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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Two Cowboys: The Olds Institute is Helping to Facilitate a Flourishing Community by Being Proactive in Olds, Alberta

Owning Your Destiny

Proactive people are people that own their destiny. Instead of responding to their circumstances, they take action and influence it. They are responsible for the outcome and is able to adjust and change course and their approach to meet objectives. Succeeding is almost never a solo effort. Success is often dependent on the support one gets. It is obvious to assume that a high achieving community must, therefore, have a larger proportion of high achievers. And a group of high achievers that support each other.


Olds in Alberta is fast becoming a beacon of high achievement. Not, because of any particular windfall. It is not a mecca for natural resources, and its location is a little out of the way. You will drive past it on Highway 2 without knowing it is there. Yet, Olds is rising above the rest due to the foresight of four individuals that decided in 2001 to create "capacity" in the town. They dared to dream. Like all dreamers, they dared to ask, "What if?", and Olds Institute was born.

The Olds Institute is a non-profit community and economic development organization. So far it sounds very familiar to other government, or grant funded dark and useless money pits, that purports to be "for business" and "for people."

There is one substantial difference though. The Olds Institute is different in that it is owned by the community and driven by volunteers. It is not a grant-funded quasi-governmental front for influencing policy to benefit a few "shady" corporate-connected political power brokers. (An all too familiar scenario lately around the public services arena of Alberta). Instead, it is an organization for the people of the community, by the people of the town.

Did we hear it right? A pro-business community?

The Institute leverages the resources in the community by empowering volunteers to build a community with values for innovation and entrepreneurship. Olds residents have opted to pitch in and support the initiatives that enhance the community and improve their quality of life.

One such effort involves the launch of O-NET. As Canada’s first community-owned and operated Fibre-to-the-Premises network, O-NET brought together and delivered unique broadcasting, phone and Internet services to residential and business customers. It offers the fastest Internet speeds in the country, the latest high-definition television features, fully customizable telephone systems, mass storage and virtual private networks. Olds' people and businesses have capacity in technology that is the envy of many multi-national companies, and the community owns it and profits from it.

Another is Mountain View Power, which is a local energy retailing business belonging to the Olds Institute (the community), which provides electricity to homes and businesses located in the Central Alberta Mountain View County Region. Again, the profit from this is applied directly back into advancing the community. There are many other examples where the Institute helps to make a difference.

The Olds Institute was formed in 2001 by community leaders who realized they could achieve more together than they could apart. It is governed by a board of directors representing the four founding members and the community as a whole. The four founding members were the Olds and District Chamber of Commerce, Olds College,  Olds Regional Exhibition and the Town of Olds.

The Olds Institute has now expanded to include associate members: Mountain View County, Chinook’s Edge School Division and Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools.


We've asked a simple question when we first encountered the story of the Olds Institute. The question was, "Where have our institutions failed, that we need an organization like an Olds Institute? Why do we need yet another initiative to step in for the 'betterment' of the community?"

Joe Gustafson, one of the founding board members, cleared it up for us. For Olds, there was a need for stakeholders to find a way to work together so that a larger agenda can be broached. The larger plan is supporting the building of the community's capacity. No single entity was up to the task, and still, no one is. Not the Town Council. Not the Chamber of Commerce. Not the large organizations in town, like the Olds College and Regional Exhibition. There was a need to agree what was best for Olds overall and work together towards simple outcomes that are capacity (infrastructural) focussed.

Capacity is represented by skills, knowledge and the ability to find the tools to accomplish goals. The Institute, therefore, supports the sustainability and growth of the business community as a whole, making community development decisions in its favor, and recommendations based on the greater good of the community overall, while respecting the individual outcomes of the Essential Members of the Institute.

It is a simple matter of working together on shared goals so that everyone on Olds can benefit.

Hendrik van Wyk
Proactive Cowboy

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New Beginnings

Olds People

Mountain View

For the Environment

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