You could tell before we even got to Red Deer there were a lot of expectations about Reboot Alberta. You could read it in blog posts and in twitter conversations and in blog post comment sections. There was a buzz.

Why? Because this is the kind of conversation that does not happen very often.

A lot of the buzz was about “the left-wing conference” or creating a new party or things of that nature.

So for me, the first order of the day was to throw all of those expectations out the window.

This turned out to be a relatively easy thing to do. My first impression was that of the amazing diversity in the room. There was almost an equal split of young and old(er). I actually found this surprising because of my other public development experience with the younger-skewing CivicCamp and ChangeCamp.  In an almost ironic turn, during a conversation I had with one of those older participants, he confided in me he was surprised there were so many young people. (The exact opposite of my impression!) He, being a political stalwart, expressed how he’s never had a political discussion with so many young people at the same time. He stuck me as shocked there are so many young people in the province who care about politics. And quite frankly: the direction Alberta is heading.

And yes, it’s important to note there are more women (again both young and older) than I thought there might be too. As well as visible minorities. (Apparently I thought it was only going to young white males. I was wrong.)

The other thing that helped shatter my expectations was the diversity of political leanings in the room. It was stated at the beginning of the day that there are active members of every single political party in the province in the room. There are former cabinet ministers and MLAs, former candidates, campaign managers and die-hard supporters. This added a layer to the discussions that was invaluable. Instead of it being a conference about policies, it immediately became a conference about engagement.

This is why I found the afternoon sessions so profoundly useful.

During the morning a lot of ideas were discussed. In a typical un-conference-seemingly-random manner. But during the afternoon it was “action’s” turn as the format switched to just four discussion groups: the four ways to effect change.

The four ways identified and discussed were:

  • From within the current political system and current parties
  • From within the current political system through a new party
  • From outside the current political system through an organized movement
  • From outside the current political system through individual actions

Seeing these four “ways forward” – as I’ve come to call them – was a revelation for me. That’s it, just four ways you can effect change. How simple can it get?!

Much of the discussion during these groups focussed on what each of these areas could accomplish in the name of change. I know the new party vs. from within current parties either-or generated a lot discussion in particular. But it was during the discussion result presentations that it dawned on me: what would happen if we took all four of these ways forward AT THE SAME TIME?

Any one of these ways forward could effect change. However taking all four paths at the same time could all but guarantee the desired change.

Certainly all four groups were heavily attended, so my guess is, you may very well see all four of these ways forward actually undertaken.

And if that’s the case, look out Alberta, you’re about to seriously get “rebooted”. The whole game is about to change.