Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #9

Last night was Edmonton’s ninth Pecha Kucha Night, a completely sold out event held at the Royal Alberta Museum. It was the first time in Edmonton that Pecha Kucha has been sold out in advance of the doors opening. Last night was also the first PKN in Edmonton to be live-streamed, thanks to the Edmonton Journal. You can check out their video archive here. Edmonton Next Gen also recorded the event, and will be posting video to YouTube in the near future.

In order of appearance, these were the presenters at PKN9:

  1. Mack Male, Edmonton Blogger
  2. Bryce Croucher, Print Designer
  3. Dr. Kim Raine, Co-Director & Professor
  4. Kevin Kossowan, Food Writer
  5. Joseph Ahorro, Researcher and Ph D Candidate
  6. Duncan Kinney, Sustainability Nerd
  7. Jennifer Hoyer, Librarian
  8. Jennifer Livermore, Architectural Technology Student, Closet Activist, Renovator
  9. Nadine Riopel, Philanthropy Enthusiast
  10. Sean Healy, Software Developer & Man About Town and Adam Rozenhart, Digital Strategist & Man About Town

Our hosts for the evening were Ryan Stark and Next Gen’s new Community Co-Chair, Tegan Martin-Drysdale. They once again used iPad’s during their introduction to the evening, which was very obviously scripted. I kind of wish they had gone a bit more free-form and had some fun with it. Their job really was to keep things on track however, and they did just that.

Pecha Kucha Night 9

Overall I thought last night’s presentations were pretty good. Most people even decided to leave the cue cards and other notes behind! The evening had its usual up and down feel as topics varied from serious to funny and presenters brought different levels of energy to the stage. I was up first, so I did my best to set the bar high! I felt like my talk went well, but I’ll be writing more about that later.

Without a doubt my favorite talk of the evening was Sean and Adam’s finale. They did such a great job of presenting a topic that is of great interest to nextgenners in a completely accessible and fun way. Who knew you could talk about curbing suburban growth and the importance of public transportation in that way?! Their six minutes and forty seconds were filled with laughter, cheers, and some light-hearted jabs at Councillor Iveson and Mayor Mandel. Sean and Adam absolutely nailed it – great job guys!

Kevin’s talk on his family’s food system was another favorite of mine. He did a great job of talking about something personal without sounding self-interested. He was authentic, funny, and got his story across very effectively. If you haven’t already checked out his blog, do it now. I also really enjoyed Nadine’s talk on philanthropy. I thought she gave us food for thought and I loved her ignore-the-images-and-just-talk approach. It doesn’t always work, but for Nadine it did. Aside from myself, Nadine was the only other presenter who had spoken at PKN before, and I’m glad she was able to put PKN5 behind her. Duncan’s talk on energy was really great as well – I especially enjoyed his graph on the percentage of Albertans that are awesome.

Joseph, Kim, and Jennifer L. had the more serious talks of the evening. Jennifer H. delivered a really interesting talk on storytelling, and Bryce was perhaps the most memorable of all the presenters last night. He broke all the rules and basically went on a high-energy rant for 7 or 8 minutes!

Pecha Kucha Night 9Pecha Kucha Night 9

Twitter was busy as always, this time with the hashtag #pkn9. Since midnight on March 4, there have been 974 related tweets posted here in Edmonton. Here are your top ten #pkn9 tweeters:

  1. EdmNextGen
  2. TamaraStecyk
  3. zsaher
  4. SavageTiner
  5. DebraWard
  6. britl
  7. Sirthinks
  8. ZoomJer
  9. Neumanic
  10. stellal

Here’s a word cloud of #pkn9 tweets from that same time period (with #pkn9, #yeg, and RT removed):

If you’d like to read through the stream, you can do so here. I archived it (seemed appropriate given my topic).

Pecha Kucha Night 9Pecha Kucha Night 9

Some other thoughts on the evening:

The next Pecha Kucha Night in Edmonton, known as PKNX, is scheduled to take place in June at the Alberta Aviation Museum. Thanks to Edmonton Next Gen for another great event, to all of the volunteers for making it happen, and to everyone who attended or watched online! Stay tuned to @EdmNextGen for updates.

You can see the rest of my photos from last night here.

Recap: Edmonton Next Gen’s Candi{date} :: north of the river

Edmonton Next Gen held its second Candi{date} forum this evening, this time for candidates in Wards 1 through 7. Organized in conjunction with interVivos and the MacEwan Students’ Association, the event provided young people the opportunity to sit down with candidates for 20-minute mini-dates. The first Candi{date} event was poorly attended, but tonight’s event was much more lively. Most of the candidates were in attendance and their tables generally seemed busy throughout the evening.

