Opinion » Alta States

Dreaming up the future together — Mo Douglas wants everyone involved



"We are all afraid for our confidence, for the future, for the world. That is the nature of the human imagination. Yet every person, every civilization, has gone forward because of its engagement with what it had set itself to do."

- Science Historian Jacob Bronowski

She stops talking for a moment. Takes a long, deep breath. We've been at it for a couple of hours now... just shootin' the shinola; solving all Whistler's problems. I have way more info than I need for the column, and there's a bike ride that I want to get in before dark. Normally I'd be antsy at this point.

And yet here I am lingering, not really thinking about time, just happy to glide from one subject to the next with my interlocutor. But then that's understandable too. There's so much positive energy — so much good will — emanating from this woman that I really don't want our conversation to end.

Then it hits me. This moment, the very thing that I'm feeling right now, is what makes Maureen Douglas so good at her job. She's a magician at getting people engaged. She makes "jumping on the bandwagon" fun and right... even destined. And she does it simply by being herself.

Ah, but that's not as easy as it sounds.

"If you really want people to buy in to what you're presenting, you have to be able to bust through some of the old myths," Maureen explains. And smiles. "Like the one that holds that the person standing in the front of the room is the most intelligent person there."

She laughs. "That's just not true anymore. I mean, really. Who knows who knows best today? Consider Whistler — we're lucky here to have a well-educated, highly energized community. And collaboratively, wow, imagine how good we could be if we all decided to work together?" She lets a beat go by. "But first, we have to make sure we're listening to each other..."

Which leads directly to her next point. "The power of a shared vision: it can take on a life of its own. It's such a positive experience. I mean, it's truly amazing to see what can be accomplished when everyone feels they're on the same page. That the people "in power" are actually listening to their hopes and fears and dreams..."

And then: "What if Whistler became the most engaged community in the world? What would happen if 'collaboration' became the operative word in Sea to Sky... a place where citizens were actively involved in creating the story of their future?"

She lets those questions hang for a moment. "I think," she continues, "that visitors would come here from all over the world to see what we're doing." She smiles. "I mean, what an incredible development laboratory we'd have. And with the power of Mother Nature all around and that special Whistler element that nobody else has... well, I think that would be a very enticing combination." She sighs. Laughs some more. "I'd love to see that happen."

Remember where we left off last week? Maureen had just settled down in Whistler — same positive energy; same unquenchable passion to make things happen. As Tourism Whistler's Manager of Festivals and Events in the early 1990s, Maureen was living her own dream. "You can imagine," she says, "just how much fun I was having. As somebody who'd developed skills as an arts programmer... I mean, there were so many opportunities here at that time. What a heyday." And she says, she pushed the envelope wherever she could. "We were booking amazing street acts — from Britain, the U.S., Europe. And we made a strategic decision that artists wouldn't pass the hat in the village; that the goal here wasn't to nickel-and-dime visitors to death. Rather, it was about adding value to the guest experience."

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