Website aims for community engagement on local issues

Website aims for community engagement on local issues

A brand new interactive community website designed to stimulate dialogue on the future of Peterborough, Ontario has been created by a group of Trent University students and a professor.

The site, ImaginePeterborough.ca uses a Wikipedia platform that allows people to create and edit the content of the site, encouraging dialogue and engaging citizens in a discussion about Peterborough’s future, says Stephen Hill, the Trent professor behind the creation of the site.

Hill sees the site as a community engagement initiative. “We have created a platform and others will create the copy,” he says.

Anyone can log onto the site and edit the copy already there or create new copy. They are also encouraged to add information about upcoming events.

The “wiki” platform was downloaded by Trent student Colin Hogue and features student projects on community issues, focusing on the environment.

Initially created from seminar discussions in Hill’s Canadian Environmental Policy course, the site features information collected by students on various community issues including governance and decision making, water, energy, waste, transportation, land use and education.

Student projects on the site include an evaluation with recommendations of the 1991 Peterborough’s Sustainable Development Task Force Report. The report itself is also available on the site.

Among other projects are an examination of the Peterborough Bike Plan, sustainable power generation and community economic development and innovations for sustainability.

“I wanted the students to try to make connections between the theory we were examining in class and the real-world challenges of policy makers, citizens and politicians grappling with sustainability,” Hill says.

Discussions began to focus on the need for a meaningful community discussion about where Peterborough wants to go and what it wants to be, he says.

“Through this site we want people to contribute their ideas about shaping and creating a prosperous, sustainable, livable and compassionate community. There has not been enough dialogue.”

The site takes its name from the city’s “Imagine Peterborough” campaign to celebrate Peterborough’s Centennial in 2005. That campaign encouraged people to imagine what Peterborough was like in the past. This site encourages people to imagine the Peterborough of the future, Hill says.

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John Driscoll

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