I decided to focus on Ward 6 candidates, since that is the ward I live in. I managed to sit down with each of them, except for Jane Batty. Here are my thoughts on the candidates I talked to:

  • I started with Thomas Roberts. He seemed unprepared, both in terms of his campaign (he had some excuse about not having materials) and in terms of his knowledge. Thomas brought up the airport, as an example of the current city council not listening to citizens. He cited business as the core reason to keep it open, but could not express why and I don’t think he really knows anything about the airport. He thought all the businesses had already moved away from the ECCA. He also thought Port Alberta was called “Port Edmonton” and that it involved the ECCA. We talked about transit as well, and he expressed his belief that the U-Pass is too expensive and should be opt in. He couldn’t tell us how much the U-Pass costs, and he did not have a strategy for making the program viable if it were opt-in. I asked him why he wanted to run for council, and he said the airport was a big issue, and there was another one…that he read in the paper not long ago…that he couldn’t remember. Frankly, I couldn’t wait for our time to be up.
  • My next stop was with James Johnson, one of the younger candidates running for office. He seemed relaxed and did a good job of answering questions, even if he lacked enthusiasm. I asked him where he sees Edmonton in twenty years, and he said “with the same boundaries we have now.” He seems to understand that a more compact urban form could help our city run more efficiently, but unfortunately, his policies don’t align with that vision. He supports the ECCA, again claiming we’ll lose business without it. I asked him what he’d do to ensure we attract new business when it closes, and he didn’t have a strategy. James has concerns with the Stony Plain LRT and referred to transit in general as a “social service”. He did acknowledge that having everyone drive is not the solution. We also touched on EXPO, something James is opposed to due to cost. I thought James was a pretty personable guy, but I disagree with his ideas about how to move Edmonton forward, and I got the impression that he’d have a lot of learning to do.
  • My third stop was at Lee Permann’s table. He was very friendly, and actually, I’d say my conversation with him was the most enjoyable of the evening. I had to start by asking him about his lawn signs, which have councillor spelled “councelor”. He blamed it on the printer, but didn’t have a reason for why he didn’t print new signs. He had a sense of humor about it though, suggesting it might get people to notice him. He lives in Westmount, and talked a lot about increasing the number of people living in the ward. He thinks downtown (I’m assuming he means Downtown and surrounding neighbourhoods together) could support another 100,000 people in the next 20 years. I’m not sure that is realistic, but I do like that he views downtown revitalization as a function of the number of people living there. He also talked about the need for infrastructure. I asked him why he wanted to run for council and he said that he felt the current council was too closely aligned with big business, but did not elaborate. Lee seems like a good guy, but I don’t think city council is for him.
  • Next up for me was Brian Kapitza. He clearly knows a thing or two about how the city works, and seems to have spent some time learning about other places in the world too. Almost as soon as we sat down he launched into his two core issues: neighbourhood renewal & empowerment, and curbing urban sprawl through property tax reform. I think his idea for property tax reform (basically you pay based on the services your land can use, rather than the value of the land) makes a lot of sense but would be difficult to get consensus on. Likewise I think his plan to give community leagues the power to veto planning and development issues in their neighbourhoods would be difficult to implement. I guess someone needs to start these discussions, but I wonder what else he’d do if elected. I really felt as though I was being lectured to when Brian talked, but I am happy to see a candidate with some experience, a vision for Edmonton’s future, and some concrete strategies to start working toward that vision.
  • My last stop was at Cris Basualdo’s table. We spent our time talking about Cris’ two major issues: creating a vibrant downtown (she includes the surrounding neighbourhoods) with more residents, and dealing with community safety. It’s a little odd to talk about how unsafe the ward is in one breath and then to start talking about bringing in more families in the next, but that’s how it went. Like Lee Permann, Cris thinks the key to creating a vibrant downtown is to get more people living there. I think she exaggerates the crime problems facing ward six, and did not share any specifics on how she’d go about improving the situation. Cris wants to take a firm stance against undesirable activities such as needle use, but did not indicate where users would go (no mention of safe injection sites, etc). I thought Cris was really friendly, and she certainly has passion for what she believes, but I don’t think she’s ready for city council.


I tweeted earlier that the evening was both eye opening and depressing. The speed-dating format is a fantastic way to meet the candidates, and to find out more about them. It’s also a format that prevents candidates from hiding behind platform points or big issues. You can fairly quickly figure out which candidates know that they’re talking about, which candidates would likely be team players, and which candidates have a vision for Edmonton beyond fixing potholes. The depressing part is that I left most tables underwhelmed and unimpressed.

I’ve mentioned the learning curve a few times. I think it takes guts to throw your hat into the ring to run for office, but I also feel you should be prepared for it, and I want a councillor that can hit the ground running. Obviously there’s a learning curve for anyone new to council, but there is a whole ton of knowledge about how the city works that you can learn before getting into office. That doesn’t mean no new ideas, it just means being prepared to do the job well. I think we’ve got some momentum as a city, and I’d like to see us capitalize on that.


I thought NextGen did a great job with Candi{date} and I’d love to see them do it again. I can only imagine that candidates would want to do more of these events as well. Daryl Bonar told me about his experience at the first Candi{date} and said it was a great way to meet lots of people in a short amount of time, far more than you’re likely to have a meaningful conversation with door-knocking. It would be great to see similar events for school board candidates as well.

Thanks NextGen (and partners) for a unique way to meet my candidates! You can see a few more photos from the evening here.

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #8

Last night was Edmonton’s eighth Pecha Kucha Night, the first public event to be held at the University of Alberta’s brand new Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science. The lecture theatre we were in was massive, but the crowd was equally as large. Edmonton loves Pecha Kucha!

