So this summer I had an epiphany; living at the turn of the century isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be.
If the 20th century belonged to Canada – which, looking back, seems a bit of an overstatement – this new century seems intent on running hell mell through the streets screaming ‘nah, nah, nah, you can’t catch me.’
Investments have tanked, school costs are soaring, jobs are disappearing, youngish people are leaving and we are swamped by so much information we don’t know where to start. The promise of the Information Age may be open doors, but most days it looks more like an overstuffed closet. You know the thing you need is in there, you just don’t know where the heck to begin your search.
Well today is the day we start to tackle that closet. Welcome to my little corner of the Internet. I call it Wicked Ideas. It’s a company with a purpose; to bring people together to learn more about some of the wicked problems we’re facing – housing, economic development, education, health care, transportation, migration, energy and the environment. All big, complicated issues but I’ve got a theory about how to solve them. It’s going to take equal parts you and me.
I’m a writer and journalist. Over the past two decades I’ve specialized in covering large, complicated issues and breaking them down for readers. Things such as government budgets, the energy sector, Aboriginal affairs and the impact of technological and social change on the Maritime economy. That’s what I’m good at, processing large amounts of information and explaining them to a general audience. As a friend once described it, it’s knowing just enough about a lot of things to know just where to look to get more information.
Here at Wicked Ideas we’re going to produce journalism in the public interest, stories that tackle some of those wicked problems and we’re going to do it in a new style. It’s called solutions journalism and it breaks with traditional hard news in one key way. Solutions journalism has an end game – our goal is not just to inform you; we want to work with you to design solutions to our problems. To do that we’ve got to stop the blame game.
There are no villans or martyrs in solutions journalism – just people trying to solve a really complicated problem. Now obviously there will be some better at this than others and we’ll highlight their work, just as we’ll cover gross negligence and malfeasance. But we’re not interested in the daily accusations of who screwed who down at the Legislative Assembly or City Hall, or that one person who doesn’t like how they are being treated by their government. As my dad says, ‘don’t come tell me about your problems unless you’ve got a possible solution to go with it.’
That’s where you come in. I think the group of you might just know how to do that because I’ve always found when a group of smart, engaged people get together, cool ideas happen. Which is why at Wicked Ideas we’re giving equal weight to what you have to say. Our site, which goes live later this month, will feature moderated discussion forums where you’ll all be able to hang out, react to what we’re writing about and then add to the stories by sharing your own observations, experiences and content.
Together we’ll build a new type of community meeting place, anchored in the shared power of community knowledge and public service journalism. We’re also going to split our time between meeting online and meeting face-to-face. No matter how often we connect with friends and colleagues online, our deepest connections always happen in person. So Wicked Ideas will also host events, and our very first one is Saturday September 22nd.
It’s called ‘What’s the Future Saint John?’ and it’s an all-ages public forum to identify your priorities for the Saint John region. Everyone’s invited. It’s up on the UNB Saint John campus, in the cafeteria, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. We’ve got free daycare for kids 3-9 so parents can attend and the older kids are welcome to participate – we want to know what kind of city they want to live in. We’ve got some cool speakers, a community BBQ afterwards and music. DJ Hawk will be spinning tunes inside while Heckman and Downes will entertain us in the quad afterwards.
You can find out more, join the conversation and help us build content at our Facebook fan page.
So the name – WTF Saint John. Well seriously, who among us hasn’t said THAT in the past few years. Maybe you muttered it under your breath as you tried to get to the West Side this summer, or laughingly invoked it while following the two-month long dramedy that was the Pension Trial. Or maybe it’s your daily incantation as you drive through town on roads that reveal more cracks than the first season of The Wire. Yeah, WTF.
Okay, we know the place has its problems…but it’s got its charms too and that’s where we need to start. As I tell people, behind every great act is a wicked idea. So…what’s yours?