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Budding community-building opportunities flow from speaker series

Potential presenters welcome to share ideas

There were times during a new speaker series in Edmonton last summer that people stayed after the presentation to engage one another in conversation.

Sydnie Schneider hopes this scene will play out over and over again when the Creating Vibrant Communities Speaker Series returns this summer.

Drawing together a diverse group of people — who’d likely never meet otherwise — to network and generate fresh ideas for an invigorated, flourishing community is exactly what those behind the Urban Systems’ initiative are looking for.

“We had a lot of relationship-building happen through the series,” Sydnie says. “Lots of people came from different communities and it was a way to bring all of them together to network.”

Participants provided plenty of positive, reinforcing feedback on the series, including a desire to see it continue.

“It’s part of our mission statement to support the creation of vibrant communities so we decided we had to keep it going,” Sydnie says.

“People really enjoyed the presenters, and the opportunity to be with likeminded people in the same room,” she says, adding that can lead to budding relationships and possibly new collaborative efforts for enhancing the community.

Initiated by a former engineer-in-training and the branch leader at Urban’s Edmonton branch, the series has been strongly supported by the team there. It’s an opportunity for them to grow as well.

“They were very interested in the speakers we were hosting, which was great,” Sydnie says. “They can come and network for themselves. They get to meet all of these different people in the community, they get to be the face of Urban, and they also learn — some people in our branch work in a specific practice and maybe don’ t know about another practice and we might be hosting a speaker on that topic. So really, at times, they’re both our staff and members of the community.”

The team organizing the series will soon be looking at potential venues, speakers and dates for this year. Sydnie says the sky is the limit when it comes to topics for presentations, and potential speakers are welcome to make submissions.

“We’re keeping it very open — we’re looking at anybody who has a passion for our community and how to make it more vibrant,” Sydnie says.

Perhaps the only prerequisite is zest for the energy and sustainability of the community.

“Everyone who spoke during the first series is very passionate about their career and practice and the community of Edmonton and surrounding areas,” Sydnie says.

“We want to see what speakers can bring to the table — they may think of something completely new that we wouldn’t think of or didn’t do last year.”

The intent is also to keep the casual, fun atmosphere of the inaugural series, with last year’s space at the Yellowhead Brewery in the heart of downtown Edmonton or similar locations as possible venues for this year’s event.

The series will definitely remain a summer event, providing people with opportunities to learn and engage outside of similar presentations in the community, such as post-secondary school lectures held for students during the school year.

The warm, summer weather also invites activity and Sydnie hopes to build on last year’s attendance of about 50 people at each presentation. They also hope to attract every demographic to enrich the potential pool of ideas that surface and community connections that could be made.

Potential speakers are encouraged to connect with Sydnie and the team by tweeting @spirit_of_urban, sending a post to Urban’s Facebook page, or emailing sscheider@urbansystems.ca.

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