In order of appearance, here were the presenters at PKN8:

  1. Dr. Indira Samarasekera, President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Alberta
  2. Robert Rogers, Herbalist
  3. Carol Neuman, Board Member, LitFest: Edmonton’s Nonfiction Festival
  4. Dustin Bajer, Teacher & Permaculture Designer
  5. Ben Gardner, Intern Architect
  6. Nadir Bellahmer, Designer, and Michael Rivest, Intern Architect, M.A.D.E
  7. Leslee Greenaway, Edmonton-based Realtor, Save A Village
  8. Marcelo Figueira, Civil Engineer and Land Use Planner
  9. Anita Gregoire, Developer of Urban Food Production
  10. Isha Datar, Researcher

Pecha Kucha Night 8Pecha Kucha Night 8

For the most part, I thought all of the presentations were good. All of the presenters seemed as though they had practiced at least once, and no one really let nerves get the better of them. In contrast with PKN7, where the presenters could barely see the audience, last night’s presenters could probably see everyone, and I imagine that would have been quite daunting in such an imposing room.

I think my favorite talk of the evening was Dustin’s talk on permaculture. He started with a sort of introduction to the topic, before sharing the project he has been working on at Jasper Place School. Though he spoke pretty fast, he was loud, clear, and made permaculture sound very interesting. I really like the idea that “resiliency is the measure of connections.”

I also thought Carol’s talk was very good. She was very successful at promoting LitFest without actually talking about the event! That was in contrast to Nadir and Michael. Although they were entertaining, there wasn’t a lot of substance in their talk, and I don’t even think it was a very good introduction to M.A.D.E.

In talking with others after the event, Isha’s presentation seemed to be a favorite (she also spoke at PKN5). Anita’s talk on community supported agriculture was informative, and Robert took what seemed at first to be a very dry topic and ended up giving a talk with the most memorable quote of the night: “It tastes like chocolate, and it gives you sweet, sweet dreams.” Leslee’s presentation was very well done, but seemed out of place with the rest of the talks. I thought the topics that Ben and Marcelo chose were interesting, especially Ben’s on some new buildings in Edmonton, but perhaps could have been presented differently.

I also have to mention Indira’s talk. She’s a really great speaker, but I would say that her presentation last night probably wasn’t my favorite. She also went over time and bolted from the room as soon as she was done, but I realize she’s a busy lady.

Pecha Kucha Night 8Pecha Kucha Night 8

Some other thoughts on the evening:

  • Our hosts were Ryan Stark and Brian Murray, and once again they did a pretty good job of keeping the evening flowing. They also ditched cue cards in favor of iPads!
  • There wasn’t a theme last night, but “food” kind of emerged as the theme.
  • Edmonton was big on Twitter last night! #pkn8 trended in Canada (as did #yegvote). It seems that more and more people are using Twitter to enhance the Pecha Kucha experience.
  • Though it was cool to be the first ones in the new venue, it really didn’t work as well as it could have. The space outside the lecture room was tight and narrow, which made it difficult to move. Inside, the room had odd lighting and the occasional sound issue. And the event started a half hour late, due to technical difficulties.
  • There were free cookies! And a free photo booth (use password “Nextgen780” once the photos are uploaded).
  • The wonderful graphics for the event were done by Sarah Krzyzek. I understand she painted them on canvas and then scanned them in, which sounds like an incredible amount of work!

Edmonton Next Gen is planning the next Pecha Kucha Night in Edmonton for March 2011. Thanks to them for a great event, to all of the volunteers for making it happen! Stay tuned to @EdmNextGen on Twitter for updates.

You can see a few more photos from last night here.

Recap: Katz Group reaches out to Nextgeners on the Edmonton Arena District

Last night the Katz Group hosted an “off the record” meeting downtown to talk about the proposed Edmonton Arena District with “nextgeners”. Most of the nearly 60 people in attendance heard about the event through the Edmonton Next Gen’s weekly newsletter. Given that the last news update on their website was posted on July 23, I was curious to hear what Bob Black had to say.

Bob’s presentation lasted just under an hour, and was followed by a question and answer session. The newest piece of information to me was related to some concepts the Katz Group has come up with for street activations. The concepts are very much a work-in-progress, and will be shared more widely in the future after they are further developed.

Both Paul and Bruce have already written about the meeting, but here are my notes and favorite quotes (all quotes are attributed to Bob Black):

