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!