This past November, TRANSFORM hosted its first Annual General Meeting in Niagara-on-the-lake, Ontario, Canada. Over the span of three days, our goal was to strengthen the TRANSFORM network through visioning exercises, pragmatic workshopping, and creating collaborative, and co-creative pathways to impact in support of our mission: to accelerate sustainability transformation in small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) around the world. We worked closely with our research partners from all over the world – Canada, United States, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Austria, and Australia – as well as our expert practitioner partners to deep-dive into co-creative design of our work, and what it means to work collaboratively across academia, industry, and government as it relates to SMEs.
Hosted at the Prince of Wales Hotel in the beautiful Niagara-on-the-lake region, our first AGM kicked off with our expert research team gathering around the question: What does TRANSFORMATION mean to you? For anyone who has been to an academic roundtable discussion before – trust us, we can feel your eyes widen at the prospect of a dozen researchers exploring the various ways that transformation can be applied to the small business world. What does it mean, and for whom? How can we catalyze it, experiment with it, and support its success? With so much curious energy in one room, we had a lot to chew on. And so, we did.
The first two days of our AGM was focused on our methodology, and forecasting our vision for the next several years. What do we want to achieve – and who do we need to ensure is at the table to achieve it? We mapped our various geographical locations, which we’re calling our “Hubs”, to explore the strengths and challenges of each. Where can we leverage strengths, and mitigate our challenges? This work involved a lot of time – fuelled by a lot of caffeine and snacks – mapping our assets, visioning our teams, and setting goals for ourselves individually and as a global partnership. What we found was a multitude of resources across our locations that we plan to put into action over the coming years – so stay tuned!
The third day of our AGM was invigorated by a slew of practitioner experts that joined us from various parts of Canada and the USA. These included a range of visionaries and go-getters from municipal governments like the City of Tempe, Arizona, to food and beverage innovators like Short Finger Brewing Co. (Kitchener, Ontario), co-operative housing advocates like Sean Campbell from the Union Co-Op (Kitchener, Ontario), and civil society organizations like Sustainable Waterloo Region (Waterloo, Ontario) and ClimateSmart Businesses (Vancouver, British Columbia). This final day of meetings and workshops was a collection of opportunities for our practitioners and researchers alike to explore their experiences to design pathways forward for sustainable innovation in various sectors and practices. Through a Talanoa-style dialogue panel, our practitioners were given centre-stage to share their work, and the challenges they face in transformative sustainability practices. Questions and discussions abounded this third and final day of workshopping – with lessons being gleaned about who we might further include in our work, the role of collaborative partnership, and the demand for transformative change in local spaces world-wide.
Our final group event for the formal AGM agenda was a beautiful closing event hosted at Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-lake, an organic and sustainable vineyard with some beautiful gardening and apiaries that our group toured before settling in for dinner in their cellar-hall restaurant. This reception was a great way to end off three days of hard-work, partnership building, and visioning our role in a transformational sustainable future.
A big thanks to all of the kind and professional staff at the Prince of Wales Hotel and their restaurant “Noble, Pillar & Post “The Cannery” restaurant, and Ravine Vineyard for their hard work and contributions to making our first AGM a glowing success – and for their efforts in catering to our attempts for a zero- to low-waste meeting style. Also, to all of our practitioner partners, researchers, students, postdoctoral fellows, and administrators for organizing, traveling to, and participating in three days of brainstorming, collaboration, and workshopping with open minds and a readiness to learn from one another. Until next year!