In the past month or so, I’ve been trying to get a sense of the platform of community engagement. There’s been a few of them in various forms and formats that always raise the biggest question for me: how do you get people to participate in a valuable process that is beyond their immediate influence? East Broadway is currently the project I am most engaged in and the mystery is still unfolding.
Community Outreach sounds like something politicians should be good at. But anyone trying to attract an audience will have to go through some sort of it before a room is filled with the desired energy. It’s always great to be involved in conversations that discuss ideas intended for actual implementation. The challenge is generating participation that is representative of the eventual community who is supposed to benefit from the change. The planning department‘s intention to have “input from all Mount Pleasant residents and business owners” is always at risk of staying unfulfilled. For the meeting of December 11th 25 people confirmed their attendance. In reality you work with what you have. I think we were eight including our facilitator Sylvia.
The title for the evening was Good, Fast Cheap: First Moves to “Better” on Broadway East. An upcoming feature-length documentary illustrates what can be done with not only cheap stuff but dirt cheap stuff. Sylvia showed it to us before we started. I remember showing my family a photo of a woman in Calcutta preparing cow dung cakes on a wall. My grandma was apparently appalled by what to me seemed like a fascinating illustration of ingenuity. Can we imagine people in Vancouver celebrating Christmas with lanterns salvaged from the landfill? The Moon Festival in Renfrew Ravine is not that alien to the concept. Are we necessarily looking for crazy ideas?
There is a risk with crazy ideas to turn people off from participating in community consultations. However, other people might be attracted to radical proposals and push for even more extremes. Then again, when residents feel something threatening to their lifestyle is about to happen they show up in droves. But do we need controversy to bring as many people to the table or something else? What is the balance? How to make 25 people signed up to an event actually show up? Give them food, Jocelyn said. Jocelyn is Mount Pleasant Neighborhood House’s Executive Director. This to me sounds radical enough.