2016 Innovation Highlights

1. Launched a series of temporary exhibits and test programs on energy systems in transition

2. Virtual reality testing as a connection through our Dome Theatre program

3. Installed the first electric vehicle charging station and began feasibility studies for solar installation

Looking Ahead

1. Further testing of conversations and activities for improved family dialogue and engagement in science, technology, engineering, art and math

2. Enhancement of the family experience at TELUS Spark through food at Social Eatery.

3. Refinement of the role TELUS Spark can play in the dialogue and interpretation of energy systems through activation of community partnerships and programs

Innovation in Conversations

By: Jennifer Martin, CEO, TELUS Spark

We have myriad studies on innovation in Canada, policies and reports from every corner of the nation, but how do we talk about it from day to day? For that matter, how do we talk about science?

A colleague of mine summed it up recently when she said, “The struggle in society today is the desire to find simple answers to complex issues”. Innovation in Canada is as complex an issue as climate change, human neurologic development factors and the transition of our energy systems across the planet.

The issues are complex, but there are some simplified actions we can take to tackle this challenge.  There are tools for this struggle, and they involve having better conversations.

First, be a good conversation starter. At TELUS Spark, one of the simple tools we have found useful to help start open dialogue about our changing energy system is the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These clear graphics are easy to comprehend and powerful in the inclusiveness of the challenges we face on a global level. Want to start a great conversation? Ask someone which top five goals resonate with them and why.

Sustainability Dev

Next, be a good listener. Most Albertans find themselves invested in one aspect or another of Alberta’s energy system, but here is our call to action. Just ask questions. Don’t correct, don’t interject and, most importantly, don’t walk away in frustration. This will be tough for many of us who are programmed to provide answers, but remember, there are no ‘simple answers’. We need to invite more dialogue because the most important affect we can have is to increase the personal curiosity of our kids, of our community. A more curious public is a more engaged public.

The third simple action we can take is to create more space and time for the conversation. A study at King’s College in the UK found that the reason some young people (12-17 years old) participate in science-related studies and careers, and others don’t, depends on their daily environment. And, there are several dimensions that contribute to a positive daily environment. If it includes parents who value science and technology and talk about it with them, if it includes stories in the media about science issues personally relevant to them, and yes, if it includes places like science centres and museums where informal learning links to their formal education, they are statistically more likely to continue to engage with science and technology through high school and into their adult lives. 

Overall, if these young people are more confident in their knowledge, they are more willing to engage in sometimes tough (read: complex) conversations – literacy in science or energy in this case, is one of those dimensions, but it alone cannot improve engagement or improve curiosity.

The dining room table is a great space to start these conversations; or coffee with friends.  Start a new conversation by asking questions, and genuinely listen to their response. Remember that the most important outcome is increased curiosity, not increased literacy or landing more facts with a satisfying thud. Rather than trying to boil down our work to simple answers, we can focus on some simple actions that can innovate the conversation.