Received wisdom goes something like this: Jersey is an innovative place which has so far re-invented its economy to encompass ship building, cod fishing, knitting, agriculture, tourism and finance...with ‘digital’ waiting confidently in the wings, ready to stride onto to the stage to play a lead role. So far, so heard it many times in any speech which is attempting to position Jersey as a place which copes with whatever can be thrown at it.
I don’t have a problem with the principle at all; in fact, I think Jersey is exactly that sort of place (look at the resilience Islanders showed through the Occupation). In fact I don’t even have a problem that the above list of the Island’s industry-swapping history misses out my favourite, privateering, as I have to admit to a family connection there.
My problem is this. Firstly, it makes regenerating the economy just sound so incredibly easy: you know, get up, eat breakfast, create a new sector of the economy, and then take the kids to the beach for tea. The reality is that the best ideas always sound nuts at first; and for the people driving the change, getting everyone else to support a new idea is exceptionally hard, as the easiest path is always that of doing nothing. And so in this edition, I point you to our Sliding Doors feature, which profiles the Le Brun family, that has a new generation giving up showbiz careers to take over the family farm – and moving it to solar power in the process. You’ll find their story on page 44.
Next, I think the usual list of Jersey’s economic innovation might kid you into thinking our business environment stimulates those who are agile, who think differently, who want to rip up the established way of doing things and create something new. They are called entrepreneurs by the way - which is a very different word from simply ‘self-employed’. You can certainly find those people in Jersey. But do we have a business culture which is fertile for them? Please read the feature on planning fees, on page 14, before answering that question.
Finally, the above history of always pulling something out of the bag – I call it the ‘pluck-it’ list – suggests that change is common in Jersey. That you only have to open the front door, and a refreshing change nips in to energise your day. Er, no. Sorry, but we don’t score highly on this one. Change is a rather more glacial in this neck of the woods. And so when it happens, we need to catch it, study it and try and work out how to do it again. Which is why we wanted to include two particular features in this edition: on page 40, you can meet Wendy Dorman, the first female Chair of the Jersey branch of the IoD; and on page 62, Christian May gets political with his new website change.je.
I hope all their stories make you think freshly about what it actually means to innovate in Jersey.
James Filleul, Editor