Make Calgary Talk instructor Lance Robinson hopes to provide resources for young voters.
Michael Grondin/the Gauntlet

Class empowers students through municipal politics

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An experimental class in the faculty of environmental design is attracting some attention.

Make Calgary Talk is a project created by the faculty of environmental design that uses different media platforms to discuss design, development and planning issues in Calgary. Since its launch in February last year, the class has grown from eight students to 22 while accumulating nearly 400 Twitter followers and 2,000 hits a month on its blog.

“Make Calgary Talk is an ongoing experiment with students from the faculty of environmental design that engages Calgarians in design-based conversations,” said Make Calgary Talk editor and sessional instructor Lance Robinson. “It’s conversations that we think aren’t happening in traditional media and in social media, so we’re going out and engaging a relatively unengaged audience and provoking a conversation.”

During the beginning of their talks, most participants were from the design community, with limited discussions with individuals at city hall and development groups. However, Robinson said that through social media they have been able to reach a wider audience.

“Engagement should be going into a larger community that maybe would like to have a conversation or would like to know more and giving them the platform to have a conversation,” Robinson said. “Now [Make Calgary Talk] has expanded to any Calgarian who wants to get involved.”

Prior to Monday, Make Calgary Talk’s main focus was Calgary’s municipal election.

Robinson stressed that many students voted for the first time this year and needed information. He said Make Calgary Talk is a valuable resource for students who are new to the electoral process.

Those involved in Make Calgary Talk hope to see their success continue.

“It’s more than a class. It was an idea, that became a class that now, maybe, is becoming a movement,” said associate dean academic for environmental design and planning Bev Sandalack.
“I think everybody wants an opportunity to be better informed, to have an opportunity to comment, and to realize that it isn’t ‘just casting a vote’ once a year that is your opportunity to influence things, but to be engaged in a dialogue. That likely leads to better places, when people are more invested in their community.”