Doors Open 2014 : off its hinges

Last night I attended the 2014 Aurora Doors Open Working group.

To do so I had to sacrifice what looked to be both a valuable and engaging talk put on by University of Toronto:
http://www.thestar.com/business/2014/01/13/reddit_cofounder_alexis_ohanians_entrepreneurial_advice_be_tenacious.html

The meeting that was scheduled to start at 6PM didn’t start until 6:12.

Total # of people that showed up including myself : 4.

Considering how much controversy was made over switching the event dates by participants, none of which could be bothered to show this is some piss poor engagement mirroring what transpired with the Town’s 150 celebrations last year.

The only reason I learned about this meeting was because a member of the Heritage Advisory committee notified me.  Considering I have delegated to the committee twice on the Doors Open event, both in 2012 and last year I find it surprising that town staff wouldn’t have reached out.

Instead of taking advantage of the small group, not to mention making best use of the remaining 45 minutes the town’s heritage planner walked the group through a stale set of prepared PowerPoint slides.

Completely missing from this presentation was any research to show how other municipalities of our size are executing their events.

Instead the focus was to continue with blinders on and roll out effectively the same event as last year.

Among the proposed sites for 2014 are sites carried over from 2013 including public sites that in no way restrict access like the Aurora Public Library.

Initially I thought the addition of MAGNA’s headquarters to the list was being floated only to get laughs, but no, apparently it fits the criteria somehow.  Yeah,  sure it does.

Much was made about the event’s “branding” which ended up more or less hearing the color yellow repeated.
The current yellow and black lawn signs are confusingly amateur and do nothing to reflect the heritage of our town.

The heritage planning manager suggested that because print materials ran out last year that more be proliferated this year.

This is in stark contrast with Doors Open Ontario who has ceased production of their print guide entirely, as stated on their site here: http://www.doorsopenontario.on.ca/The-Story-behind-Doors-Open-Ontario/FAQ.aspx

The Doors Open Ontario Guide – like any print product – is both expensive to print and almost immediately out of date. The Ontario Heritage Trust also has a mandate to protect and preserve the province’s natural heritage resources, so going paperless wherever we can is important to us.

With the evolution of web technology, and the redevelopment of our website, we decided to stop printing the Guide and direct everyone to our website exclusively. Where the Guide provided people with only 10 featured sites from each event, the website offers limitless sites for each event. And with the new search features on the website, you can fine-tune those listings even further to create your own customized Guide, listing just the communities you want to visit and the sites you wish to explore.

The website also includes a mobile interface. Using your smartphone, when you access the Doors Open Ontario website, you have all of the Doors Open web tools at your fingertips – and access to all of the events and listings – all within a compact mobile interface. It’s like having your own customized Doors Open Ontario Guide in your pocket – infinitely more powerful than the printed piece could ever be.

In addition, our new Doors Open Ontario brochure allows us to print more copies than the Guide on less paper, and to distribute it to more people – increasing awareness about the program.

Given the last minute change of one site in 2013 that required the print materials to be altered with a black sharpie crossing through a section you would think the path that Doors Ontario has taken would resonate more with staff.

One of the statistics flaunted was the number of site visits the Doors Open Ontario site captured for Aurora : 1739 visits

Curiously no number was provided for the Doors Open Aurora’s web presence, which was effectively a duplication of the Doors Open site onto a page on the town’s website, which is not mobile friendly.

Last year’s event had absolutely no social media presence. None was mentioned at this meeting. So much for engaging the community and capturing feedback

Only 69 surveys were filled in last year, obviously because paper surveys are dated and cumbersome.

For what has been touted as such a “successful” event I was aghast when the Heritage planning manager trumpeted her method for attracting people to the booth set up at the Farmers Market was to make…… balloon animals:

Capture

WTF?

An event that shrugs substance and authenticity in favor of resorts to cheap gimmicks like this only erodes its integrity instead of strengthening it.

When another attendee suggested the incorporation of QR codes the response was a shoulder shrug followed by the “I’m looking into it but I’m not a technical person.” This was followed up with the excuse that the size required for using Q.R. codes was unknown.

I simply had to turn the Ontario Doors Open flyer to the reverse and point out the strategically placed Q.R. code to show how they are implementing the technology.
If this is beyond the corporation of the Town of Aurora that realized a $550,000+ budget for communications and a $242,000 budget for special events then that is very sad indeed.

In fact $5,000 was budgeted to the H.A.C. in 2013 for the expressed purposes of the Doors Open event.

The same $5,000 is in the 2014 budget (binder 4 pg 5) as confirmed in last night’s budget meeting.

The town is spending alarming amounts of money to deliver and promote its events and it needs to shore up several deficiencies instead of blowing it year after year on t-shirts, signs, printed materials and balloon animals.

What I can’t understand is why this event is this being done in isolation when it is quite clear to me that for it to properly aligned with the goals of innovation & sustainability it needs to be done in conjunction with the town’s special events department.

The doors that need to be opened first and foremost seem to be internal ones.

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