No 'sour grapes' for OCRIChilds-45X64.jpg
Posted by Peter Childs

I admire the Toronto tech community because they've shown us what committed organizers, working at the grass roots, can do. They look at cities like Ottawa, with its powerful economic development agency, wistfully - sometimes to the point that those of us who have questions about it are characterized as having sour grapes. I'd be the first to admit that OCRI does many good things - but it has core structural problems that prevent it from being what either the city/province or itself want it to be - which is THE ONLY funded representative of tech business economic development initiatives in the Ottawa. All levels of government have allowed OCRI to blur the lines between its member's interests and those of broader tech community it receives funding to serve. That's where I have a problem - the approx. $1.3 M of city money and potentially the equivalent in provincial funding that this "member based organization" spends in the name of businesses that are not members. This is a fundamental conflict. In OCRI we have an organization that must serve members interests first, deciding how public money should be spent to support all local businesses. To me this is no more right that the partial franchise (vote) was right it its day. It can't work because it is not representative by its very nature. And take a look at its membership. Of Ottawa's approx 1819 'knowledge based' companies only 35% are OCRI members. A closer look at OCRI's membership shows that something like 42% are service providers (lawyers & consultants) and a further 21% are government agencies. Remove them and only 13% of what most of us consider 'knowledge companies' are OCRI members. And one has to ask how services designed for Ottawa's largest taxi company, the British High Commission and Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, numerous Ottawa hotels or the Greater Peterborough Regional DNA Center (all members) jell with the needs of the far more numerous small tech firms that are not members but are expected by public funders to be served by it. It makes no sense. Click here to read more of Peter's blog.

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