Mesh08 – Government 2.0

Together with Sean Howard, I co-presented a workshop at Mesh08, “Government 2.0: From Community Participation to Co-creation”. I have uploaded the presentation at Slideshare. This workshop was built around the still in progress Metronauts case study, an innovation in participatory research and engagement for Metrolinx as it develops a Regional Transportation Plan for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).

We had a standing room only crowd at the end of Day 1, with many government folks in the crowd from all levels of government. The reviews were great, with several people coming up at the end to say it was the best session they’d see in the day, so I’m happy with how it went.

We were caught short on time for discussion, so I hope some of the participants in the workshop find this post and leave questions here in the comments. Nice to meet you all!

Metronauts! Explorers of the future of urban transportation

I am proud to announce the launch of a new online community and a series of Transit Camp style events across the Greater Toronto region. The stewards are really excited to launch this new project, which builds upon the success of 2007’s Toronto Transit Camp and takes it to new places and new audiences. Join the community.


What is a Metronaut? is an open community of people from across the sprawling greater Toronto region who care about the future of their cities. Metronauts are explorers of the future form of our cities and the role transportation has in our lives.

Continue reading “Metronauts! Explorers of the future of urban transportation”

Accelerating the TransitCamp community!

Pleased with the validation of having our TransitCamp article published in Harvard Business Review (co-authored by Eli, Jay and I), we were looking for ways to continue to develop the TransitCamp community from that first event exactly 1 year ago. We wanted to spread the idea far and wide. Well, it looks like we’ll have our wish – and on a bigger scale than we were imagining.

On the anniversary of the first TransitCamp, I am excited to announce that Remarkk! Consulting, working with a stellar cast from the TransitCamp and OpenCities communities, has been engaged by Metrolinx (aka, the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority) in order to adapt and extend the TransitCamp community across the vast city-region of the GTA and Hamilton and from transit into all aspects of integrated regional mobility, including roads, bike routes and pedestrian experiences.

What is TransitCamp?

TransitCamp is a solutions playground, not a complaints department. TransitCamp is an open creative community.

As described in the Harvard Business Review article [Sick Transit Gloria], we will use open source tools (including unconferences) to bring together community members from across the GTA and Hamilton to participate in intense, participatory and fun face-to-face and online happenings to reimagine the future of the region’s transportation system. This will be, above all, a community-led experience. While we are helping to build the platforms, it is people passionate about transit and transportation issues in the region who will provide the content.

We were delighted to discover that Rob MacIsaac, Chair of Metrolinx and the Metrolinx planning and communications staff are open to new ideas and approaches. The community will have an unprecedented opportunity to contribute to the future of the region in a very tangible way. Metrolinx is responsible for developing an integrated Regional Transportation Plan in 2008 and is the Ontario government agency responsible for deploying at least $17 billion in new capital to projects across the region.

But this is a Camp, so it’s not all serious. We’re also going to have a lot of Campy fun. There will be accordions and chickens and other mayhem.

When is the next TransitCamp?

No date has been set just yet, but we would like to have the next TransitCamp in March. Watch this space! We are planning a series of TransitCamps across the GTA, so we can look forward to doing more than just one event over the coming months.

How do you get involved?

  1. Join the TransitCamp Google Group. You will receive updates from the organizers, and also be able to join the discussion and participate in the design of the unconference experience. (Twitterers can follow here. You can also join the Facebook group.)
  2. Read about the original TransitCamp experience from February 2007. There are many links of interest on this wiki page.
  3. Check out the Regional Transportation Plan papers on the Metrolinx site and start imagining the future.
  4. Participate!

What does participation mean?

Help us design the events and the online community spaces and help fill them with your aspirations, ideas and passions. Tell us what you would like to do together as a community.

You can leave comments on this blog post, or start a thread on the Google Group, or blog about it, share videos, photos – express yourself! (tag: transitcamp).

If TransitCamp is a solutions playground, every game on the playground needs basic rules so that the participants can have the best play possible. What kinds of games would you design?

Who is already involved?

Eli Singer; Jay Goldman; Sean Howard; Misha Glouberman; Michele Perras; Daniel Rose; David Eaves; Mark Surman; David Crow; Jed Kilbourn (don’t worry, we’ll get him a blog soon); and soon many others….

