Yesterday afternoon I had lunch with Mack Male (who was down from Edmonton) and Andrew McIntyre. As you might expect the conversation quickly dove into all the local projects each of us are working on and how difficult it can be to balance those projects with an actual job.

Me: “I could do so much more useful work if I just didn’t have to worry about paying the bills.”

Mack: “That might actually be a more useful investment.”

Then the light came on for both of us.

So here it is: a pitch for you and anyone that you might know. It’s an idea for a programme aimed at making the future Alberta an even better place to live. It could be something for EnCana or First Calgary Savings or W. Brett Wilson or the Government of Alberta to take on. I don’t care who wants to pick it up and run with it. If you agree this is a good idea and want to see it implemented, pass the idea around. I’m confident someone within your earshot will make it happen eventually.

What’s the idea?

Each year 5 Albertans are selected, they take a leave of absence from their jobs, a sponsor pays them each a ‘salary’ of $50,000 so they don’t have to worry about paying the bills AND… they work on as many projects aimed at improving the province of Alberta as they possibly can.

Each day, rather than going to the office or the job site they meet with other Albertans who can help make their idea(s) a reality. They work exclusively on their once extra-curricular projects that have made them a valuable Albertan. I can all but guarantee they will work an inhuman number of hours over the course of one year on forward-looking, cutting edge projects that we so sorely need. (Certainly much more that they would have at a the average “standard” job.)

Mack is right, giving someone an opportunity like this is a much more useful, bold, game changing, investment in our future than many of the tasks each of us do daily.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I love the work the company does and I think it is important. (If I didn’t I wouldn’t work there.) But the question does need to be asked from time to time: if money wasn’t an obstacle, or if profitability wasn’t the number one concern, what might I actually be doing with my time instead?

I spend a lot of time doing extra community improvement projects so perhaps that isn’t the most important question we could be asking. Perhaps a better question is: what amazing thing would you be doing if a programme like this existed? How would your community be a better place?

And: isn’t that worth the rather paltry investment it would take?

So go ahead, share this idea with anyone you think could make it a reality. Reshape the idea. It could be one Alberta a year, or 10. It could be a two-year program. It could be open only to young Albertans. Whatever. At the end of the day, all I’m looking for is more people dedicating more time to making Alberta’s future unparalleled elsewhere.

And only you and I can make it happen with ideas like this one.

PS – Check out Mack’s blog for his take on the conversation.