On three Thursday evenings in April the City of Edmonton hosted an event called Connections 2010, designed to connect residents with City staff to learn about programs, services, and projects. Organized by the Office of Great Neighbourhoods, Connections 2010 brought more than 40 City departments and programs together under one roof.
The first was held on the southside on April 15 at Taylor University College. The second was held on April 22 for westside residents at the Mayfield Inn & Suites. The third and final event was held on April 29 at the Alberta Aviation Museum, and that’s the one I finally made it out to.
Upon arriving I was greeted and given a quick rundown of what to expect: booths spread throughout the venue, and a stage in the back corner that would have different presentations every half hour. I missed the first on Capital City Clean-up, but arrived just in time to hear Councillor Batty speak about EXPO 2017. There were about a dozen people who listened to the brief pitch.
Next I walked around the museum, stopping at a number of the booths to chat with the City staff who were present. There were some really great displays – my favorites were the one explaining where your tax dollars go, and the Safe Communities one that featured a speed gun and display to see how fast you were walking. I also had a great chat with a young lady from the Waste Management branch.
Eventually I made my way to the garbage can that a number of people were painting. It was destined for the African Centre, part of a program to beautify trash receptacles at community centres around the city. I’m really not an artist, but I was convinced to help paint a small part of it:
It was kind of fun actually!
In total I probably spent about an hour and a half at the event. I thought it was a decent event, but there’s lots of room for improvement. Here are my thoughts:
- Attendance was pretty disappointing. Maybe 100 About 210 people attended the evening I was there, and I’m told that was the busiest night of the three.
- The silver lining to the low attendance was that City staff from various departments had the opportunity to learn about one another.
- I found out from Treena Schmidt, one of the event organizers, that the booths were laid out according to the Transforming Edmonton themes – the way we move, the way we grow, etc. I thought that was pretty smart! It’s great to see more City events/programs thinking in the context of the bigger picture.
- I’m not sure the venue choices were particularly good. I would rather have seen one closer to downtown, maybe at the MacEwan campus or in Enterprise Square. Another idea would be to host one of the nights at a high traffic location, like a shopping mall or something.
I also asked Treena if her team had consulted with any other similar events, and she said was very honest and said no. I mentioned Everyone for Edmonton, which I immediately thought of as I walked through Connections. I think the thoughts I wrote about how to improve that event are all relevant for Connections as well, in particular the need for a “hook”. Why not showcase local artistic talent at the event? Local performances can be a great draw. You can get information on all of the City’s programs and services online. I think there needs to be something else to attract people.
There’s probably also something to be said for improved promotion. I think the Great Neighbourhoods team organized this year’s series of events pretty quickly, so hopefully they’ll have more lead time next year. I think there’s a solid base they can build upon, and I look forward to an improved Connections series next year!