Has the traditional conference format been rendered obsolete? I believe so. The tweeting, buzzing, texting, bbm-ing, blogging and general techno-chatter going on in the world keeps us in perpetual contact with each other. (I know I’m not the only one who checks my BlackBerry before I brush my teeth in the morning.) A single meeting to exchange ideas and find solutions seems almost like a teaser these days.
This year’s annual Maytree Leadership Conference was not a traditional conference. It was a conversation. A verbal drumroll leading up to the October 25 municipal election.
We wanted this year’s conference to be different. Because 2010 is a municipal election year, we included the issues, the candidates, and an opportunity to imagine what the City could be. We replaced the workshops and speeches with an invitation. An invitation to our network to set the agenda for the morning and participate in the planning process.
Members of the Maytree Leadership Network were invited to participate through:
- reading the conference blog
- signing on to the webinar series
- contributing questions they wanted to ask mayoral candidates
- attending a pre-conference event
- voting on the final list of questions
And, (the crescendo) showing up in person on June 17 at the Toronto Reference Library.
It was there that participants had the chance to further reveal, develop, exchange and transform ideas about their collective vision for Toronto, discuss what the city should do about it, and think about what they would do personally.
We created a Wordle, depicting (by size) which words were most popular in our collective vision for the city.
Most importantly, participants connected in person. (Is there a word yet for that open-mouthed smile of delight people exchange when they meet in person for the first time after months of e-mailing?)
Then there was the job interview. Three of the leading mayoral candidates – Joe Pantalone, Rocco Rossi and George Smitherman interviewed by the feisty and fabulous Jane Farrow. If you’d like to know which candidates think non-citizen residents should get the vote, what they’re planning to do about priority neighbourhoods and taxes, or who each of their favourite Toronto-based artists is – watch the video.
The buzz continued right out of the room and I’d say you had to be there to really get it. But you can get some of it. Catch the chatter on the live blog reported by the talented on-site Citizen Journalists.
We still have another four months before we vote. So: keep talking, asking questions, expecting answers and connecting. Let’s continue this conversation in our communities. And let’s make Toronto the best city we can imagine.