What most needs doing?

By DJ Kelly August 3, 2010

What most needs doing?

This is the big question I learned to ask myself as a result of my time in Leadership Calgary. I find the question helps zero your efforts in on the most important aspects of whatever project you are working on and has the added benefit of stripping away the seeming importance of anything extraneous. Those who spend a lot of time with me have probably heard me ask myself, and others, this many times over the last few months.

It is also the question I had to ask myself following my “If you want me to run for alderman…” blog post.

The response to the post was incredible. We had about 100 people sign up telling me exactly what it was that they were willing to do to help out, others responded via email and phone willing to lend their time and services to the campaign (including a few people I’ve never even met before) and we had many offers of donations. With this kind of outpouring from nothing more than a blog post and an email, I’m confident we have enough volunteers and funds to run the kind of campaign my team wants to.

But I have to ask myself “What most needs doing?” Is the answer: DJ on city council?

The more I examined this question over the past month, the more I realized that what most needs doing is not only having people who believe in the kind of public engagement I believe in sitting in City Hall, but also having people who believe in the kind of public engagement I believe in helping create more people who want to, and know how to, become engaged. Politicians will try to tell you this is their job, but even a tertiary look will tell you they are forced to spend the majority of their time managing expectations and making decisions. Meaningful public engagement may be something they want to do, but it rarely is something they have time to do at the level I believe we need.

After thinking about it long and hard for the past month, I believe I don’t need to be on council to help improve Calgary in a meaningful way. I believe I may be able to do more good for the City of Calgary and Calgarians by filling the role of community leader and engaged citizen.

You’ll be hearing more from me following the election about what kinds of public engagement activities I plan to undertake in the future, but I imagine what most people want to know right now is “if you are not running for alderman, then what will you be doing?”

It’s an excellent question. I plan on leaving my job this month as originally planned, and I will be dedicating the next two and a half months to raising awareness around issues I think are important and holding candidates to task by helping raise the level of discourse around the election. I have had a number of very interesting opportunities present themselves and I am eager for what lies ahead.

Some of the details of the projects I’ll be working on are stilling being ironed out, but here is a sneak peek:

  1. I have accepted an offer to write a weekly column about the municipal election with Metro Calgary. Look for the first one in this Friday’s edition. In my column I’ll try to take a slightly different angle on informing voters than you might have come to expect from traditional media.
  2. is taking off with considerable force and becoming a premier site for insight and thoughtful commentary and critique on the election. We are getting multiple requests for interviews each week and the importance of the type of detailed investigation we hope to do on this site can’t be replicated elsewhere. I’ll be building out into a major information source leading to Election Day. We have all kinds of great plans for this group, which will be announced in the coming weeks.
  3. I have returned to the CivicCamp Governance group where I plan on helping lead the organization of one mayoral and 14 aldermanic forums. This is a massive undertaking and I can’t think of another group who has tried to do such a thing in the past; nor a group that is better suited to do it.

I am excited about the future and new opportunities, and want to thank everyone who encouraged me to run for Alderman. I would have loved the challenge of a campaign, engaging one-on-one with voters and most importantly bring a new type of civic engagement to city council. I certainly am not ruling out a future campaign; however I believe that at this point in time, we need this high level of engagement across Calgary and not only within a single Ward. I look forward to working with and for Calgarians, increasing public engagement and putting my passion towards these and other projects.

For those of you that were interested in being involved in my campaign, I urge you to get involved in the election, stay engaged and informed on the issues, and most importantly get out to vote on Election Day. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you in making Calgary a great place, to live, work, play, and be a citizen of.

Here we go…

  • politicalgary

    Your ability to introduce the open data initiative demonstrated to Calgarians that we do not need to be elected to effect change. Welcome back good sir.

  • Calgaryrants

    Great news for any of the Candidates you would have run against…but terrible news for City Hall! You would have been an amazing addition. I know you will be able to continue on with your important work and make a real difference in Calgary!

  • j j

    Pretty comprehensive and intelligently put.