March 10, 2016 marked the official launch of our YourVoice initiative, which aims to facilitate public participation and engagement in issues that affect our city and communities.
With YourVoice, CivicMuslims aims to connect members with opportunities to share their thoughts on, and to learn about, topical issues at town halls, public consultations and forums. We prepare members for these events by creating documents with background information, to be shared with registered attendees, and by hosting informal discussions before and after each consultation to prepare and reflect on the topic of the evening. It's a great opportunity to learn about timely civic issues, and expand one's horizons!
For this very first initiative, a group of nine from CivicMuslims attended an interactive public consultation hosted by the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. The topic of the event was a proposed overhaul of the Police Services Act (1990), which governs the conduct of police officers in Ontario.
The evening began as any good evening does - at a charming coffee shop! We met at Presse Cafe, Bay St, prior to the consultation, and started with some fun socialising over delicious food. Each member drew a piece of paper from an envelope, and had 30 seconds to talk about whatever was written on the paper (e.g. "Your favourite film/book?", or "What are your thoughts on school uniforms?"). This fast-paced activity worked as a great ice-breaker, and as a warm-up for speaking at the main event. We learned random things about one another - in fun & light-hearted environment. It was exactly what we needed on a cool Thursday evening in March.
The YMCA that acted as the venue for the consultation was only a short walk from the cafe. When we arrived, we each received an electronic keypad (gadgets! oh, yes!) and name tag, and saw that the room was arranged with round tables and comfortable chairs. The consultation consisted of a short presentation by the Ministry, followed by informal voting (e.g. on questions such as: "how safe do you believe your community is?") with the keypads. Attendees got to see results of votes in real time; these votes were mainly for the benefit of the attendees, to get a snapshot of how people in the room were feeling. The opinions on most subjects varied. Certainly, the diverse room produced interesting point of views!
The presentation allowed for interruptions, and many of the attendees voiced their opinions on the topic and content of the presentation, activities and voting, as well as on the topic itself. There was time given for each table to discuss several specific issues relating to the Act and to policing in Ontario. Everyone had a chance to have their voice heard!
One of the final activities was one where everyone in the room wrote three key skills they felt police officers needed to have, as a bare minimum, and these were written on post-it notes and hung up on a wall and organized accordingly. The event featured several such unstructured and structured methods of feedback, including comment sheets and feedback reports. The colourful post-its reminded us of the mosaic that is Canada - we are a diverse nation. Each community had it's own needs and challenges.
We finished off our event with our CivicMuslims signature group photo (how could we forget!), a quick debrief on our learnings from the evening, and reflections on what we could do with our newfound knowledge on policing in Ontario.
The great turnout, the honest discussions, and the great company made this a memorable first event for YourVoice by CivicMuslims, and we can't wait to bring you more events like it!
By the numbers:
9 engaged people x a room full of information and questions x 30 memorable seconds of laughter x 27 vibrant post-it notes
an unforgettable YourVoice launch!