Collaboration in Civic Spheres

“Imagine Calgary” Inclusion Lays Groundwork For Deep Collaboration

by March 31st, 2010

Last week, we published an informative news analysis piece here by Pamela Kilborn-Miller drawing on the landmark 100-year urban “visioning” process “imagineCALGARY,” exploring how it was done, implementation challenges and opportunities, and why Seattle and other cities might do well to undertake a similar effort. The Calgary effort set important targets in areas including environmental quality, sustainability, economy, housing, education, public health and wellness, and public engagement. We’ve just received a thoughtful reply to Pam’s piece, published in the comment string of the original article – from John Lewis – the “imagineCALGARY” Communications Coordinator, and president of Intelligent Futures. I’d like to bring it front and center, here.

John writes:

I have been involved in imagineCALGARY since it’s development over 5 years ago. To date, the imagineCALGARY has 55 Partners (organizations that have signed on to do “their part” towards the plan). These include four of the five largest employers in the city and represent a diverse range of sectors. There hasn’t yet been major headway in the measurement of the targets community-wide. The majority of the work has been done by Partners trying to determine how they can best implement sustainability within their own cultures, which takes a great deal of time and patience. In addition, the imagineCALGARY Partnership requires time and effort to create a collaborative network where lessons learned can be shared amongst organizations. These efforts, while not the highest profile, are essential, foundational steps to ensure longer-term change.

While it has been over three years since the plan was created, the scope of the plan and the level of citizen engagement gives imagineCALGARY a level of legitimacy that allows this diverse range of Partners to contribute. How these folks were engaged – by going to where people are, allowing for more diverse voices to come forward – also played a role in creating a plan that has continually inspired those that have been involved for a long time and new citizens and organizations that are just coming in contact with imagineCALGARY. As an example, this year, grade 6 students at a local elementary school are using imagineCALGARY to give them direction for local sustainability projects in their community as part of their social studies curriculum.

Our approach to engagement has been replicated and adapted in a variety of places such as Portland (VisionPDX), Durban, South Africa (Imagine Durban) and Saint John, New Brunswick (Vision 2015). These processes also have a great wealth of information on how to engage your citizens in a way that both encourages them to voice their opinions and inspires them to action.

All the best to Seattle in your efforts to engage your community.

Good value-add, John. Especially salient to me are your points about “going to where the people are” and creating “a collaborative network where lessons learned can be shared among organizations.” Please keep us updated as continued progress occurs. And thanks for the tip to take a closer look at long-term urban visioning efforts in Portland, Durban, and Saint John; among others.

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