The emerging Fourth Sector in Vancouver: where the saffron is toasted

The saffron is a spice that comes from the flower of the plant known as Crocus sativus. Specifically, it is the stamen of the flower. This plant comes originally from Greece, and afterwards it has been mainly cultivated in the Roman Empire. This spice is used mainly to give flavor and color to the dishes of many cultural traditions. One great example is the Valencian kitchen, and its main dish, the Paella.

The Paella is a great and complete dish: it has vegetables, meat or fish, and rice. Furthermore, it has vitamins and minerals, varied proteins, and carbohydrates in a well balance percentage, fitting perfectly as a great illustration of the Mediterranean diet. However, even knowing that, the paella without saffron it is not the same. It does not have the same flavor, and it does not help to create the perfect environment needed to enjoy the plate. The saffron is a great catalyst for the ingredients, offering a great outcome into our taste buds. Nevertheless, to make the saffron threads work into the rice, you have to toast them before.

During the last months, I have had the pleasure to collaborate among other peers in a MIT Sloan team, with the organization called URBAN MATTERS. This firm, incorporated as a British Columbia CCC, is a hybrid organization in the Fourth Sector, fostering to maximize the social benefits and the economic profits. We have been there thanks to Peter M. Senge and its team of professors. Using the tools that appear in his book “The necessary revolution”, and other frameworks from the MIT Sloan School of Management, we have been part of the thinking process that is taking place in Urban Matters. What is the goal of the organization?: to be “a catalyst for the new approaches to sustainable community development”. For instance, and giving a simple example, their goal is to enable tasty and colorful communities.

As in the Valencian Paella, you can only build the dish if you have all the necessary ingredients. And these ingredients do not only come from the engineering, the profits, and the typical budgets and time constraints. You need to do more to be a real catalyst in the system, you need to take care of the needs of the stakeholders in the community. If you want to be a real catalyst, you have to toast its saffron.

This month, it has been a pleasure to know who toasts the saffron in Western Canada: Ken Gauthier, with all his committed peers in URBAN MATTERS, and the incredible tradition and work of URBAN SYSTEMS.

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