The Ottawa We Want Wiki

Website[] [1]


I am a part-time professor with the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa and a local area consultant working in the areas of governance, collaboration, and partnership. I teach courses in e-governance, business-government relations, and the practices of consultation and collaboration.


In my classes at the University of Ottawa, I have been exploring with my students technologies of collaboration that are being applied in today's increasingly distributed governance arenas. Wikis are one of these technologies and they are being used to improve the quality of public services, enhance transparency and trust in government, and increase public engagement citizen participation in public life.

As we all know, changes by public institutions, and particularly the kinds of changes implied by need for food security, peak energy and climate change, happen at a glacially slow pace. It is interesting turn of phrase because these days the glaciers themselves may be changing faster.

Typically, we expect our leaders to do the right thing for us because we believe them to be 'in-charge'. As a result we often abdicate our ownership stake in our communities because if our leaders are in-charge, then we don't have to be. Still we all live together, side by side as neighbours, benefiting from each other, dependent in many ways on each other, and owing each other a series of obligations as the price of the rights and quality of life we enjoy.

Andrew Cohen wrote recently in the Citizen a column called Ottawa in Still Life[2] about the seemingly huge level of indifference that residents have about their community. In a city so dominated by government, it seems only natural that our civic culture also reflects the same 'someone-else-is-in-charge' mentality. Why should you, a single resident bother to get involved? Yet around the same time Ken Gray, also writing in the Citizen, had an intriguing story entitled The Ottawa You Want [3] about the kind of its residents would like to see. He was surprised by the volume and quality of responses he received[4]. Apparently Ottawa residents are waiting to get involved in their community.

That response suggested to me there was a real need for an ongoing vehicle to allow residents to demonstrate their ownership in their community and contribute to "the Ottawa We Want. In discussion with several people in town, the upcoming UN Conference on Climate Change (CoP15) seemed like a perfect opportunity to test how to engage local residents in the conversations necessary to take ownership of food security, peak energy and climate change issues in Ottawa. Wikis are a perfect tool for this form of self-organization, so I'm hopeful that this site can stimulate a conversation about the future possibilities for that we as residents can imagine and would like to live into, as well as the contributions we may be willing to make towards those ends.

My interest in The Ottawa We Want Wiki is not in what Ottawa has or has not done in the past, but what Ottawa can or could do in the future. I'm betting that that Ottawans do care and only want to learn how they can make a difference.