I was writing up a funding proposal to take ChangeCamp hyper-local in Toronto in 2010, when I realized I know very little about how people outside my hyper-connected core use social technology and web connected devices. I thought about Malvern, a neighbourhood in northeast Scarborough. Malvern has a lot of young people, a high numbers of visible minorities and newcomers and lots of tall apartment towers separated by vast stretches of suburban sprawl and is also close to some beautiful green spaces.
Malvern feels pretty far away from the Twittering, iPhone waving, Macbook swaddled, Dark Horse sipping, social media hive I occupy at Queen and Spadina. I know almost nothing about life in Malvern, nor do most of my downtown peers. If I were trying to engage young people and newcomers in this neighbourhood, what would be the channels I would choose? What are their social technology habits? What devices do they have? How much time do they spend online? How do they talk? What are their public spaces?
The vision for the ChangeCampTO 2010 project I have proposed is to enable ChangeCamp style events in all 44 of Toronto’s wards with a particular focus on engaging residents in Toronto’s disconnected periphery, the inner suburbs and so-called “priority neighbourhoods” that are of such concern related to issues from community economic development, education, social inclusion, gun violence and systemic poverty. This project will not be successful by simply taking a downtown, white privileged, Twitterati dominated model and exporting it. It needs to be a model that people can make their own, adapt as they need to and that reflects local flavour.
So I am proposing a small group design ethnography tour one weekend day in December. Six design-thinker types armed with digital recording devices, their eyes, curiosity and a sense of adventure pile into a van. What happens next?