I feature an interesting website, blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page or other online destination related to Waterloo Region on CKWR with Randolph J. Johnston called #WRawesome Online, Mondays at about 12:30. Here is the Midday with RJ’s Facebook page.
I hope by doing so that I’ll help people find places online that help them to connect to their community–online and in the real world. By doing so, I hope to help people find online places that they might not find otherwise and make our community a better place to live.
For folks looking for communications advice, you can get tips from each selection featured. I’ll highlight at least one example in my weekly post.
The nature of public consultations is changing.
At one time, the tried and true model of seeing what people thought about an initiative or policy was to place an ad in the paper. People would come out to a meeting where they would be given or told some information. They’d have a chance to give feedback immediately or later by phone or more likely email. Too often that essentially meant going through the motions–but at least that much was done on at least some issues.
At the same time, voting rates have declined. I believe that has happened in part because people do not feel as if they are a part of the process. They see decisions being made without their involvement. They don’t even feel heard.
I don’t believe that democracy means always doing what people want. I believe we elect people to make the best decisions based upon comprehensive information that we all do not take the time to understand and consider even if it is available to us. Our politicians are expected to look at the bigger picture about what is in our best interests. Unfortunately that can be taken too far where people’s opinions are not solicited or acknowledged in a way that they feel heard.
There is a middle space possible where people can feel engaged with issues they care about especially those that touch their lives and where the final decisions can be entrusted to those we have selected to make them.
Finding that middle space means finding new ways to engage people and ensure they feel heard. One part of the solution is going to where people are instead of expecting them to go where the consultation is happening.
While going to where people are can mean quite literally going to the physical spaces where they are, technology also opens up possibilities to share information and solicit feedback.
The rapid transit debate in Waterloo Region can be an example of where people didn’t feel heard. It’s also an example of where our elected politicians had learned information and made decisions over a number of years that lead them to approve light rail transit despite vocal objections.
People had opportunities to be involved in the process but in a more traditional fashion. As a result, no one really paid attention until they were faced with the possibility of increased taxes and it was too late for them to take the time to understand the issues.
Whatever you thought about rapid transit, whether you preferred buses, rapid buses, aerorail or light rail, our region is changing and the decision made on rapid transit will change our cities. You have a chance to be involved in what that means and everyone should take advantage of it.
The Region of Waterloo with the help of outside consultants is undertaking a process to look at how the area along the rapid transit route will be affected–especially the areas around the stations. How will they be developed in a way that enhances our quality of life? How we make the most of this opportunity? We will never be the cities we grew up in, but we can have a say on the cities our children and grandchildren grow up in.
A website has been set up about what is being called the Central Transit Corridor. It is the online face of the community building strategy being created.
The website wants to try to help people be involved in a process that is sure to affect the cities we live in. It provides information and resources including videos to help people understand the project and what is possible.
The opportunities for input are shared. Many are in person but online feedback is also encouraged. If you care about the future of Waterloo Region, the website is a good step for helping you to make a difference.
I’m calling the Central Transit Corridor website #WRawesome Online because it’s a good example of moving towards a new era of engaging citizens. More may be desirable but let’s make the most of this opportunity to show more is desired.