It’s amazing. This City, that I love. We have an identity, what we think of ourselves, that is proud, self-deprecating, humble, yet helpful. We mock ourselves, we curse the snow… yet we stay here, build things and help each other thrive. It’s both part of our anthropological DNA and our current economic reality. Our image, which might be described as what others think of us, has always been a challenge. This gap… between what we know we are, and what others think we are.. is worth filling. It will deliver new citizens and workers to our city, it will draw visitors, and probably above all else, it will keep perpetuating the social and economic growth of our city.
So when the Mayor decided to take a stand, and finally find a way to tell our story, he had the guts to try something different. Council supported his leadership, and myself and Amy Shostack were asked to create a citizen-led initiative that could help improve our image. The typical process, hiring an agency and focus-grouping a vanilla brand, well that wasn’t for us.
So.. we landed on a story we already knew was true about this place. Local storyteller, Todd Babiak, had already started researching and writing about our identity. When he pushed past the river-valley platitudes… he found the answer to why we were here. We come here, or we stay here, because it’s easy to build something from nothing. It’s easy to connect with someone in the community and find volunteers, mentors and facilitators to activate your idea. I can’t list them all.. but the examples are endless. The Heritage Classic, the Commonwealth Games, the Fringe Festival, PCL, Bioware.. even my company, Yardstick. All born of an idea from a few citizens… and then made significant with help from others.
There is no aristocracy here. We help each other succeed. And then… if it was grown here.. we take ownership of it. Which leads me back to the Make Something Edmonton initiative. This is OUR identity and it’s true. Which is why when we challenge Edmontonians to just MAKE SOMETHING, we get a positive feedback and response of action.
But it’s not just fluff… it’s a practical path to image building. Because we won’t spend the typical Millions in creating a tagline and bumper stickers, distilled by advertising agencies into vanilla meaninglessness; we will spend less to get something that is true. Since we have started the Make Something Edmonton idea, we have already levered nearly 1500 volunteer hours. And we have only just begun. Over the next few months, our call to action will inspire and recognize people who are doing things. Major things like raising millions from the citizenry to artistically light the high-level bridge, to tiny things, like a cul-de-sac just finding a way to get outside and get to know each other.
This is our identity.. and although that will never end, an image and brand will emerge. But I am not worried about that right now. We will learn that.. it will emerge. And it will be authentic, because we value that more than we value anything else.
If you want to learn more about Make Something Edmonton, please visit the website of projects underway. If you want to start a project, and want to raise awareness, money or find collaborators, get started.
If you want to further understand what I am talking about, enjoy this video about the initiative, and an example of a great made in Edmonton project:
A Make Something Edmonton project… a beautiful and simple way to connect the community. CommuniTEA.