Friday, October 17, 2008

Giving Voice: Online Tools Provide Unmatched Communication Opportunities

The current incarnation of the web has given US on-line tools that are unmatched and unprecedented in their ability for US to reach, and be reached, by the most diverse groups of stakeholders, citizens, professionals, and community interest groups. So why aren't more Planners; municipalities; associated urban design professionals such as Engineers and Architects; and, non-profit groups using them?

The questions of HOW, WHEN or even WHY these groups and individuals should use a web site, blog, or other on-line resource are unfortunately common. It is still acceptable to delay the inevitable on-line evolution of our professional practices by debating HOW and WHEN, often reframing them as decisions dependant upon the nature of the work, available resources, and skill levels. Even if WE are to accept the premise that these are wholly sound arguments and not pretext, I believe the benefits inherent in the answer to the question WHY will diminish them significantly and make the value of integrating on-line tools into OUR practices unmistakable.

I ask that you take the next few moments to think beyond your profession. I would like to introduce you to someone that has made a deep impact on my world view and perception of the potential of on-line resources.

I have not met her in person, yet Glenda Watson Hyatt has greatly influenced me and her blogging is one one of the most profound examples of how the web can empower and connect people. She shares her experiences living with cerebral palsy to motivate and inspire people to think about how they perceive their own situation and the world around them; doing all this by typing with only her left thumb!

Back to HOW, WHEN, WHY? I suggest the answers to these questions should come easier now, given that the results include providing meaningful access to stakeholders where it never existed before such as in Glenda's case. But it goes well beyond that, including improved access to information in terms of convenience and location in large regional contexts; or expanded ability for internal and external monitoring of projects; or developing communities of interest and knowledge networks that can enhance project outcomes.

Glenda Watson Hyatt shows that you have nothing to fear about "going on-line"; as well as, the unimaginable potential to connect with people you and your organization would never have otherwise. That's good for our professions, our communities and our spirits.

I have had the opportunity to develop municipal communication strategies, and suggest checking out Soaring Eagle Communications, Glenda's Web Accessibility business, before you move ahead with your's.

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