It is hard to discern the value of all the innovation conferences, start-up beers, accelerate connects and investment forums. But, there are times when it clicks and you realize that sometimes the energy really flows and the event creates something of lasting value. The workshop content clicks, the audience engages and more importantly, people talk. And with that I mean: take time to really engage in a deeper conversation, to probe, to listen, to challenge. For all the hype around ‘networking’ I noticed a few weeks ago how you can get people to really do that, to have meaningful engagement between total strangers, one that has a life beyond the event. It is not easy, I think the large events with thousands attending are nice but have limited impact, but smaller events like the one we hosted in Kelowna a few weeks ago can bring it out. Confine the speakers and attendees together for long enough in an informal setting, facilitate the intros (a good organizer will know who needs to talk to who) and then let it go and let people do their thing. Investors are willing to share, entrepreneurs are keen to open up and highlight their doubts, their struggles. Sure, some alcohol and good food helps, but the essence is the willingness to share and to give people the right space to do that. It was nice for once to not have to be the one to do all this work of talking and engaging (although I ended up doing lots of that), but to set the stage and let others reap the benefits of it all.
Since I lived in Hong Kong from 1992 to 1999 I do not consider myself impartial to what is happening there . I wrote about it at length a few years ago and that is as valid as it is today. The territory is in deep trouble with the Hong Kong government and its overlord in Beijing accelerating the erosion of the 'One Country, Two Systems' principle. And this is not a domestic or internal affair as the Chinese would like to claim. Far from it. The handover over Hong Kong to China in 1997 is agreed and documented in the Joint Declaration between Britain and China and the Basic Law, both international treaties.
Yesterday I went to downtown Vancouver to join a moving protest and a solid if sobering speech from Canadian MP Jenny Kwan. Most of the attendees were upset and some quite emotional about what is going on in Hong Kong. It was made clear that the struggle of the pro-democracy movement is Canada's fight too, which it is. In fact it is a fight for all of us who see a steady proliferation of authoritarian rule around the world, with China leading the charge. And the outcry and international reaction to it all so far are muted, giving a free pass to the perpetrators.
The best part of the protest was the end when the crowd together sang the Cantopop classic from 1993, Beyond's 'Boundless Oceans, Vast Skies' ( 海闊天空). It brought tears to my eyes, never thought that would happen to me on a Vancouver street. But then, the song not only touches the nerve of love for Hong Kong, its people and the time I spent there, it somehow captured an era that is gone and will be gone forever.