  • Much of the presentation was a recap. The district is 12 acres on the north side, 4 acres on the south side.
  • The current plan is for the arena to be centered on the north side, surrounded by a practice rink, office towers, and other development. The south side could host a hotel and a condo building.
  • As Bob walked through diagrams and concepts, he made sure to point out changes they have made based on feedback.
  • “We believe our project can contribute significantly to putting Edmonton on a new foundation for business.”
  • Bob called the July meeting with City Council “a watershed moment” in the history of the EAD project, because it gave them a process to follow.
  • “We think there’s more opportunity for live entertainment in Edmonton, and we intend to put it into the district.” Bob described two additional live entertainment venues that would be part of the complex, in addition to the arena itself. He talked fondly about the old Sidetrack Cafe.
  • “The project will be phased. To expect that all 16 acres be developed at once is not realistic.” In questions after the presentation, Bob confirmed that the arena would be built first, but couldn’t give specifics about the rest of the development.
  • Bob talked about the seasons, and explained the idea of a sidewalk-arcade. In the summer, activity would spill onto the sidewalk. In the spring/fall, the arcade could have roll-down shades, and in the winter, it could even be heated.
  • Bob also talked at length about the winter garden, perhaps the most controversial part of the proposed development thus far. He explained that it was created to solve a critical design issue – they don’t want to impair traffic on 104 Avenue, and they want to ensure the safety of patrons after large events. He mentioned the current “lemming” effect after hockey games, where large groups of people quickly “get the heck out of dodge.”
  • The winter garden is intended to be a year-round gathering place, and the Katz Group clearly sees it as the centrepiece of the development. Bob called it the “statement piece” and said it could be Edmonton’s “postcard snapshot”.
  • The winter garden would be roughly 1 acre in size, suspended 32 feet above 104 Avenue. Despite criticism that the winter garden moves pedestrian traffic off the street, Bob said that it “ties the arena into the downtown”.
  • The presentation did touch on the Oilers and its finances. “The Oilers are the only team in the NHL that do not receive non-hockey revenues.”
  • In response to a few questions about what the development would look like and how it would be funded, Bob said: “Until you have a project you can’t make the full investment required for architecture and costing.” He did spend some time explaining the CRL as well.
  • Bob proactively tackled the notion that we could simply retrofit Rexall Place. He explained the expense that would be required, and pointed out that renovating Rexall wouldn’t allow the Katz Group to achieve its goals. “We’re looking to change the nature of entertainment in Edmonton.”
  • In response to a question about what would happen to Rexall Place, Bob replied: “What happens to Rexall if the project goes ahead is not up to the Katz group.” He also pointed out that Northlands has not shown any desire to dialogue on the issue.
  • Parking of course came up in the presentation. Bob’s slides showed that there are roughly 8470 parking spaces available within a 10 minute walk from the EAD, and roughly 5075 within a 5 minute walk. Bob said the current plan is to build between 1500 and 3000 parking stalls in the EAD.
  • When asked about the Greyhound bus station and other surrounding development that might be considered “urban blight”, Bob said he has high hopes that Gene Dub will do something with the land when the bus station lease expires.
  • When asked about sustainability, Bob said the vision is to be “absolutely green”.
  • The very first question that was asked of Bob was what happens to the less fortunate who may be displaced by the development, or who simply can’t afford to access the facilities. Bob reiterated that some elements of the EAD are intended to be public gathering spaces, and did confirm that dialogue with agencies and other partners is ongoing, but said that “you can’t always reach every demographic.”
  • Some of the projects Bob referenced as potential examples during his presentation include: Hudson Yards in New York, Rockefeller Center in New York, British Museum in London, BCE Place Galleria in Toronto (which is actually classified as public art by the City of Toronto), and Fulton Street Transit Centre in New York.
  • Bob finished with his call to action, asking anyone with values similar to the Katz Group, to help. “We believe now is the time where Edmonton needs to be bold.”

Edmonton Arena District Meeting

The Katz Group has gotten a bit of a free ride in the media over the summer thanks to the City Centre Airport issue, but they’ve used that time to continue consultations with a wide range of individuals and organizations.

Check out the #yegarena hashtag on Twitter for updates.

I should point out that I did have permission to tweet and write about the event. I don’t think it was really meant to be off-the-record; the Katz Group just wanted the chance to chat without the media around. But of course, nextgeners like me are never far from an Internet-enabled device!

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #7

Edmonton’s seventh Pecha Kucha Night took place this evening at the Citadel Theatre in the wonderful Maclab Theatre. There were probably a little over 400 people in attendance, the vast majority of whom had never been to PKN before. I think I may as well just get right to it: PKN7 was a huge improvement over PKN6, and reaffirms to me that this event can be great!

All of the presenters brought their A-game tonight. In order of appearance, and with their topic titles:

  1. Gregg Oldring, Designing a Business
  2. Darryl Plunkie, Phobias
  3. Daniel Tse, Accessibility Technology
  4. Zoe Todd, Edmonton as an Aboriginal City
  5. Alistair Henning, Photographs Create Our Collective Visual Idea of Place
  6. Don Iveson, Brick by Brick: Lego & Urban Design
  7. Tamara Stecyk, Expressions of Hunger Online Photo & Poetry Contest
  8. Mack Male, Local Action Global Recognition
  9. Jason Openo, Leadership Edmonton
  10. Tad and Arlen, Improv!

It actually wasn’t Arlen (he couldn’t make it), but I can’t remember the name of his replacement. You can follow all of the presenters with Twitter accounts here.

After the debacle that was PKN6, it was refreshing to see 9 presentations with very little self-promotion. There were also very few umms, ahhs, and awkward pauses. I thought all of the talks were true to the spirit of Pecha Kucha – to share ideas that are inspiring or interesting or perhaps controversial, and that spark a conversation.

