Food for thought

Referring to my previous post – yes, using food as a tool to attract people to an event seems radical to me . Why?!

In one of my Crawls at the Vancouver East Side, I was intrigued by a set of tables designed by the artist whose studio I had visited. What intrigued me even more were the guy’s complaints about the public who didn’t seem to buy into the marvels of his piece’s ingenuity. At the time I wasn’t able to articulate what seemed to me to be his mistake. Maybe I still struggle with it.

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The question does not lie in the degree of interest of your audience. The funny/sad thing is that probably my own interest in my own product’s marvels doesn’t really make a difference. That product could be a chair, a service or any activity. If I want my audience to buy into any of my offerings, I have a responsibility to engage them. When I think of engagement, it’s not about me; it’s not about you: it’s about our connection. The implementation process for the revitalization of Broadway East includes an impressive schedule for gatherings way into 2013.

However important the cause, if we fail to bring our stakeholders to the table, the void will be filled. The reality we are trying to change will be succeeded by another. Our aim is to bring benefit to all if not most. Without community participation the risk is that the benefits will be lost into the hands of a few. Reality sucks. Or does it?

Successful community consultation in the Collingwood neighborhood back in the 1980’s resulted in a development process that is appreciated and remembered to this day. It seems like in Vancouver’s urban planning, the aim is to achieve similar successful development processes in other areas of town. For that to happen, community engagement is just one part of the puzzle but is a crucial part. It is also a massive challenge.

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At the individual scale, planning as a concept could be one of life’s biggest threats. Think of planning for a wedding; consider financial planning etc’. We like things to just happen to us in life; good things, that is. Many times though, procrastination is our first step when we embark on planning. Now try to lure a significant amount of people to help in planning A Neighborhood? “Oh, I have a hairdresser appointment” or, “Shawks, I forgot…” or just plain neglect.

Food does help. The Vancouver Design Nerds base any of their events on sharing food, drinks and on fostering a collegial atmosphere. I think they’ve built their success on a gradual and steady outreach to a growing audience of like minded people. In the case of a City sponsored, one-off, legally-binding (?) process like Broadway East’s revitalization, the set of challenges and opportunities is somewhat or maybe utterly different.

Which still doesn’t mean food is not a good option.

Which leads us back to asking more questions.

On that, later.

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