Michaëlle Jean Foundation Shares Expertise at first annual Black International Economic Forum

On November 28, 2015, over one-hundred business leaders, professionals and students convened for the first annual Black International Economic Forum: Accelerate the Creation of Black Wealth.

Held at the John Molson School of Business, the event provided participants with an opportunity to begin laying the foundation for a economic strategy for Montreal’s Black communities.

Peter Flegel

Credit: Chris Roussakis

Key speakers included St. Michel-based millionaire and philanthropist Frantz Saintellemy, Griffintown real estate guru Theirry Lindor, TVA media sensation, Dorothy Alexandre, and co-founder of Québec Inclusif, Emilie Nicholas.

The Michaëlle Jean Foundation was invited to contribute by delivering a presentation on the ways in which cultural industries drive economic growth.

The Foundation’s Director of Programs and Communications, Peter Flegel gave a 10-minute talk entitled
“The Power of the Arts in the Economic Development of Black Communities.”

“Economic development can be conceptualized in many ways. Some, for example, see development strictly through the prism of GDP figures, without taking into account the broader human dimension,” Flegel explained. “At the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, we embrace a more holistic outlook. We see effective economic development as requiring a cross-cutting, long-term approach that recognizes the inextricable link between the economy and social as well as environmental imperatives.”

Flegel went on to encourage participants to apply an “inclusive economic growth” lens to their deliberations. The perspective approaches economic development from the vantage point of equity, which entails a fairer distribution of wealth as well as employment and entrepreneurship opportunities that level the playing field. He surmised that the arts—and more specifically cultural industries—can play an important role in that regard.

“Every year, cultural industries contribute $53.4 billion to Canada’s GDP (3.4%) while representing 4.1% of all jobs in our economy. In Montreal, the arts are even more significant, because they contribute 6% to the city’s GDP, pumping over $12 billion into its economy each year,” Mr. Flegel pointed out. “The greater Montreal area is in fact a pole of attraction, since 69% of Quebec’s entire cultural workforce is employed in the city.”

Mr. Flegel concluded by encouraging event organizers to conduct market research, which could provide a snapshot of Black cultural businesses and entrepreneurs. This could then be used to connect community members with key organizations and companies in the cultural industries. He also pointed to projects funded by the Foundation to demonstrate how the arts can promote academic achievement, entrepreneurship, employment and mental health among vulnerable youth.

To learn more about the Michaëlle Jean Foundation’s programs, follow us here.

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