The HIVEx Conference 2014

“People often say that nothing happens at conferences. They’re right. What matters is what you take from the conference and do with it the next day.” This was one of my (many) favourite quotes from the 2014 HIVEx Conference. I find that with most leadership events like this, the day is spent listening to other people talking about how great they are and then trying to do the same yourself. HIVEx was different. Rather than focusing on individual accomplishments, speakers and participants discussed how we could work together to make this city great.


It was amazing to see so many McMaster Alumni and local leaders (there was a lot of overlap between these categories) enjoying the day at the Sheraton Hotel. I came away from the event new ideas and connections that I can’t wait to explore. My favourite workshop was Non Profit 101. Although I’ve spent a lot of time working and volunteering with non-profit organizations I had no idea how large this sector is in Ontario. The speaker talked about a shift to social enterprise models where service organizations are seeking long term sustainability in the face of funding cuts and demands for accountability. This is one of the fastest growing industries in the country – if you’re interested in getting involved, try volunteering through MacServe or check out the Non-Profit Leadership and Management Certificate offered by the Faculty of Social Sciences.

In the afternoon, I joined the Business of Local workshop, hosted by the Sustainability Professionals Network. Following two introductory speakers, we broke off into small groups for table discussions led by experts from fields like infrastructure, impact investment, innovation, transportation, and culture. The SPN will be taking our discussions and transforming them into a white paper in the month of November – sometimes things really do happen at the conference!

The day ended with a mayoral debate in the Hamilton City Centre. Of course, we all know now that Fred Eisenberger is our new mayor (Congratulations!) but I don’t think that is the most important part of this debate. I might be biased because I had already attended or watched three debates and interviewed half of the candidates on This Is #HamOnt but I paid more attention to the people watching the debate than those who were speaking. I’ve been engaged in politics since I started door knocking for a candidate during a provincial election when I was fourteen and it’s always felt a little lonely to be the youngest person in the room at these kinds of events. Maybe it’s just that I’m getting older but I felt that this election had many more young people engaged – it’s a shame that engagement didn’t translate into a high voter turnout. Even if you didn’t vote last week, I encourage you to get involved in your local democratic process. The interactions we have with our leaders are so much more important than whose name we check (or bubble in) every four years. I know that many of you reading this are in leadership positions yourself: how effective can you be as a leader if the people you represent only talk to you twice in a decade? Email your city councillor, MPP, and MP about issues that are important to you, check out Joey Coleman‘s livestreams of council meetings, and get involved with neighbourhood associations and committees. These people make decisions about things that impact your daily life – health care, roads, public transit, how often your garbage is picked up, whether or not to plow sidewalks in the winter, where McMaster is allowed to expand their campus downtown. Make sure your voice is heard when they make up their minds.