The Story Behind the Transforming Edmonton Blog

Today the City of Edmonton is launching its first official blog, called Transforming Edmonton. In some respects, it might be fair to say that a City of Edmonton blog was inevitable. After all, the City has a growing social media presence and is using its experience to experiment further. The reality is that the existence of the Transforming Edmonton blog was anything but a matter of time!

Though many City employees are involved, Raffaella Loro has been the driving force behind the new blog since March of this year. In fact, she has been working to get the City blogging since at least 2006. As an early NextGen volunteer, Raffaella suggested the group start a blog to engage with volunteers. The City seemed ready to support the project, but the idea just didn’t pan out at the time. While she was disappointed, Raffaella didn’t give up. When the opportunity arose early this year during her tenure in the environment department at the City, she pitched the idea of starting a blog again. This time, the idea was met with enthusiasm.

The original goal was to start the blog in time for the ICLEI Conference in June, but that was a busy time for everyone involved, followed by the summer, and it just didn’t materialize. Raffaella used the delay to refine the concept, and realized that an environmental focus was too limited. I like the way she described it to me:

Just as individuals have a perspective when writing their blogs, the City has a perspective too. The Vision and Strategic Plan represent the City’s perspective, and that will come through on the blog.

The Transforming Edmonton blog will consist of human interest stories and other content that illustrate the City’s progress on realizing the Vision and delivering on the Strategic Plan. Or put another way, the blog will “share stories about how the City is working on transforming itself.” This is reflected in the blog’s sections: Economic Diversity, Environment, Financial Sustainability, Livability, Transportation, and Urban Form.

It’s important to note that the blog is a pilot at this point. It’s an experiment. Raffaella won’t be the only author – she has been busy over the last month recruiting other City employees to contribute content. A large number are on board already, but that support will have to continue to grow for the blog to be successful. The initial goal is to have two new posts about each category per month. Comments are encouraged, though they will be moderated in accordance with the blog’s Comment & Trackback Policy. Where appropriate, posts will link to non-City of Edmonton websites.

In our conversation, Raffaella suggested that the blog is about encouraging a cultural shift in the way the City of Edmonton operates. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen, but so far I think the project is on track. It makes use of the City of Edmonton’s existing social media profiles, rather than creating new ones. Transparency is a key focus of the blog, demonstrated by the fact that it will serve both external and internal audiences (there is no separate internal-only blog). And though it is quite different from some of the City’s other online initiatives, the Transforming Edmonton blog was relatively inexpensive to create – essentially just staff time.

Raffaella had lots of praise for the many individuals at the City of Edmonton who have played a role in getting the Transforming Edmonton blog up and running, in particular Jason Darrah and the other members of the Social Media Advisory Committee. She said “it’s the right time for the City to be doing this” and I completely agree. Kudos to Raffaella for persevering and making the blog a reality. It might take a while, but I think the blog is going to have an incredibly positive impact on the City and its residents.

Check out the Hello World post and welcome Transforming Edmonton to the blogosphere!

  • Time and again our City seems to be ahead of the curve when it comes to online tools, marketing and community outreach.

    Bravo!

  • Thanks Mack. I’m really glad you were willing to help promote the City’s efforts. It’s really exciting for me to be a part of this project. Getting the project to this point has been a lot of hard work and wouldn’t have been possible if it hadn’t been for the willingness and effort of people from across the organization. It’s this enthusiasm that makes me love going to work every day. And I really mean that.

  • dmesser

    This is great for the City of Edmonton. Although they may be a bit behind on social media and even giving access to their employees to social media sites. And you mentioned that Next Gen was approached in 2006. There were many factors involved on why the group decided not to go forward to the blog for their website. You should talk to some of the members to find out why.

  • I’m also quite excited to hear about this, especially that the same blog will be available to City employees and the public. Definately a great step forward for the city.

  • Thanks for the mention, Mack, and your initial support.
    Raffaella deserves a lot of credit for moving this project forward and capitalizing on a convergence of need: several City branches wanted to launch blogs as a way to share information and engage Edmontonians, while we have an organizational need to seek tools that foster more transparencey.
    The biggest credit goes to the City’s senior managers who – unlike many city leaders across North America faced with this type of project – saw the benefits outweigh the risks. That’s courage and, I believe, demonstrates their belief in making sure the City’s priorities match those of the people it serves – and being prepared to hear when we miss the mark.
    To that end, I trust you will keep observing the blog and let us know when we falter on our objectives.

  • Chris & Liam – Agreed!

    dmesser – I’m aware of some of the back story re: Next Gen, but figured it wasn’t entirely relevant for this post 🙂

    Jas – I’ve subscribed, of course, and I look forward to reading all of the posts. Keep doing what you’re doing Jas, I think the City’s senior managers recognize that you and your team are leading the charge in a positive way, and I’m sure that mitigates much of the risk for them.

  • Happy to see that they are blogging, great content is up there, and someone was clearly thinking when they chose such a great blogging platform and a robust theme to cleanly convey important information.

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