FAQ Links:

What is an unconference?

Why “unconferences” are fun conferences

What is a wiki?

World Cafes: Conversations with Your Creative Neighbours

The Creative Convergence Project (I’m the Project Manager) is conducting four World Cafe events to engage a broad cross-section of creative people into conversations about themselves, their creative practice and their neighbourhoods. These events allow us to gather fascinating qualitative data for our research study (take the survey) and are also experiments in new ways of engaging the so-called Creative Class into a conversation that has been stuck inside policy circles for too long.

What do an artist and a software developer have in common? What are our shared dreams for our neighbourhoods and our city? We invite you to join a unique conversation, meet the creative people in your neighbourhood and hope that you will leave with new perspective and new opportunities for your own work.

Download the invitation. Join the Facebook Group.

Creative Convergence Research Study: Take the Survey!

Take the Survey!

Participate in a major collaborative research initiative that explores the unique characteristics of communities, neighbourhoods and districts in which talented artists, entrepreneurs, firms and organizations thrive. Help inform public policy makers on how to better protect and promote these critical local habitats of infrastructure and services that sustain Toronto’s cultural and creative sectors.

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The Creative Convergence Project is a major collaborative research project being undertaken by a consortium that includes: Artscape, MaRS, Evergreen, OCAD, Canadian Film Centre, Toronto International Film Festival Group and funded by partners OMDC, City of Toronto, TEDCO, Waterfront Toronto and with the participation of the University of Toronto Cultural Economy Lab and a long list of partner organizations. I’m the project manager for this, and it’s really fascinating work. I’m lucky to be involved and am enjoying working with the amazing people at Artscape: Tim Jones, Reid Henry and Lori Tesolin.

Join the Community!

We’ve started a Facebook group for the project. While Richard Florida may now call Toronto home and the “creative city” is on the lips of many among Toronto’s chattering classes, it is the many thousands of creative and passionate Toronto citizens that will cocreate a city where every individual’s creative passion is nurtured and developed for the benefit of our long-term sustainability and quality of life.

Make art. Build a building. Create software. Tell stories. Push the boundaries of perception and knowledge. Perform, dance and play. All this needs space, place, people and connectivity to make it come alive.

We hope you will join us in writing the story of a city embracing its future.

From the wilderness…a post

I just realized it has been 3 weeks since my last blog post and I apologize, dear reader, for letting you down. I will endeavour to be more consistent in the future. I have also fallen WAY behind on my RSS feeds. I HAVE been busy. I rarely blog about work, so here’s a bit of an update:

  • I facilitated a net neutrality townhall conversation at nextMEDIA (video forthcoming, I hope)
  • I finished writing a report on technology impacts on the new media sector and their implications on cultural policy for Department of Canadian Heritage and Ministére de la Culture et des Communications du Québec
  • I helped organize a successful first Open Cities unconference, which has begun a whole series of new conversations and activity
  • I successfully reframed the Creative Convergence Centres Project into the Creative Convergence Project, which the steering committee approved; the project is moving forward with a compelling scope that will focus on creative places at the building, district and city-wide scales
  • I developed a new service offering for community cultural engagement at the municipal level, including a great deal of online community practices and tools taken from our experiences with BarCamps and, particularly, from Toronto Transit Camp.

New business continues to come my way and the consulting pipeline is pretty much full through the fall. This has started me thinking about where I want to take Remarkk Consulting as a business.

Smoky Mountain Road
Smoky Mountain Road by pfly

Until now, Remarkk Consulting has been an umbrella for my own consulting work and personal passion projects. The positive feedback I get from this work tells me first of all that the combination of work and personal passion is key. It also tells me that my chosen domains at the intersection of Technology, Culture, Public Policy and/or Strategy are under-served and in need of fresh ideas and new energy at a time of profound change. So I’m in the right place, in what appears to be the right time.

As indie consultants know, we have choices to make as we grow:

  1. We can stay independent, charge more, and move up the strategic food chain.
  2. We can partner with other indies and enter into joint projects on an ad-hoc basis.
  3. We can hire staff and start building a “Practice” and a “Firm”, leverage past work through reusable knowledge that can be transferred to junior consultants.

