In any extended group effort, introductions are necessary to keep the conversation as human as possible. Alaska Version 3 started as a way to explore the question, “What’s next, Alaska?” upon recognizing just how difficult it was for community leaders and policymakers to invest in innovation. Not just innovation in the economic development sense, but innovation across all problems that impact our future, including environmentalism, social infrastructure, community connection, and the preservation of Alaska Native history & culture.
Part of our efforts are centralized around not seeking the answer, but simply starting the conversation. Understanding diversity in ideal future communities, lived experiences, and “minority” as a concept that means against the status quo rather than a historically misrepresented identity is key to creating a healthy, sustainable conversation that outlasts even us.
As each new member joins in on the conversation, we plan to interview them with the same set of questions:
- What’s your name, title, and preferred contact method?
- Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
- What initially interested you in the conversation of “What’s Next, Alaska?”
- What is your version of a “Perfect Alaska” in 30 years?
- What do you love most about Alaska? Why did you choose to stay here?
- What do you think Alaska is lacking or could improve upon? What do you think drives others away?
- How do you think incoming members can contribute to this conversation?
- Can you think of anything else you’d like to add?
The answers to these questions, naturally, will be very different for everybody. Starting these conversations is the first step towards finding our ideal steps forward. The importance of asking these questions can’t be overstated. Please check back regularly to see our group members grow!
Ky Holland, Community Activist
Ky grew up in Anchorage, Alaska and then after high school spent 20 years living in Oregon and California. He’s been living back in Anchorage since 1999, even while knowing there were not a lot of opportunities to continue his past work in product design, manufacturing and global product marketing.
As one of the founding members of Alaska Version 3, Ky’s been involved since returning to Alaska and wanting to invest in the success of his home state and ensure exciting opportunities here for his children and friends.
When asked what his “Perfect Alaska” looks like, he simply mentions adding “stay” to the common aspirational slogan, “live, work, play.” “Staying” is an important part of investing—in financial contexts, compound interest is the most surefire way to build wealth. And the same can be applied to “compounding community”, or efforts that reinvest back into the opportunities we all benefit from here.
“I’d like to see Alaska where people come to visit and learn from our earliest cultures and from our expertise in remote and arctic extraction… Where we are retaining the character of a place that belongs first to those who make this their home and our quality of life. Where rural villages are as healthy, affordable and desirable as urban centers.”
In his eyes, the “Perfect Alaska” is cohesively functional no matter the distance. As the USA’s largest state, we have both the most opportunity to develop our natural resources in a way that continually gives back (as opposed to continually extracting), and all of our communities can focus their efforts on the entire Alaska, as well as global marketplace—including places like Dillingham and Kodiak.
Ultimately, Alaska becomes a place to look up to. Globally, we operate in a way that innovates in circumpolar regions in a way that globally competitive ventures want to share our work. Locally, our kids are excited for the opportunities they have to grow and develop here.
“The perfect Alaska [is] a place that the rest of the world looks up to for getting it right.”
The key to getting there? “Shifting from a scarcity focus to opportunity mindset and investing in our future.”
Ryan Witten, Program Manager at Alaska Seeds of Change, Entrepreneur, Artist, Community Development Enthusiast
Ryan grew up in a small town of about 3,000 people called Boyne City in the southern peninsula of Michigan. Moving to Anchorage in 2012 actually meant he was moving to a big city, which isn’t something we hear often here.
After 5 years of living here, though, Ryan knew Alaska was his new home. These days, he’s motivated to “continue learning, connecting, and building together to form a better, more inclusive community.”
Which makes sense as to why his idea of a “Perfect Alaska” is a state that honors the rich heritage of our land while emerging as a national climate leader. The way Ryan sees us moving forward is with regenerative economies—a system that operates in a way that continually creates assets required for, or contributes to, our well-being. And with all the potential we have for renewable energy and solutions to mariculture, agriculture, and local-focused manufacturing, he sees a future of boundless opportunities.
“Alaska is an amazing place to live, work and play. The folks in Alaska are why we’re able to make a difference, jump in, get involved. [I’ve chosen to stay here because of] the people! Alaskans have the mentality that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear, and I think that sums up the Alaskan mentality.”
The easiest recognizable thing holding Alaskans back from innovating is the effort it requires to want to be here. You’ve got to actively want to stay in Alaska, because it’s so easy to feel disconnected from the “rest” of the world up here. And really, the only cure for that feeling of disconnection is to take the opposite action: Add your voice, get engaged, and give first.
“Put people at the center, we’re all we’ve got. Keep things local, human, and sustainable. Balance and honor tradition and innovation.”
Sarah Katari, Entrepreneur, Community Activist, Artist
Sarah grew up in Anchorage, Alaska thinking they were never going to come back once they left. But when they did, they realized Alaska was never the place they had a problem with; it was the lack of opportunity they felt growing up.
“Watching all your friends give up on your hometown isn’t easy to watch. You really begin to believe that there’s nothing for you here, when that’s so far from the truth that I’ve had to relearn.”
Despite the reconnection they’ve had with Alaska in the past few years, there’s still work to be done. Many of the opportunities for youth development here revolve around economic development or are preserved for university students. So when they were presented with the question of, “What’s Next, Alaska?” they saw an opportunity to funnel that observation into something active: advocacy and community development.
“I’m a big believer in everything starting with our youth. Including the future of Alaska. If we can encourage students to see hope in the place they’re at, I think we can really begin growing a culture of not just loving the close-knit community we have, but a culture of actually INVESTING in that community.”
And for Sarah, investing means seeing entrepreneurs as a vital part of the ecosystem; as players in the economic development and future of Alaska. One that puts small businesses on par with funding-seeking startups and rids itself of the bootstrapped mentality. “Sure, bootstrapping will always exist, but forcing us to stay in that mentality is halting us from capitalizing on all the possibilities we could have.”
At the end of the day, Alaska has so much potential. East High School is the most diverse school in all of the United States. Our communities are welcoming, wholesome, and warm. We just have to show our youth that the future of Alaska is worth investing in.
All conversations start with asking the right questions
Asking “What’s Next, Alaska?” started as a way to begin answering a bigger question:
Why is it so hard to invest in innovation?
And while we’re not here to virtue signal an answer for you to believe in, we do want to hear your thoughts. If any of what you’ve read today interests you—or if you believe there are questions going unanswered here—we’d love to have you join one of our weekly meetings.
Please use the contact form below to sign up for our updates, or simply firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.