Prepare for an uncertain future by embracing uncertainty, professor tells Kelowna council - InfoNews

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Prepare for an uncertain future by embracing uncertainty, professor tells Kelowna council

Image Credit: Jenn Chan via Twitter
July 27, 2016 - 5:30 PM


KELOWNA - Having a 25-year-plan is nice but having two or more is better and more likely to anticipate the high impact uncertainties Kelowna and all communities face in their ongoing development.

That’s one of the main points made by Dr. Keith Culver, first in the Imagine Kelowna speaker series at Kelowna City Hall.

Culver is a professor of management at UBC Okanagan and says long-range planning documents like the Official Community Plan, while comforting, have the tendency to put blinders on the plan-makers to anything outside their terms of reference.

“By the time we get to 25 years, everything has changed and we get tunnel vision and miss opportunities,” he says.

He points to his own childhood home in the Okanagan, once surrounded by fruit orchards, but now surrounded by grape vines and vineyards, as an example of high impact uncertainty.

“Who would have thought 50 years ago those fruit trees would disappear and grape vines take their place? So the question is, what do you do to make your plans resilient in the face of uncertainty,” he asked. “You make friends with uncertainty.”

Culver says some key uncertainties are the same for all communities.

“Who is going to be here, what will the place be like and what’s everyone going to be doing,” he says.

Other uncertainties will affect communities in different ways such as climate change, automation and the low-carbon economy.

To that end, Culver says politicians and planners need to look well beyond standard 25 year plans to help create possibility-ready and resilient 25 year strategies instead.

“The best strategy is to have your plan resilient across all your predicted futures,” he says. “It makes us feel in control but if we are honest with ourselves we must admit our predictions have holes in them.”

Culver told council to, at the very least, open up long-range planning to include probable and possible futures.

“Holders of more than one Plan A may be best poised to thrive in the 21st century,” he added. “Fail to plan, plan to fail."

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