Pecha Kucha Night 7

Without a doubt my favorite talk of the evening was Don Iveson’s (and I think most everyone in the audience would agree with me on that). He used Lego to share some ideas about urban planning and the kind of built form that he would like to see in Edmonton. It was smart, funny, and well-presented, as expected from Don! A close second for me was Daniel Tse’s talk on accessibility technology. He did such a good job of relating it to the audience, and so many of the people I talked to tonight were excited to learn more and to get involved. He also tweeted during his talk using an automated thing he had setup before the event – such a great idea! I agree with John that Tamara’s talk was the most emotional – her passion really shone through. I think Zoe’s talk made me want to learn more about her topic the most. As for my talk, I thought it went quite well, and I received lots of positive feedback on it. More on that in my next post.

Some other thoughts on the evening:

  • Our hosts, Ryan Stark and Brian Murray, did a great job of welcoming everyone and keeping the evening flowing smoothly.
  • There wasn’t an official theme this evening, but the theme of “Edmonton” seemed to emerge. Either that or iPads (there were a lot of them in the audience, and Alistair used one on stage).
  • We trended to #1 in Canada on Twitter, this time for positive reasons!
  • Hosting the after-party at the same place as the event was smart. You lose less people that way.
  • The venue was great. I love that the stage was kind of in the audience, much more intimate than some of the venues we’ve had in the past (Myer Horowitz for instance).
  • I thought the start time of the event could have been a little tighter…it seemed to take a while to get going, and to restart after the break. No doubt because of all the great conversations that were happening!
  • The final presentation, the improv, was probably a safe bet (smart on the part of the organizers) but it worked really well and was quite funny.
  • Props to Stephanie Chan and Gabe Wong for the awesome PKN7 posters and graphic design.

Pecha Kucha Night 7 was organized by Edmonton Next Gen, and was sponsored by the City of Edmonton and Capital Power. The next event, PKN8, is scheduled for September 23 at the brand new Interdisciplinary Sciences Centre at the University of Alberta. Stay tuned to @EdmNextGen on Twitter, or sign up for their excellent weekly email newsletter.

Thanks to Edmonton Next Gen for a great event, to all of the volunteers for making it happen, and to my fellow presenters for delivering the goods!

UPDATE: Here’s a fun video montage of PKN7 made by Raffaella.

Celebrate Your Neighbourhood Spirit: Edmonton Community Challenge

Last July I attended an event called the Community Challenge, co-hosted by Edmonton Next Gen and the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues. Its purpose was to bring next-geners together to discuss how to improve and work with community leagues. That event was the first collaboration between the two organizations, and it was pretty successful!

Now NextGen and EFCL have teamed up again, this time for the Edmonton Community Challenge:

The Edmonton Community Challenge is a volunteer-driven event that aims to promote community spirit through friendly competition. By registering to join teams that represent community leagues throughout the city, individuals can support local charities, get to know others in their community, and win some great prizes! The event challenges will take place throughout the month of June, and teams will be rewarded based on a pre-determined point system for their energy, creativity, and commitment to sustainability.

I think it’s a neat idea. The big prize is a $15,000 fund for the winning community league which will be spent on a capital project in the neighbourhood. There are also smaller individual prizes to be won along the way.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Register, by June 1.
  2. Get a passport from your team captain.
  3. Bring your passport when you participate in the events and get it stamped! The key events are the Pancake Breakfast (on ShareEdmonton), the Neighbourhood Cleanup (on ShareEdmonton), the 24 Hour Bike Repair-a-Thon (on ShareEdmonton), and the “Can It” Challenge (on ShareEdmonton).
  4. Check the rankings. The team with the most points at the end of June wins.

If you need a little nudge to register, how about this: one of the prizes will be an Apple iPad! Remember, you have less than a week to register!

Stay tuned to the ECC website for news & updates, as well as Edmonton Next Gen on Twitter.

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #6

Edmonton’s sixth Pecha Kucha Night took place tonight at McDougall United Church downtown, a really fantastic venue. It was pretty full, but I’m not sure what the final attendance numbers were. Pecha Kucha is always a great place to meet new people, and tonight was no exception. Many people in the audience had never been to a Pecha Kucha Night before, which was great to see!

True to its name, there was lots of chatter about PKN6 tonight, in person and online. At one point this evening, the hashtag #pkn6 was trending in Canada, but not for the reason you might expect.

In order of appearance, tonight’s presenters included:

  1. Mari Sasano, Winter Light
  2. Merna Schmidt, Outreach Coordinator of A Child’s Hope
  3. Rikia Saddy, Strategist
  4. David Demian, President of JCI Edmonton
  5. Jessica Roder, Urban Planner
  6. Ken Chapman, Cambridge Strategies and Reboot Alberta
  7. Chris Ford, Program Director for Action for Healthy Communities
  8. Matthew Capowski, Activist
  9. Liz Lepper, YESS volunteer
  10. Chris Moore, CIO, City of Edmonton 

Before I go any further, let me just point out a few facts:

  • It takes guts to stand up in front of a couple hundred people to talk for 6 minutes and 40 seconds, I get that.
  • Christmas and the New Year are probably not the most opportune times to find presenters, as everyone is busy with work and life.
  • You’ll never please everyone, because each person has a different set of expectations.

With that out of the way, I can honestly say that PKN6 was probably the worst of the Pecha Kucha events we’ve had here in Edmonton. I’m saddened by this, primarily because the main issue was not something new or unforeseen. Here’s what I wrote about PKN3:

Tonight’s event didn’t have a theme, but I think perhaps it should have. In comparison with the previous two Pecha Kucha Nights, I found the presentations this evening rather weak. There was far too much self-promotion going on.

