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• Starting points in communities shape the path The Canadian West shows the importance of starting points, of the actor/institution and power/knowledge patterns present at the start of a community, and at the start of community planning. This includes the forms of decision-making instilled in governance processes, and the values and identities associated with and deeply engrained in a place.

• In boom/bust communities, concentration problems

increase rigidity

More often than not, we have observed a concentration problem in boom and bust communities. Out of a common starting point, in which limited perspectives and areas of expertise clustered to draw on a single or limited resource, often grows a governance path where dependencies were reinforced, often in feedback loops. A limited set of actors, a narrow perspective, and few institutions come to dominate decision-making. Even when the mine is gone, or most of the forest is gone, the same patterns of thinking and decision-making can dominate because of lingering stories, memories, actors, and institutional forms. This creates rigidity in governance, making change of any kind, such as attracting a new industry or redefining the town’s brand, a real challenge. Even in multi-level federalist systems such as Canada, one cannot count on checks and balances and alternative coordination options to mitigate the effects of concentration, because in environments with concentration problems, the unified stories are too strong, and unused institutions lose their power. Alternative stories for that community’s present situation and future opportunities are not “real” because they don’t align with the dominant view; they look unreal because the past, the industry, the story are all too strong.

• Concentration problems make self-analysis more

urgent, and more difficult

In places affected by concentration problems, self-analysis becomes even more difficult and valuable. The same is true for the construction of longterm perspectives, which can serve as frames of reference for navigating the future. Both become more important and more difficult to execute. Current tools and stories are not suited yet for self-analysis and long-term perspectives, and the shocks of ups and downs just tend to reinforce the reliance on simple stories. Self-analysis also becomes even more political in such an environment, more contested and, in most cases, more useful, as it opens up the possibility for a new self-understanding and new learning capacity in a previously limited community.

Part VII: Learning in and from the Canadian West

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Profile for University of Alberta Extension

Boom & Bust: A Guide, Managing Ups and Downs in Communities  

Boom and Bust: A Guide is the result of a collective effort at the University of Alberta to better understand the dramatic ups and downs whi...

Boom & Bust: A Guide, Managing Ups and Downs in Communities  

Boom and Bust: A Guide is the result of a collective effort at the University of Alberta to better understand the dramatic ups and downs whi...

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