Update: Florida does an interesting slideshow in today’s (Nov 10) Globe and Mail about Kensington Market.
Richard Florida that is.
I’ve been meaning to blog about Toronto’s acquisition of Richard Florida to the creative brain trust of our city. Florida made the move this past summer and he’s become a huge booster of the city that drew Jane Jacobs many years ago.
I believe Florida’s Creative Class Exchange blog is a must read for people engaged in urban communities.
Florida spoke at a Creative City dinner in Toronto at the end of October. David Miller (the mayor of Toronto who I find more part of this city’s problems than its creative solutions) said this,
"It’s daunting to be invited to a dinner as Mayor and have the guest speaker be far more interesting than you are," joked Mayor David Miller in his introduction. "It is on behalf or all Torontonians and with great pride that I welcome Richard and his wife Rana to our great city. Richard is one of the leading thinkers on cities and his choice to live in Toronto shows that we can compete with any city in the world."
Florida comments on my favourite city,
"One of the reasons we picked Toronto," said Florida, "is that we believe there are a very small number of places in this world where we can build this new economy and we believe that Canada, and Toronto specifically, is one of those places. We have pretty high hopes about living here. We believe that North America needs an honest and objective voice and we think Toronto can be that voice."
Florida writes a regular column for the Globe and Mail (normally behind a pay wall, of course. The Globe seems to make a habit of being late to understanding the Interweb – and this with one of the best web brains on staff, Matthew Ingram.) Read his Wake Up Toronto, You Are Bigger Than You Think column here. His Tor-Buff-Chester mega-region insight has been both consternation-causing and enlightening for the denizens of this region.
In fact, there is so much going on here that the city and its people are unaware of the scope and power of Toronto.
What has happened is that the mega-city has become the nerve centre of one of the world’s greatest mega- regions, a trans-border economic powerhouse that stretches from Buffalo to Quebec City. It’s important to recognize this, because mega-regions have replaced the nation state as the economic drivers of the global economy.
Tor-Buff-Chester is bigger than the San Francisco-Silicon Valley mega-region, Greater Paris, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and more than twice the size of Cascadia, which stretches from Vancouver to Seattle and Portland. Its economic might is equivalent to more than half of all of Canada’s. If it were its own country, it would number among the 16 biggest in the world, with economic output bigger than that of Sweden, the Netherlands, or Australia.
Clunky sounding or not, mega-regions are the real economic engines of the global economy. The 10 largest account for 43 per cent of the planet’s economic activity and more than half of its patented innovations and star scientists who generate pioneering breakthroughs, while housing only 6.5 per cent of its population. The top 40 produce 66 per cent of the world’s economic activity and more than eight in 10 of its patented innovations and most-cited scientists, while being home to just 18 per cent of the world’s population.
All of this convinces me that place, not statehood, is the central axis of our time and of our global economy. What it means for Toronto is simple: A mega-region needs to think and act like a mega-region, not like a bunch of separate cities with empty space between them. For instance, Tor-Buff-Chester needs regional investments in transportation – a real high-speed rail line between all the cities, for instance, and one that crosses borders. Mega-regions benefit from global hub airports like Toronto’s Pearson, New York’s JFK, Chicago’s O’Hare or London’s Heathrow. Direct flights from Pearson to Asia are a major plus for the entire mega-region. But the best way to get around one is not by plane or car but by fast rail. Europe has this one figured out.
Those of us who have a missional heart for this city/mega-region need to be hearing Florida’s insight and engaging our culture appropriately. This post from Kristina Robb-Dover at PGF Outbox resonates,
Cultures are shaped when networks of leaders, representing the different social institutions of a culture, (business, government, media, church, arts and entertainment, education and the social sector), work together towards a common goal. The people who lead these influential institutions have the opportunity to shape the ideas, thoughts and preferences of millions of others.
And one of the most unique channels of cultural influence is the church. Few other institutions convene participants from so many areas of society. Although the work of culture creation may take place outside the physical walls of a church building, the local church creates a natural space where social networks of leaders, within all seven channels of culture, can work together towards a common goal. Nowhere else does this potential for synergy exist. Unlike other channels, the church is a living organism where God’s spirit constantly moves and seeks to express Himself through a willing Body.
The call to the church and to all Christians of our time is to rediscover the cultural mandate, embracing the opportunity to influence culture. In the church, we must teach about calling and cultural influence and provide vital support to cultural leaders. We must become an integral piece of the local culture, convening and encouraging creation of future culture that serves the common good. We must become connoisseurs of good culture, recognizing and celebrating the good, true and beautiful to the glory of God and begin to lead the conversations that will shape future culture. There’s the big idea. The vision. The challenge. The opportunity.