PKN4 was better, except for the presentation by Edmonton Next Gen themselves:

Finally, some of the Next Gen members gave an overview of the organization. I’m not sure it was the most appropriate presentation, but it was probably good for those in the audience who were new to Next Gen.

At PKN5, self-promotion surfaced once again:

I thought all the presenters did a pretty good job tonight. I wasn’t as interested in Dawn’s or Jeffrey’s, but others in the crowd seemed to be. My least favorite was probably Nadine’s though. Yes most of the talks are self-promotional in nature, but hers really seemed like a commercial for the United Way (and their campaign is on now).

But tonight, at PKN6, self promotion was taken to a whole new level. With the exception of Rikia’s odd Canadian immigration history lesson and Jessica’s interesting discussion of evolution, all the talks were self-promotional. Ken’s is perhaps unfairly labeled as such; although it wasn’t overt, it was ultimately about Reboot Alberta. It was also probably the best talk of the evening, thanks in large part to how great and engaging a speaker Ken is.

An evening with less self promotion isn’t just my idea of a good event, either. Many people were chit-chatting on Twitter about it. Here are a few select tweets:

  • paulzy: I think I’m leaving #pkn6 less inspired than when I came in. Rally caps?
  • sarahdotb: The energy level in this room is nonexistant #pkn6
  • bingofuel: Too many of these presentations are like, "hey, check out my organization!" #pkn6
  • KendallBarber: Appreciate people’s enthusiam for own happenings, but too much promotion #pkn6 – there’s better things to say.
  • ALeNeve: A little disappointed with the shameless self promotional aspect at #pkn6 #yeg hope the 2nd half ISA bit more inspiring

And, here’s what the official Pecha Kucha: What is it? page says:

Good PechaKucha presentation are the ones that uncover the unexpected, unexpected talent, unexpected ideas. Some PechaKuchas tell great stories about a project or a trip. Some are incredibly personal, some are incredibly funny, but all are very different making each PechaKucha Night like ‘a box of chocolates’.

Enough about self promotion, let’s talk about the theme. I’m not sure why they bothered with one tonight:

PECHA KUCHA NIGHT 6 explores our City’s best and worst kept secrets, furtive futures, ancient enigmas, cosmic quandaries, unsolved mysteries and how-to-guides for pressing problems.

Only Liz from YESS attempted to highlight a best kept secret in our city. Maybe the theme was kept secret from all the presenters? The theme of PKN4 worked amazingly well, and I think future Pecha Kucha Nights should also have a theme. Something must have happened for that event (ICLEI?) that didn’t happen this time, however.

Another thing that obviously didn’t happen tonight – screening of presenters. Maybe there weren’t enough submissions, or maybe they all did a good job of convincing the selection committee, but something clearly went wrong. There were two main issues, in my opinion: the order of the presentations, and the quality.

Mari’s presentation was funny at times, even if it was a giant commercial for Winter Light. But it was immediately followed by Merna’s depressing presentation about less fortunate children. It’s an important subject, absolutely, but the difference was extremely jarring. It happened again in the second half. Ken’s presentation was energetic, and really got the crowd into things (finally). That was followed up by a bizarrely bad presentation and then an extremely abstract talk on thought. There was absolutely no rhythm to the evening.

As for the quality of the presentations – Chris Ford’s was probably the worst I have ever seen at Pecha Kucha. Totally disconnected images, long awkward pauses, extremely overt marketing of the organization and its upcoming event, a clear lack of preparation…it was brutal. I’m sure Chris is a great guy, and his organization does good things, but his presentation just completely missed the mark. Compared with previous events, I thought the presenters tonight were clearly nervous, at times quiet, and mostly unenergetic (the notable exceptions being Chris Moore and Ken).

Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton 6Pecha Kucha Night Edmonton 6

At the end of the evening, Cary asked me to come up to the front to be the “celebrity” who drew tickets for the prize giveaways. I joked afterward that he asked me to do that so I’d stop Twittering about the event! My tweets and this post are my initial thoughts on the event, and I’ll absolutely give it more thought so that I can provide more concrete, constructive feedback to Next Gen.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from checking out the next Pecha Kucha Night either! I attend a lot of events, so perhaps my expectations aren’t average. And despite all of the negative things I mentioned above, PKN is still an awesome way to meet new people and to reconnect with old friends. As the saying goes, don’t knock it ‘til you try it!

Finally, please fill out the survey for PKN6. It won’t take very long, and it’s a great way to provide Next Gen with some feedback they can use when planning PKN7. Let’s hope they take note of some of the things that were highlighted tonight!

You can see a few more photos here.

UPDATE: When I originally posted, I had the order slightly incorrect – fixed now.

UPDATE 2: I should mention that there was an after-party at Red Star, which sounds like it was fairly well attended and lots of fun!

