Jane’s Walks 2016: 3 Walks, 7 Lessons #longread

As you know from Friday’s CTA Mission, there are lessons to be learnt from Jane Jacobs; these lessons are readily available to those willing to walk their city.

I chose to focus more on active, outdoors walks this year to see what learning moments I’d find. Also – stay tuned for a future post on the impact of nature in encouraging and supporting wellness initiatives!

7 Lessons to Leverage from the 2016 Jane’s Walks

Lesson #1 – Smartphones matter. A lot. 

Jane’s Walk does not have an app and their website is not what I view as user-friendly.

While the channel should never supersede the message, we must remember this:


All the participants I spoke with over the weekend found the lack of an app very frustrating. A good app meets constituent needs better than any web-based site or (heaven help us!) an old-school paper agenda ever could. For example, users can customize their own agenda, administrators can send push messages to participants, and pertinent links and documents can be shared.

Why oh why would you NOT use an app for a multi-day conference with multiple sessions competing for attendees? Empower your participants – make sure #TheresAnAppForThat!

The Jane’s Walk website (a WordPress theme) is responsive but its layout is not designed for the kind of information it’s meant to provide. For example, the filters were  limited so end-users couldn’t drill down to only see walks at certain times and could only view one walk theme and region per search. While it did offer the option to confirm attendance, the platform required users to create an account and store the information online. Immediate ICS calendar downloads are much more effective and audience-pleasing.

What makes a happy conference website?


  1. Responsive so it’s user-friendly and readable on a smartphone.
  2. The right theme so the information is organized and displayed in a way that enables user access. It needs to be readable, it needs images and it must be easy to navigate.
  3. Outline the next steps.What is the call to action? What are your needs? Are you positioned to get what you need?


  • An end-user’s technology needs change depending on how they live and work.
  • End-users will figure out when and how to evolve a system to meet their needs.
  • Provide the solution or other end-users will DIY a way to meet their needs.

Eventually, end-users did take control – via #Twitter and #Facebook.

Walk #1: Wychwood Barns.

This walk was not particularly educational or well done.

Lesson # 2 – Be coherent.

If you are going to lead a meeting and/or deliver a presentation, make sure that you have a solid narrative with on-the-scene examples to illustrate your points. The narrative of this walk was not coherently structured; it jumped around and assumed a level of knowledge beyond most of the audience. Our tour started with 20 people and ended with 8 because people gave up and left.

Lesson # 3 – Be prepared.

If you’ve spent months planning and building a presentation, invest some time in practicing your delivery. Do a dry-run and get feedback from colleagues, because they will be honest with you and stop tangents before they drive away your audience’s interest.

Walk #2: Étienne Brulé Park.

Lesson # 4 – Trust, but verify, your information. Errors alienate constituents.

If you are organizing an event, check your public transit directions before making them public. I missed the original High Park walk I planned to take because the TTC directions for the streetcar (since the subway line was on partial shutdown!) and meeting place were appalling. I organize a lot of events and there is no excuse for that kind of error.

Errors of this sort alienate your constituency because you are not valuing their time and their time is an in-demand, finite resource. Those errors also compromise your constituency’s trust in the information you are sharing with them; if you can’t be a trusted authority source, someone else will take your place.

Lesson # 5 –  BOLO for new experiences!

You never know what you might find out, or whether the lemon life hands you will make really good lemonade. Had I joined the first walk, I would not have discovered:

  • Salmon (yes, salmon!) jump upstream on the Humber River in the spring! FYI – this I absolutely *have* to see next year.
  • The most perfect long bike path for people like me who are *terrified* of riding a bike on Toronto streets. I bought a bike on Sunday because I was so excited to finally find a place to ride safely!

Walk # 3 – Rosedale Ravine.

Lesson # 6 – Data-driven decision-making matters.

Data-driven decision-making matters, especially for communities looking to improve their livability. We’re currently #Census2016-ing our maple-coated hearts out in Canada. What can I say – we are a nation of practical people.

We were fortunate to be led on this walk by one of Toronto’s Deputy Chief Planners, a true knowledge and application expert. In Toronto, the data gathered from the census will be used for both city infrastructure planning purposes but also for funding allocations to create, update and maintain more greenspaces in Toronto.

This data is tremendously important: Toronto Proper (which stretches from the lake north to Bloor, west to Bathurst and east to the Don River) has a population of 2.6 million people and we’re growing by 200,000 people a year . That is more than the population of Windsor, Ontario.

And we need infrastructure.

The data garnered via the census will be used to not only advocate for our oft-longed-for downtown relief subway line, but also to identify and enable the city to make strategic purchases for future use as schools, greenspace and as community engagement facilities, like United Way Hubs.

Toronto is still a city of families, no matter what you hear. We need schools. We need play parks. We need better transit. Businesses need to support and participate in these hearings; if your employees can’t have livability, then you might not get the best employees. Not everyone wants to be a suburban commuter when they grow up.

Lesson # 7 – Be aware of trending issues by tracking your constituents.

Through organized collective action with the community at large, local business and livability improvement associations were able to get the city to clean up areas of the ravine which were covered in used drug and sex trade paraphenalia.

They took out another 15 hazmat bags’ worth of trash just last week.

The city would not have taken the time to render the greenspace of the Rosedale ravine safe for use without well-organized, collective pressure. The city also would not have recognized the need for supervised injection sites and needle exchanges if they hadn’t been forced by the community to see the desperate need for a better solution.

A common goal plus effective communications can highlight a need and spur collective resolve to find a solution. Hearing one customer complain might not matter, but 40? That’s a trend. That’s an issue. That’s your call to action to find a resolution and make yourself not dispensable.

Summing up the 7 Lessons:

  1. Smartphones matter. A lot. Work with them.
  2. Be coherent with your content.
  3. Be prepared with your presentation.
  4. Trust, but verify, your information. Errors alienate constituents.
  5. BOLO for new experiences.
  6. Data-driven decision-making matters.
  7. Trend-spot your constituents.

I hope you enjoyed this event analysis. Let me know what you think and how you might apply these lessons.


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