Using Disruptive Strategies to Help Create a New Vision for BC’s Small-Boat Fishermen

Guest Blog By Joanna Kipp

The author getting a closer look at the work.

In the fall of 2013, through RADIUS and Ecotrust Canada, I was given the opportunity to pack my bags and head to Prince Rupert, British Columbia for three months to research and write an unconventional business plan for Ecotrust Canada’s unique and ground-breaking fisheries monitoring initiative.
The experience proved highly valuable for me because I was able to put into practice many of the creative and collaborative techniques that I learned while in the SFU MBA program. Moreover, I believe that these techniques directly contributed to my ability to build trust in the community and develop a more effective and desirable monitoring system. Below, I will share three examples.
Gaining Empathy
I started by orienting myself to Canada’s Pacific fishing industry—the general ins-and-outs, frustrations and successes, and the changes that are currently taking place. Although the fisheries monitoring program design was well-underway by the time I started my work in Prince Rupert, it was still crucial that I understand the users of the monitoring system and the context in which they operate. Gathering this information helped me to empathize with these hard-working entrepreneurs, and allowed me to understand how the fisheries monitoring system I was helping to build would affect their lives and livelihoods each and every day of the fishing season.
Entrepreneurship and the Lean Start-up
Ecotrust’s fisheries monitoring initiative is a perfect example of their entrepreneurial approach to problem solving. When a fishermen’s association approached Ecotrust to explore whether they could create and offer a more accessible and affordable fisheries monitoring system, the Lean Startup approach allowed the organization to design and create a small number of prototypes for the boats in the association. Starting with a small number of clients allowed Ecotrust Canada to receive detailed, individual feedback from the fishermen on how the system should work, before putting it into practice on a larger scale.

The fishing fleet in the golden hour at Prince Rupert

The fishing fleet in the golden hour at Prince Rupert

There is nothing more valuable than this. Instead of trying to guess what the user wanted, the ongoing conversation between designer and user allowed the design to be an iterative process, with feedback contributing to the prototype during the design process instead of after. This permitted a more agile and flexible design, with the best possible products and services at the end.
Visioning Session
I think my favorite part of the internship was our community visioning session. Having just completed an MBA based mostly on traditional business concepts, I was really excited to participate in a meeting that centered around how our products and services could benefit the user—not just how the user could benefit the corporate bottom line.
Here’s the result of the visioning session:
We envision commercial fisheries that are sustainably governed using sound management policies that include harvester input and recognition of the social value of the fishing industry and not just the economic value of the landed catch.
The vision is based on the following principles:

  • Collaboration: Builds trust, empowers fishermen, and increases the flow of information between industry, regulatory bodies, and monitoring service providers through working together towards the common vision of sustainable fisheries.
  • Affordability: Using pricing models that support scaling and continuous development instead of maximizing shareholder value will improve fishermen’s margins and demonstrate that these models are sustainable.
  • Accessibility: Aims for all those that need/want monitoring to be able to access it, whether it is mandated or voluntary.
  • Adaptability and Integratability: allows a base monitoring system to be customized for different fisheries at a lower cost and allows the monitoring system to be seamlessly integrated with other existing compliance tools to offer a comprehensive monitoring and compliance toolkit which will contribute to more sustainable fisheries.

I believe that these unique and disruptive strategies will help to bring success and sustainability to BC’s fishermen and coastal communities, and the resource they depend on. Widespread use of these methods would undoubtedly have an impact on resource management around the world.