Restless in Edmonton? Stop complaining, start creating

Yesterday’s front page story in the Edmonton Journal suggests that Edmonton in 2010 is at a tipping point (forget for the moment that this almost certainly is not the first “tipping point” our city has faced). That this is the year in which we decide to be “a big, sprawling town or to move ahead as a city with real urban living.” And that if we don’t make the right choice, our “ambitious, educated and interesting 30-something professionals” will leave for greener pastures. Active Connect2Edmonton member Ian O’Donnell is featured in the story, and he says that the 30-somethings are getting restless.

Why does “getting restless” always have to mean leaving for Vancouver, Toronto, or Calgary? If you want to leave, I say: good luck! I’d rather have NextGen-ers in Edmonton who want to be a part of something great. NextGen-ers who don’t complain when they see something they don’t like, they go and do something about it. NextGen-ers who want to help transform Edmonton into a world class city.

Edmonton Skyline

We need people like William Buchkowsky and Nathan McQuay. They felt their options for connecting with other young business professionals in the city were limited, so they created Emerging Business Leaders. At least 50 people now meet regularly each month.

We need people like Raffaella Loro. She wanted a city government that was more open and accessible, so she championed the Transforming Edmonton blog to help make it happen. The blog is a fantastic complement to the City’s other online activities.

We need people like Dave Cournoyer, Justin Archer, and Michael Janz. They, along with many others, wanted to have a conversation about re-imagining government and citizenship in the age of participation. They brought ChangeCamp to Edmonton, an event attended by hundreds of Edmontonians in person and online.

We need people like Ken Bautista, Cary Williams, and Michael Brechtel. They are passionate about the creative economy in Edmonton, and recognized that strong creative and artistic communities are important for prosperous cities. They brought artsScene to Edmonton, an organization that connects young professionals with the arts, culture, and creative organizations of Edmonton.

We need people like Mark Donovan, Cam Linke, and Kevin Swan. All are very involved in the local tech scene with things like DemoCamp, and all have experience with technology startups. They recognized a lack of support for local startups, and have created Startup Edmonton to do something about it. The organization will help to ensure that next gen talent builds successful local companies that make it past the seed stage.

These are just a few of the incredible NextGen-ers making a difference in Edmonton. There are many others too, such as the members of Avenue Edmonton’s Top 40 Under 40, and the members of Edmonton Next Gen (who have brought Pecha Kucha to Edmonton, among other things).

Downtown is an opportunity!

Much of the article focuses on downtown, in a negative way. I’m not going to try to convince you that we have an amazing downtown, because I agree that there’s a lot of room for improvement. But I see that as an opportunity, not as a problem. There are some incredible things on the horizon for downtown Edmonton, and increasingly it is a focus for organizations like EEDC. NextGen-ers need to educate themselves and then work to ensure our city’s decision makers follow through. Small efforts really can have a big impact – I think the City Centre Airport debate is proof of that.

We have the capacity in Edmonton to be world class. All we have to do is stop complaining and start creating.

You can read more reaction to the story in the comments and at Connect2Edmonton.

Pecha Kucha Night: Edmonton #5

Edmonton’s fifth Pecha Kucha Night took place tonight at the Myer Horowitz Theatre at the University of Alberta (you can read about PKNs here). The theme this evening was “Old School” – presenters were meant to take a look back and then push forward in the areas of design, science, art, and sustainability. They had a large audience to present to! The entire lower section of the theatre was full, and there were quite a few people seated above as well. Great turnout for the event, though I don’t believe it sold out.

Tonight’s presenters were (in order of appearance):

  1. Yuri Wuensch, Senior Advisor, Corporate Communications, and Michael Malone, Corporate Communications Coordinator, Edmonton Airports
  2. Dawn Doell, Green Communities Guide Project Coordinator
  3. Jeffrey Klassen, Designer
  4. Michael Janz, Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL)
  5. Christian Nelson, P.Eng, Co-chair, dEdmonton, Canada’s Halloween Festival
  6. Isha Datar, Researcher
  7. David Cournoyer and Diane Begin, ChangeCamp Edmonton
  8. Shafraaz Kaba, Architect and Josh Kjenner, Engineer, Manasc Isaac
  9. Nadine Riopel, Campaign Manager, United Way of the Alberta Capital Region
  10. Aaron Pedersen, Photographer, 3tenphoto
  11. Tad Hargrave, Co-Founder of and Marketing Consultant for Hippies

Pecha Kucha Night 5 EdmontonPecha Kucha Night 5 Edmonton

Yuri and Michael did a fine job of getting things underway, leading us through some of the Edmonton International Airport’s history. That was the old school part – the new school part was Expansion 2012, EIA’s ambitious expansion program. Dawn highlighted some examples of the Green Communities Guide in action. My favorite old school-new school reference from her presentation was wildlife crossings on highways: old school is to put up a sign, new school is to build a green wildlife overpass. Next up was Jeffrey, who focused on virtual environments for learning. What I found interesting was the notion of virtual worlds as “old school”, as they are stepping stones to other technologies such as augmented reality. Michael gave a great overview of EFCL, touching on some of its storied history (the old school part) and identifying the challenges ahead in reaching a younger demographic (the new school part). Fun fact: the first community league hall in Edmonton was built in King Edward Park in 1923. Last up before the break was Christian, who pretty much stole the show with his talk about modeling Edmonton in 3D inside Google Earth. He has created models for around 200 local buildings, including some that no longer exist (old school) and some that are yet to be built (new school).

