What do a golden globe and a blue-footed booby have in common?

WE recently hosted the first partnership dinner of 2018 with many of our premier partners and some strategic collaborators. But this wasn’t like any other dinner - we gave our guests homework.

Each participant was asked to bring along a prop which would demonstrate their vision for the region in 10 years’ time; from the eyes of a young person, as a business person or a resident. I decided to use a potato for my analogy.

Now a potato is not an inspirational vegetable. Brown and a bit ordinary at first glance but think of the things you can do with it. It can be peeled clean and cut into shapes for your children to paint with, allowing their creativity to flourish. Other parts could be made into a rosti or mashed, boiled or made into a dauphinoise. And if you treat it right, you can even make vodka.

From something seemingly quite ordinary we can creative something spectacular – there’s a message in there for all of us.

As we went around the table I was pleasantly surprised at how much thought had gone in to the homework. We had golden globes with encrusted diamonds, mobile phones, driverless cars - albeit in model form - a blue-footed booby, a winning football team, a cow, a photograph of dogs (pictured) and a business card amongst other things.

From this there were a few recurring themes. How do we attract staff to this region and then retain them? How do we talk up the region so it’s a great place to live, work and invest? How do we give people the safe space to be more creative and innovative and work to embrace new technologies? And last, but by no means least, how do we harness and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit to encourage growth in different sectors?

And all this before we’d even eaten.

We showed a video of the Chamber’s 2017 headline achievements and one around our planned priorities for 2018 before asking our delegates to write down their thoughts on which of these priorities should be our number one focus or if they had any suggestions of their own. We’re currently going through their responses but the good news is that there were plenty of ideas.

Whether your priority is creating a tourist attraction, a top restaurant, a world-renowned cultural extravaganza or seeing us become the best known socially responsible city in the country, what’s clear is that amazing things can come from even the most inauspicious of ideas.

So I’m looking forward to 2018 and seeing what direction the Chamber will take and what will require our emphasis. One thing’s for sure, I’ll be giving out more homework before the next dinner.