Management is not something I necessarily want to return to, although I enjoyed the mentoring aspects of management. I am drawn to loose and agile agglomerations of talented peers – Jevon’s Manifesto for an Emerging Consultant Counter Culture – rather than more formal large organizational structures. I am also not interested in becoming one of those consultants that is so caught up in the strategic stratosphere as to lose my connection to the tangible reality of grassroots communities.

These are some of the factors I’m looking at as I consider the future directions of Remarkk Consulting. If you’ve been there before, I’d love to hear about your experiences. How do you evolve your practice in sync with your passions in a way that gives meaning to both?

Creative Convergence Centres: Hubs Within the Cluster

On Wednesday of this week, I attended the announcement by the OMDC and Ontario Minister of Culture Caroline Di Cocco of the first 14 projects to be funded by the Entertainment & Creative Cluster Partnerships Fund (ECCPF). I am glad that my prior work with the Ontario Government contributed to the creation of this Fund in the first place, and Wednesday was a proud moment for me. The diversity of cool projects in the mix show what is possible when we cooperate to compete. Check out the exciting CONCERT consortium project to develop an entertainment R&D network: Full List of Funding Recipients.

I am Project Manager for one of those projects, the Creative Convergence Centres Project:

The Creative Convergence Centres Project seeks to accelerate the development of vibrant physical places that become major innovation hubs and economic engines for the creative industries cluster. The project is lead by a consortium of institutions currently involved in the development of creative convergence projects including: Artscape, Canadian Film Centre, MaRS, Evergreen, Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD), New Media Business Alliance (NMBA) and Toronto International Film Festival Group. Additional partners include Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation, TEDCO and the City of Toronto.

Canadian Film Centre is the primary partner, the project is managed through Artscape and I have been contracted to manage the project. I have been really looking forward to this, as one of my research interests is around the intersection between global innovation and local place. What can projects such as these do to anchor a cluster of firms and institutions densely interlinked with many weak ties in the Toronto region? How can these places be created with intention in order to foster collaboration and to offer the possibility of creative serendipity – the unexpected next big thing that comes from a random conversation at the cafe or at an event. It is about physical infrastructure together with social infrastructure.

I will be blogging about this project through its duration. I believe it is important that the wider community understands what the project hopes to accomplish and how they can link into these hubs, whether currently existing or proposed. The project is also not exclusive, and will be looking at other similar creative hubs currently in place or proposed.

I look forward to the day when Toronto is home to a network of vibrant interlinked creative hubs where the best content, design, science and technology in the world is developed and commercialized; important new engines of economic development and prosperity.

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A Social Mission for a Blogging Consultant?

I’ve been wanting to develop a social mission statement for my consulting practice for some time now. It’s in development, and I’ve asked a few people to collaborate, via Google Docs of course. Not ready for prime-time yet, but on its way.

What has been driving this is my experience of the last year blogging and consulting. My work is not value-neutral. It is analytical, but my work is framed by my worldview, as is anyone’s. Blogging forces me to articulate myself more precisely, to hone my arguments in the face of criticism and respond to other very different worldviews. It exposes me to a fantastic collision of perspectives that inform my work.

I am inspired by the Cluetrain idea that markets are conversations, Shel and Scoble’s book Naked Conversations and by Chris and Tara’s work behind BarCamp and Citizen Agency. Making meaning is an important creative act in a market characterized by conversation. Who are you? What do you stand for? Do I want to know you? Do I want to do business with you?

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So why a social mission for a consultant? Aren’t consultants all guns for hire, who swear to objectivity? Isn’t a consultant supposed to be neutral? Doesn’t a social mission belong to the world of nonprofits? Isn’t the exercise dangerously and inherently political?

My point is that so-called consultant objectivity and neutrality is a myth. Consultants are motivated by many things that affect their work: worldviews, past experiences, the hope to get more work, to give the client what they want to hear not what they need to hear. I don’t like these aspects of my adopted profession. The problem with consulting in my opinion is that values are artificially removed when they should actually be central, articulated and transparent.

I can’t help but have a need to place myself in a larger, meaningful context. I am an independent. I am Citizen Wonk. I am an agent of my values. My values infuse my work and help me decide what work I wish to do.

I’m interested to know other consultants who have gone through this exercise themselves, whether in a formal or informal way. What’s your mission and how do you incorporate it into your work? How do you balance your desire to live your values with your need to make a living and get the next gig? Leave a comment or email me.

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