Pecha Kucha Night 5 Edmonton

First up after the break was Isha who talked about in vitro meat production. Raise cows for meat? That’s so old school. Isha explored growing meat in the lab, and she had the science to back it up. The audience gasped more than once! Next was Dave and Diane talking about ChangeCamp. They highlighted some of the old school ways that citizens have gotten involved in government, and brought us up to present day where new school tools like the Internet make events like ChangeCamp necessary. Shafraaz and Josh then talked about the old school land use policies the city has, notably related to parking, and highlighted the need for some new school thinking in order to achieve goals such as increasing density. Next was Nadine, who talked about how service agencies have improved over time, bringing us to new school things like Homeless Connect. Despite having his slides all out of order, Aaron did a fantastic job of exploring the iconic image. Old school images are iconic, new school ones not so much! And finally, Tad shared his thoughts on the trend back toward supporting local businesses.

I thought all the presenters did a pretty good job tonight. I wasn’t as interested in Dawn’s or Jeffrey’s, but others in the crowd seemed to be. My least favorite was probably Nadine’s though. Yes most of the talks are self-promotional in nature, but hers really seemed like a commercial for the United Way (and their campaign is on now). Worse than that, her presentation made it seem like the United Way is the only agency making a difference. She didn’t mention a single partner agency, even when citing Homeless Connect, though there are dozens of them who work hard to improve the lives of so many.

I think my favorite presentation was Christian’s. He’s a great speaker, and I’m a sucker for cool technology applied to Edmonton. It’s amazing that he’s created so many 3D models of local architecture. His work is a really great resource for all of us. I also really loved Isha’s presentation, because I think it embodied what Pecha Kucha is all about – an interesting, thought-provoking idea introduced in six minutes and forty seconds. She left me wanting to learn more and wanting to talk to others about it!

A couple of other highlights:

  • I really liked Tad’s “triple bottom line” – people, profit, planet.
  • Aaron had the best line of the evening: “Here is Ernest Hemingway. If you don’t know who that is, get a library card.”
  • I learned a new word: Xeriscaping.
  • Josh hit all the major points on parking minimums/maximums, but had to concede at the end of his presentation that City Council recently took a step in the right direction.

Pecha Kucha Night 5 EdmontonPecha Kucha Night 5 Edmonton

The door prizes tonight were pretty amazing – some expensive theatre tickets, lots of Transcend Coffee, and a $1400 bag (seriously). Councillors Iveson and Henderson helped with the prize draws, and Councillors Batty and Leibovici were also in attendance. Even David Swann was spotted in the crowd! Pecha Kucha was definitely the place to be tonight.

Kudos to Edmonton Next Gen on another great event! They’re already working on Pecha Kucha Night 6. If you want to be the first to find out about it, sign up for the Next Gen newsletter. You can see the rest of my photos from the evening here.

Recap: Next Gen Community Challenge

Last night the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL) and Edmonton Next Gen co-hosted an event called the Community Challenge at Orange Hall in Old Strathcona. The goal of the event was to bring together interested members of the next generation (roughly 18-40 years old) to share ideas on how to improve and better work with community leagues.

Upon arriving, attendees were given a name tag and were asked to place a dot on the map to show where they live. Additionally, everyone had a polaroid taken that was pinned up on the giant map of community leagues in Edmonton. As you can see, most people were from the core:

Next Gen / EFCL Community Challenge

The program kicked off at 7:30pm with some introductions from EFCL and Edmonton Next Gen representatives. The first activity of the evening was for each table to discuss two primary questions:

  • What can community leagues to do better engage the next generation?
  • What kinds of projects would you like to work on with your community league?

Every single group mentioned “Twitter” and “Facebook” among the answers to the first question. Other ways of getting young people engaged included ensuring website information is accurate and up-to-date, aligning community league benefits with the demographic, and making information available at more locations in the community. Projects included community gardens, car sharing programs, community health plans, block parties, and many more.

The second activity was to work as a group to get the ball rolling for one project. It seemed less effective than the first activity, but I liked the intent. Afterward many people stayed to mingle and consume the large amount of leftover food and wine!

Next Gen / EFCL Community ChallengeNext Gen / EFCL Community Challenge

Back in April I wrote about EFCL’s push to adopt social media as part of a larger strategy to attract a younger demographic. I think the Community Challenge event was a smart way to make progress on that. Social media is a powerful thing, but nothing beats face-to-face conversations in a room of passionate, enthusiastic people.

I asked Michael Janz, EFCL’s Marketing Director and co-host for the evening (along with Next Gen’s Angela Hobson), what he thought about the event. He told me he was “thrilled with the turnout” and that he thought “many people were inspired to participate further in their communities.” Michael said the results of the “collective brainstorming” will be typed up and posted to the EFCL site soon.

If you couldn’t make it out last night, don’t worry: you can still get involved. You can head over to the EFCL website to purchase a community league membership, or you can volunteer for your community league. Be sure to check out EFCL on Facebook and Twitter, and Edmonton Next Gen on Facebook and Twitter. You might also want to sign up for the Edmonton Next Gen weekly newsletter. Finally, keep an eye out for a similar event in August.