What Does it Mean to be a Pioneer?
Merriam-Webster defines Pioneer as:
“A person or group that originates or helps open up a new line of thought or activity or a new method or technical development” or;
“A plant or animal capable of establishing itself in an open area and initiating an ecological cycle”
As an animal of the entrepreneurial “family”, I find the second definition especially compelling...something about “planting seeds” resonates with me due to my days of cultivating sunflowers on brown fields to remediate soil, produce biofuel, and create green jobs. But it is the first definition that speaks not just to the role that I have served in Maine over the last year, but also to the role that Fourth Economy serves with communities around the country.
For some, it is hard not to think of a “pioneer” as forging a way in the wilderness with nothing but an axe and musket. But the reality of life as a pioneer is one of moving just past the boundaries of the familiar - to the frontier of awareness and clearing pathways of connectivity to existing encampments.
The role of the pioneer is not just to explore, but to connect. To convey existing expertise to the frontier of a community and to disseminate new insights, energy, and perspective to share at large.
For Fourth Economy, this is an intentional effort, if not part of the ethos and essence of the company. To create a fourth economy - one that serves people with a focus on inclusive and resilient development - you need a different approach.
We all know the traditional role that consultants can play as an outside voice with knowledge and expertise to bridge a “capacity gap.” But what about when new visions need to be generated? What about when it comes to the execution of new ideas that have been researched, analyzed, and visualized? It is not uncommon to see Fourth Economy serving in roles divergent from traditional consultants. The concept of “powering” new initiatives, collaborations, or strategies take a special combination of creativity and capability. Whether it is staffing a multi-organizational collaboration like Connect Greater Newport or The Maine Broadband Coalition, or standing up a new initiative like Smart Communities Maine, or refreshing a group like the University Economic Development Association, Fourth Economy serves the role of not just opening up new ways of thinking, but of new ways to act.
As Pioneer with Fourth Economy over the last year, we have helped the two largest cities in Maine (Portland and Lewiston) develop an “Innovation Agenda” to house smart and connected projects as well as create a new new multi-organizational, public-private initiative known as Smart Communities Maine. Due to that role, we have helped revamp and grow the Maine Broadband Coalition and are supporting AARP Maine’s Age Friendly Communities to be as livable as possible.
Time and time again Fourth Economy serves at the frontier of systems change with their partners. It is both the wisdom of the leadership - and the talent of all team members - that enables Fourth Economy to focus on empowering change agents to be positioned for the future.
Relatedly, I am pleased to share that our work has indeed “opened up new lines of activity” - and perhaps even “initiated new cycles” which will allow me to continue much of this work from a new platform as the Director of Innovation and Resilience with The Greater Portland Council of Governments starting in January 2020. It has been a pleasure to be a part of the Fourth Economy team and I look forward to future collaborations on the frontier.