Tuesday, 20 April 2010

From town hall to town hall

I’ve been to two town halls in two days, and going to another tonight.

Comparing the Let’s Talk event with TTC riders & workers to The Scarborough Hospital town hall is an interesting study in process.

Sunday’s Let’s Talk event was big, had the resources to promote it well, and post town hall news coverage in all the major networks and papers was just about guaranteed. And the turnout was a couple hundred strong, although a solid half the room were journalists, bloggers, candidates or campaign staff of some kind. But while a lot of good issues were shared and covered, the theme that permeated the whole event was how much customer service is a system-wide issue and that a more meaningful exchange would have been possible had all levels of the TTC been represented on the panel. As an evaluator, my favourite recommendation was by a woman named Vanesse, who said that we should use this as a starting point and come together a year from now to monitor what (if any) improvements have been made. I’ll endorse that plan wholeheartedly, with the suggestion that we all spend some time nudging both the union and the management to share a stage and take our questions together.

Monday’s Scarborough Hospital event was of a different nature entirely. Minimal PR budget; no enraged residents driving the conversation; smaller audience; part of a more traditional strategic planning process. It’s the process that’s worthy of mention, in that this was clearly one step in a well thought out plan to engage a community around a goal. Indeed, no need is the suggestion of a follow up town hall required – they’re already planning one for next year after a series of additional engagement opportunities, accountabilities and benchmarks along the way. As a member of the public, I didn’t learn as much from the other side as I did at Let’s Talk, but connected with some committed people and left confident that this was part of a process where an actual change was going to be made and that a year from now it’ll look a lot different.

Now let’s see what Dave Meslin has in store for us tonight with Better Ballots ... I can’t wait!


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