Economic Development News & Insight


Can kiteboarding help us build the community of tomorrow?

/ December 13, 2012

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Can kiteboarding help us build the community of tomorrow?

How can we best prepare to build our communities for tomorrow? The answer may be situated within sport.

It occurred to me last Spring when I learned how to kiteboard.

Kiteboarding is awesome! You wear a harness that’s attached to this huge kite in the sky and ride a tiny board jumping over waves and doing tricks. People watch on the beach with envy.

Despite the rewards, learning how to kiteboard is not easy. Learning to fly the kite can be intimidating and even scary. If you handle it wrong, you could be launched several feet into the air or dragged several yards down the beach.   Once you get the hang of kite flying, learning to ride on a board while pulled by the kite is sometimes like trying to walk on a tightrope. This all reminds me of figuring out how to best build my community of tomorrow.

What do I mean? As an economic developer, it can be intimidating being hired to help bring in new businesses and jobs, improving the tax base and livelihood of residents, and then there’s the pressure from the local taxpayers and elected officials. Afterall, I’m Superman right? Aren’t I supposed to be turning our community and downtowns into Disney World? Pressures and nerves can make it distracting, just like messing up in kiteboarding and crashing into the water.

Communications Consultant Allison M. Shapira has actually discussed the similarities between kiteboarding and economic growth in this blog post. She states that the

“wind is kind of like economic growth, always blowing – some days more, some days less. It’s invisible to the eye unless you know where to look, although everyone feels its effects”.

Kiteboarders who are good at utilizing the wind have proper training, money to buy the latest and greatest equipment and the passion to go out on the water with a massive kite and small board. Those who don’t have these three are left behind on the beach watching with envy and awe. This isn’t much different from economic developers working to build our communities of tomorrow. Those that have the education/training, financial support/budgets and perseverance will likely be more successful than those who do not.

What if everyone had these attributes? Would our communities of tomorrow be amazing? Or would it saturate the market? It’s not unlike a beach full of kiteboarders, but there’s enough water and wind at the lake for everyone willing to get out and take part.

I believe the way kiteboarders learn to be successful can be emulated in economic and community development. For example, we need:

1. To continue and advocate proper training and guidance for economic developers. There are people who think they can just buy some kites and equipment and head out to the local beach and be successful. They actually risk their lives! Why expect an inexperienced new recruit as an economic developer to be any more successful? Proper training and education is essential before venturing out.

2. Peer support is encouraged. I’ve learned quite a bit just from asking my fellow kiteboarders how to solve an equipment issue or how to improve my technique. We also need to do the same best practice sharing in our communities. Don’t be afraid to ask your neighbours around the world for advice or assistance rather than be stubborn. Kiteboarders also let others try out their equipment. When you don’t have enough money to buy all the latest and greatest pieces of equipment, testing other kites and boards helps figure out where to spend limited dollars. How about shared investment marketing campaigns or shared office space?

3. Trial and error should be welcomed and excused. We will crash and get injured while learning. We can’t expect to land every trick perfectly. In building our communities, perseverance is essential. We will make mistakes and our citizens and elected officials need to have patience and understand that not every new initiative or idea is going to turn us into Branson, Missouri. We also won’t be figuring out how to do a massive trick in the first year. We need time and permission to make mistakes in order to press onward.

Don’t be left standing on the beach and watching everyone else in awe! Get educated, ask for help and share resources, have the perseverance to keep going and be permitted, by yourself, community and elected officials, to learn from crashes and mistakes.

4 responses to “Can kiteboarding help us build the community of tomorrow?”

  1. steve says:

    Great post and i really like the third point about trial and error!

  2. Kerri King says:

    Great post Andrew. looking forward to the session on “How to build the Community of tomorrow” at EDCO next week. poking forward to seeing you there!!

  3. Michael Haywood says:

    Having just returned from Cabarete, the windsurfing capital of the D.R., I couldn’t help but throw my two cents of sensibility into this discussion.  The quote “wind is like economic growth, always blowing….” needs clarification.  Wind only represents a resource, a power generating reource, not available in many communities.  Tapping the power of the resource requires core capabilities, that in the case of Cabarete was aided with the innovative development of a new technology – windsurfing equipment.

    Economic growth, as in all cases, is due not simply to appropriate training, but through the process of innovation – innovation that capitalizes on unique resources and the particular needs and wants (in search of solutions)  expressed in the marketplace, or in this case, surfing dudes.  Economic growth only occurs when real value is created and when it can be captured on a broad scale.  generally this requires scalability, and the willingness of a community to support, encourage, and maximize its potential especially through entrepreneurship opportunities and the development of ancillary enterprises – hotels, condos, restaurants, surfing schools and shops, etc.   For Cabarete,windsurfing is its claim to tourism fame, its brand identity and promise.