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.

How much do traffic signs cost?

I read with great interest this week about the City of Edmonton’s new residential speed reduction pilot. Speed limits have been on my radar since late last year when Patricia Grell of the Woodcroft community started her Safe Speed Limits blog. She and many others have been pushing for a reduction to 30km/h on residential streets. The pilot goes half way, to 40km/h, and will take place in six Edmonton neighbourhoods: Woodcroft, Beverley Heights, Ottewell, King Edward Park, Westridge/Wolf Willow and Twin Brooks.

Those communities were selected based on “the extent of the speeding problem” as well as traffic volume, the number of playgrounds and schools, etc. The City consulted with the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues to identify community leagues that would be willing to participate. EFCL Executive Director Allan Bolstad told me that community leagues will act as the “window into the neighbourhoods”, both to help inform and educate, as well as gather feedback on how well the program is working. He said the community leagues will meet mid-March to start implementation, and will continue to meet regularly to evaluate.

The City of Edmonton already has traffic safety programs of course, and they will be integrated into the pilot. Specifically, Speed Watch (which shows drivers their speed), Neighbourhood Pace Cars (vehicles that act as mobile speed bumps), and Safe Speed Community Vans will all be used. Dan Jones from the City’s Office of Traffic Safety said there will also be digital readout speed trailers (like the ones you see at construction sites) and of course, new traffic signs.

He also confirmed that the projected cost for the pilot is $100,000 per neighbourhood. I’m in favor of reducing speed limits, if only so that police officers can ticket people at 50km/h instead of the current 60km/h, but when I heard that figure I thought it sounded rather expensive. Allan Bolstad said he too was “puzzled” by the amount. If I understand things correctly, only the signs are new – the other programs already exist and presumably already have the appropriate funding. Which begs the question – how much do traffic signs cost?

To find out, I talked to Rick MacAdams from Edmonton-based hi signs. They manufacture a wide range of signs, including the speed limit signs you’d see around town. Their speed limit sign, the RB-1, comes in two versions: one with a high intensity reflective film and one with a “diamond grade” reflective film (both films are 3M products). The first costs $76.70 per sign while the diamond grade one costs $109.38. That’s if you’re buying one or two signs; there are discounts for large volume orders, of course.

Next question – how many signs are required in each neighbourhood? I decided to go to Google Maps, to count the number of straight street segments in a couple of the neighbourhoods. I took that number, and multiplied it by two (so we have signs for each direction). The range I came up with was between 60 and 120 signs per neighbourhood. You can probably do the math, but at 120 signs per neighbourhood, using the highest price per sign, the total comes to $13,125.60 per neighbourhood. So a grand total for the pilot of $78,753.60. Nowhere close to the $100,000 per neighbourhood that has been projected!

Now this back-of-the-napkin analysis leaves a number of things out. For one, the time and cost required to have crews post the signs in each neighbourhood. For another, the cost of the digital speed readout trailers. There will also likely be marketing costs. But it also leaves out the fact that the City of Edmonton has its own sign creation department, so the cost per sign is probably far less than what hi signs would charge. And my analysis probably significantly overestimates the number of signs required for each neighbourhood.

So I’m left happy but confused and maybe even a little alarmed. Happy that the City has heard residents and is testing residential speed limit reductions to see if it improves community safety. Confused because I can’t imagine why this pilot will cost $600,000.

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.

Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL) and Social Media

Can an antiquated organization use social media to become relevant to younger generations? The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL) may soon give us an answer. They’ve started to create a presence on Twitter and Facebook, and promise that more is on the way.

First of all, what is a community league? From Wikipedia:

A community league is an organization of community residents who represent their community at large in communication with a municipal government. Community leagues are organized to provide such services as providing recreational opportunities to the community, addressing municipal issues which address the community directly, and keeping community residents up-to-date on happenings within the community.

Edmonton was the first city in Canada to adopt the idea of a community-based organization, according to the EFCL history page. The Crestwood Community League was formed way back in 1917! Today, there are 150 community leagues under the EFCL umbrella.

So far, EFCL have created a Twitter profile and a Facebook page. They are “slowly slipping [their] toe into the waters of social media.” I contacted Michael Janz, EFCL’s Marketing Director, to ask for his thoughts. He quickly corrected my initial assessment of the organization:

“I would challenge the notion that EFCL is ‘antiquated’ – I think ‘established’ is a better word. EFCL has been here for 80 years. People know what it is and what EFCL can accomplish.”

He did concede that the younger generations are much less familiar with the EFCL however, which is what I meant by “antiquated”. The organization’s main membership drive kicks off in September, and the goal this year is to have a more coordinated promotional effort, making use of both traditional and social media. Michael told me that the EFCL is getting on Twitter and Facebook now to be prepared. They are “moving to where the puck is going”, Michael said.

I asked Michael about the challenges EFCL faces with adopting social media, and learned there were other, bigger challenges: “As of March 2008, only 50% of our leagues had websites. We’re now up to 70%.” Clearly having a web presence is an important first step before making the jump to Twitter! EFCL’s mandate is to serve the community leagues, and helping them get websites and email addresses setup is the focus for now. Social media tools will follow.

The first community league to follow that trajectory is Crestwood. They have a regularly updated website, full of information for members. Recently, they joined Twitter and have been posting an interesting mix of tweets – some community-specific, some related to Edmonton as a whole.

I think it’s great that EFCL is mindful of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media tools and services. They’re fortunate to have someone like Michael on board. I look forward to following their progression in the world of social media, first in September for the big kick off, and beyond.