Been reviewing relatively recent Toronto plan-undoings that involve citizens rallying around a piece of property & pushing back – online, natch. What drew me to the first was plain’ol’personal interest & proximity – the No Big Box in Leslieville campaign. Take a boo at their webpage - it’s nothing special. But it worked.
The second was brought to my attention by a clued-in-colleague with a nose for all things green’n'municipal – the Strachan bridge offered up by Metrolinx. This advocacy group’s site is even less stunning – how the heck do you navigate this thing? Who came up with that rambling acronym? (stands for “STOP METROLINX Super-Bridge on Strachan Ave”, FYI) Where do those hot models live? But it worked.
Finally, a photo-journo extraordinaire reported Home Depot’s foiled plans, which made us realize that local hardware handymen can’t do it nor can they help. Although Home Depot cited economic concerns were behind their retrenchment, there was little to no local lurv & my *super thorough* online investigation includes year+ of grumblings & mumblings…
As much as I’d love to blame the developers for not wielding flashy splashy sites to dazzle & inform residents, it’s easier than that.
It’s the basic call-to-arms simplicity that saved the day in the two most recent examples.
Check your options on the No Big Box site:
- Sign & Circulate a FAQ sheet or Petition (downloadable in PDF & Excel, respectively)
- Display a No Big Box in Leslieville Poster in the window of your home or business (downloadable in 2 sizes, B&W or colour, in PDF)
- Attend an OMB meeting (dates updated on homepage/only page & OMB’s website offered in case user can’t attend a ‘real life’ meeting)
Same with the Strachan’ites:
- Regular updates from municipal & provincial politicos
- Email blast cross-posted on homepage
- Drive to petition, Facebook Group, Photo Gallery of plans
Although it’s far less straightforward than the Leslieville gang, it acted as a vital hub for anyone searching for information about the bridge & immediately offered actionable tasks to affect change.
From feedback posted by the publicspaceratti after new non-bridgey-plans were announced, the community appears pretty happy with Metrolinx’s compromise.
So what can we learn from these two successful online grassroots campaigns & one scared-off developer?
You can quickly frame the discussion & perception of a project by mounting a simple online campaign HQ that offers basic information, easy-to-understand & actionable tasks, & multiple off-shoots (petitions, Twitter, Facebook groups, e-mail signups, links to authorities) for your supporters to review, repurpose & redistribute.
Developers, investors, corporations & local politicians can learn a great deal from the momentum built on these sites, the frequent maintenance, updates, engagement, as well as the clarity with which they describe a problem/plan & offer immediate levers to send feedback.
Establishing in-real-life consultations – as well as concurrent online fora – is only the first step – executing these events & maintaining the web properties has to be conducted transparently, while prioritizing frequent updates, accessibility & ease-of-use.