As we all wait for the votes to be counted in the United States, and brace ourselves for whatever comes next, you might not want to hear another single thing about any kind of election anywhere. I hear you.
But we will have a civic election here next October, and the candidates we choose will have more effect on our day-to-day lives than anything that happens south of the border, however overwhelming it may be right now. We really want to make sure Taproot equips voters to make informed decisions and alerts candidates to what is important for them to address.
The point of the People’s Agenda method — which aims to find out what issues Edmontonians want the candidates to be talking about as they compete for votes in the 2021 municipal election — is to act as an antidote to coverage that focuses on who’s ahead and who’s behind, i.e. the infamous “horse race” that relies so heavily on polling. It’s also a way to keep the focus on real things that city council has to make decisions about, rather than sniping or gaffes or “us vs them” appeals.
Here’s an update on the progress we’ve made so far:
- We have welcomed Rob Houle to our steering committee. You may have heard him before on Speaking Municipally — on Episode 92 he spoke about council’s decision not to reduce the police budget, and on Episode 100 he talked about the city’s new Indigenous ward names. He joins Elise Stolte to help us stay accountable on our goals to hear from as wide and diverse a swath of Edmontonians as possible.
- We’ve figured out how we’re going to follow up with the respondents who gave us permission to do so. This may seem like a very small step, and it is, but we hadn’t come up with a procedure for that when we launched this thing, and now we have. We expect that these follow-up conversations and calls will lead to story ideas, which we will start assigning and publishing soon. This is how we will make sure we go deeper than superficial surveys and get closer to the kind of deep listening that Elise is doing with her Groundwork project.
- It’s clear from the first hundred or so responses that some common themes are coalescing. We still have a lot more people to reach out to and hear from, but there’s enough early consensus on several topics to indicate a preliminary agenda. So we’ll be putting that together and publishing it soon, in hopes that it prompts further responses.
- We’re working out a less aggressive timeline. The election is less than a year away, but that’s still pretty far down the road. For various reasons, we were planning to do a lot of response-gathering and listening in the fall, with a view to launching our coverage in January. We’ve since taken a step back to give the outreach process a little more air while altering the rest of the plan so you can see actual stories and not just progress reports sooner.
That may be more information than you require, but transparency is a good policy.
For examples of some of the responses we’ve seen so far, keep an eye on the Council Roundup, where we update the numbers every week.
Here’s how you can help
- If you haven’t already done so, answer our question: What key issue do you want the candidates to talk about as they compete for votes in the 2021 municipal election, and why?
- Send that link to someone in your circle whose voice should be heard.
- If you are putting on an online event involving Edmontonians, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a small budget for sponsorship, as well as some additional opportunities for cross-promotion. In return, we’re looking for a chance to briefly invite your attendees to participate in the People’s Agenda.