My son is a big fan of WII Lego video games. Like many of today’s video games, these ones have multiple levels you can play accessed through a “hub world”. Essentially a value-added menu, hub worlds have labeled doors that let you look at the available levels in a map-like format, maximizing your opportunity to view your opportunities and determine what option best suits your mood.
Over the evolution of games, these hub worlds have grown in complexity to the point where they’ve become playscapes in and of themselves; you can try different exercises to hone your skills prior to trying a level, connect pieces you’ve discovered out in the field to create new opportunities and harness new skills and abilities. None of these pieces are essential to the game play, but they DO enhance the experience, better prepare players for what they’ll find beyond the hub and open up new opportunities.
Video games aren’t the only field where centralized coordination and value-add are manifesting themselves. News aggregates like Ontario News Watch and National News Watch do the same thing, essentially creating a visually-communicated menu of top stories and adding value with some original content of their own. In fields like fundraising, there are innovative companies like The Funding Portal; for commercial and social innovation, you have places like MaRS or the Centre For Social Innovation.
Coincidentally or not, there’s another trend of players returning to a hub-world for added support or to gain added value; as the cost of living soars and employment opportunities shrink, there are many young (and not-so-young) adults returning to their parents’ home for sustainable living or returning to school for additional training. We don’t think of homes or schools as hubs or resting places, but increasingly that’s an added function they serve.
Government Services are heading in the same direction; both in terms of physical space usage and online access, the move is towards user-friendly service aggregates designed for repetitive use. Instead of going to hospitals when an illness has happened, we have Family Health Teams, Community Health Centres and online Occupational Mental Health Tools that provide proactive support and training, reducing the likelihood of traumatic or accumulated stresses out in the field. I’d argue that the whole point of government is to serve as a social nervous system, efficiently coordinating human and physical assets to result in the realization of our individual and aggregate maximum potential.
There’s no reason that Ontario can’t expand its role as a hub and become a centralized access point for innovation, industry, investment and human potential for the global village. There’s unquestionably demand for someone to play the role of stone in the soup – if we can work in a collaborative fashion and look at our opportunities not as a path, but a map, we can be hub world for the rest of the world to play in. When it’s clear we’re having fun doing so, the rest of the world will want to join our party.
The same thing applies to how we provide services to Ontarians – if we can move passed a silo-based model towards something more systems-oriented, we can provide more efficient services and reduce duplcation, gaps and overlaps at the same time. We also need to rethink how we view educational institutions – instead of nests we’re meant to leave, schools should be seen as education hubs we’re comfortable going back to for training top-ups. The increasing availability of online education fits that purpose nicely.
It’s all within our reach – we just need to move beyond thinking what’s bare-bones necessary and start thinking about how we can add value both internally and externally.
Craig Carter Edwards
Born and raised in Cornwall, Craig has lived in or travelled to nearly 30 countries and currently resides in North York with his wife and son. A political veteran, Craig brings a wealth of government, private and not-for-profit sectors experience to his current role as strategy consultant for the social entrepreneurship sector.
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