scales.

Effects extend from local to global, as in harvesting practices in tropical rain forests that affect climate everywhere. Responses are non-linear, interactive and often unexpected in both space and time, and their solutions lie in understanding the dynamics of complex living systems, and social systems with their perceptions of multiple realities and associated need for multiple approaches. Thus, our knowledge in general, and the contributions from science in particular, will always be incomplete and inadequate. Efforts for improvement must take into account a plurality of interests. And in a democratic society, there is no single, right answer to these complex, interacting problems, but rather multiple solutions.

This two-year research project is a researcher / practitioner partnership between Professor Ann Dale’s Canada Research Chair program (2004-2014), and the Sustainability Solutions Group, Yuill Herbert and Rebecca Foon. The project brought together this research team with the key actors from three leading-edge case studies around the following issues—food security, multi-functional spaces, energy security, the cooperative movement, rural revitalization, mental health, the future of work, and waste. Eight real-time on-line dialogues (e-Dialogues) were convened and the final outcome was the publication of The Solutions Agenda in June 2015, that compliments three previous policy documents — A Policy Agenda for Canadian Municipalities (2011), Action Agenda for Rethinking Growth and Prosperity (2012), and Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation: An Action Agenda for BC Decision-Makers (2013)

Click here to download a copy of The Solutions Agenda: A Call to Action for and by Canadians

Solutions Agenda e-Dialogues

Future of Work
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January 29th, 10:00am - 12:00pm PDT or 1:00pm - 3:00pm EDT.
This conversation brought together researchers and practitioners to discuss the future of work in Canada. The nature and mode of the work has shifted as opportunities for working ‘beyond the office’ have emerged, and we are seeing trends such as growth in the non-profit sector, the building movement around producing open source products, recent rises in volunteerism. In addition, we are seeing more collective and collaborative workspaces, which allow people to pursue their work focuses and interests, while still giving them access to social and intellectual capital and diverse networks. There is increasingly less ‘business as usual’, especially amongst the youth, and more integration of people’s passions, interests, lifestyles and (more critically) their social values a fundamental part of their work.

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December 10th, 10:00am - 12:00pm PDT or 1:00pm - 3:00pm EDT.
This conversation convened a diverse group of researchers and community practitioners to discuss waste management in Canada. The first of the ‘three R’s’, reduce, is often neglected, and of course, it is much more sustainable to design products with minimal waste outputs at their inception than to clean up after the fact. Addressing our waste requires us to revisit the cycles of ecological systems and engage in a type of production and consumption that will allow for our material outputs to return to these systems as inputs. This includes continually thinking about how to reduce the negative ecological impacts of waste in a manner that is adaptive to changes in technologies, economies and values over time.

Rural Revitalization
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September 29th, 10:00am - 12:00pm PDT or 1:00pm - 3:00pm EDT.
This e-Dialogue convened a diverse group of researchers and community practitioners to discuss rural revitalization. Rural spaces and communities act as the interface between human societies and the natural world, which positions them in a significant societal role, serving as the nexus between human populations and natural places. They have vital functions in harvesting and gathering the natural resources that are distributed to and used by communities of all sizes and urbanity. Hence, cities across the globe are interdependent with rural communities for fundamental needs such as food, energy and building materials for shelter. In addition, rural spaces serve as ‘gateways’ to natural environments, meaning they provide important opportunities for people to experience, recreate in and connect with nature.

Mental Health
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April 23rd, 10:00am - 12:00pm PDT or 1:00pm - 3:00pm EDT.
A diverse group of researchers and practitioners came together to discuss the issues affecting mental health and solutions for improving mental well-being in communities. Mental illness is pervasive in Canada and affects everyone, either personally or through family, friends and colleagues. However, still many people attempt to suppress what they are feeling, avoiding treatment or confiding in friends and families to avoid the stigma of mental illness, so care is difficult. Psychologist and theologian, Marcia Webb, suggests that “[a]s a society, we shy from reminders of our frailty. If persons with mental illnesses are conceptualized as separate – as invisible within, or as intruding upon – mainstream society, then mainstream society may deceive itself and imagine that mental illness does not reflect universal truths about the human condition.”

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October 10th, 10:00am - 12:00pm PDT or 1:00pm - 3:00pm EDT. 
This conversation convened leaders of cooperatives in Canada and the research team to explore the relationship between the co-operative model and sustainability. The UN declared 2012 the International Year of the Cooperative, recognising the contribution of cooperatives to poverty alleviation, employment generation and social integration. But the contribution of cooperatives goes well beyond this. Some argue the model trains people in democracy, others argue the model contributes to peace and still others argue it contributes to sustainable development.

Multi-functional Spaces 
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June 19th, 10:00am - 12:00pm PDT or 1:00pm - 3:00pm EDT. 
This e-Dialogue brought together leaders and planners behind three Canadian innovative multi-functional spaces with the CRC research team. Multi-functional spaces integrate multiple uses or functions in overlapping time and space. The multiple amenities offered by through these spaces appeal to diverse community members, including activists, artists, academics and social entrepreneurs, allowing them to act as incubators for new ideas, knowledge exchange, shared experience and experimentation. This connection of diverse communities can inspire innovative thinking and provide opportunities for collaboration across traditional boundaries.

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March 15th, 10:00am - 12:00pm PDT or 1:00pm - 3:00pm EDT. This conversation included leaders of innovative energy initiatives with the research team to discuss innovative solutions for developing sustainable energy systems. The United Nations General Assembly defines the concept of sustainable energy as “energy that is accessible, cleaner and more efficient…and…paves a path out of poverty to greater prosperity for all”. Achieving sustainable energy involves a complex process of developing energy systems in a manner that minimizes environmental and health impacts, creates economic opportunity and ensures everyone has equitable access to power.

Food Security 
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January 14th, 1:00pm - 3:00pm PST or 4:00pm - 6:00pm EST. This e-Dialogue brought together leaders of innovative food security initiatives with the research team to discuss innovative solutions for equitable access to diverse and sustainable food system. Food security, as defined by the World Food Summit of 1996, exists “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. It is an essential component of sustainable communities and food locality contributes to community resilience by reducing vulnerabilities to exogenous shocks.