The last one standing.

I’m alone in Bologna today, the last Vancitizen left.

It has been an intense trip. Full of experiencing the local culture, understanding new business models, learning economic theory, leadership development and powerful bonding with other Vancity employees and Board members, labour leaders, city councilors, not for profit directors and some fantastic spouses and partners of the participants. It has been intensely social and I leave here with a real love for all of those I was lucky enough to be in Bologna with, some of whom I had never met before our orientation just three weeks ago.

There is obviously a lot to reflect on. What is exportable back to Vancity and British Columbia, and what is unique to this region’s attitudes and culture that might not be effective back home? What does Redefining Wealth truly mean, and how do we bring that to life? What role can cooperatives play in our local economy and how can Vancity play a role in their development and success?

Some people started catching their trains on Wednesday afternoon, most left Thursday morning, a few left today. I am the only one who stayed in through Saturday. It seemed like a good idea when I booked the trip. The last time I was in Europe was exactly twenty years ago when I traveled with a good friend who is now my brother-in-law. I wanted an extra couple of days to soak it all in.

But after absorbing everything we have done in the last two weeks, and going from such an intensely social time to being alone, and missing my wife Amy and son Ivan back home, I just feel done.

So today is a day of reflection, exhaustion and a small touch of loneliness and homesickness.

I am not looking forward to a long day of flying tomorrow, but I can’t wait to be home.

Thanks for reading my blog. I write my blog as a way of making sense of my thoughts and experiences, and am so gratified and humbled that people find it worth reading. Each comment people left on my blog gave me a wonderful moment of elation. I thank each of you who left a comment, it made me feel connected to you at home, which was a much needed feeling.

Monday, I’m back in my office and will try to just be around to catch up an email and connect with people and projects. If you’re in head office, please drop by at the NE corner of the 7th floor to say hi. I’d love to see you!

And now I’m going to do something for the first time since arriving – take a nap!

Where we spend our time.

In our time here, we had three lectures by Stafano Zamagni, professor of cooperative economics at the University of Bologna. He is a leading economics scholar.

On Monday evening we all had dinner at his summer home in the hills outside Bologna. That day he had been in Rome meeting with Prime Minister Berlusconi about economic models that could relieve the economic crisis in Italy. It was pretty amazing that his day consisted of meeting with the Prime Minister to debate economic policy and spending the evening with a bunch of cooperators from Vancouver.

The next morning was to be our last lecture with him. But our schedule was changed and he was moved his lecture to the afternoon, and then, when the time came, he was an hour late for our lecture. The reason? He was in Rome again meeting with the Pope to work with him on his upcoming encyclical on poverty.

That has got be one of the best excuses for running late I’ve ever heard.

And it got me thinking: Who do we make time for in life? Here’s a busy man, meeting with the head of state one day and the Pope the next and yet he doesn’t cancel his sessions with us. He sees the value of his time spent with us.

Are there groups in your community that are worthy of your time but somehow never get it? Are there small cooperatives running on a shoestring that are doing good work but struggling that could use our help as credit unions?

That balance between what is large and what is small, but seeing the importance in each is pretty powerful.

Meant to write.

I really wanted to write something meaningful today, but it’s 1am and I need to sleep.

Lots of thoughts, and I will write up a thoughtful piece for in the next couple of days. I’m inventing a theory I call Independent Collectivism that I am eager to share.

I spent a day in Florence and one in Venice. Fantastic times!

Too many ideas swirling around. How to sum it all up in a post? I really have grown so fond of my fellow travelers. Having a group of people across the organization aligned in this experience is in itself an accomplishment and should prove to bring some good action back with us.

I add this one photo from a session with a union yesterday.

Photos for Vancity employees.

I hear that some of my photos are ending up on our intranet, so here are some more of my colleagues and friends whom I get to work with…

At a social coop focusing on integrating people with disabilities, addictions and prison records back into society.

A print shop focused on helping to integrate those with disabilities.

At a winemaking coop.

Randy Johal at a workers coop focused on property management.

A fun moment at a Zemagni lecture.

At a coop making concrete.

At a transport coop.

What I’m loving.

Just some random notes before I head out today.

It is remarkable having so much time with a group of people spread throughout Vancity. It is a treat to not just be in a meeting or have a lunch, but spend so many days, have so many meals and really get to understand each other. So much of what we need to do involves building networks, and the network we are building should prove totally useful back home.

We are here with labour leaders, the head of a not for profit focusing on integrating those with addictions into productive roles in our society and a Vancouver city councillor. Hearing their reactions and getting to discuss our experiences with them is truly a treat and keeps us from getting too in the weeds about Vancity stuff. If we are to be inclusive we gotta keep it high level.

In other news: I bought a nice Italian suit. It’s being altered, so I hope I can find the little shop again when the time comes to pick it up.

The food is truly excellent, and is a critical part of our experience.

The city is really lovely. Over the weekend I plan to go to Florence, and perhaps someplace else. We’ll see what the trains have in store for me.

My brain is working overtime with thoughts about what this all means and what I can do differently once I’m back home. I feel a tremendous obligation to the rest of the Vancity employeees to find something useful, not a new money making opportunity, not a short term fix, but something meaningful to help Vancity along its mission. I also owe it to future years to discover something tangibly useful about this trip, so others can go too. Any thoughts? How do you prove this isn’t a junket, but is relevant to our organization at large?