Lessons learned from the Edmonton Resilience Festival


Logo_Resilience Festival with Title2

Early in February 2015, we filled Boyle Street Plaza to overflowing with skill-sharing workshops, Conversation Cafes, a fair showcasing the work of community organizations, community-created artwork and social activities. Our goals were to strengthen community resilience and inspire participants to help create a sustainable, creative and promising future. We called it the Edmonton Resilience Festival. It was a wonderful weekend, full of optimism and community-building. We even broke even.

To everyone who attended, supported, instructed and/or volunteered, and anyone who completed our feedback form — thank you so much!

We heard time and again from attendees that they learned new skills and were excited to connect with people with similar interests at the festival. It showed us that events that offer opportunities for community building and strengthening, sharing and connecting, meeting new people and volunteerism is met with great enthusiasm in Edmonton.

So, we will be doing it again! Mark your calendars: the second annual Edmonton Resilience Festival will happen on April 29 through May 1 at Boyle Street Plaza.

In the spirit of skill-sharing, those of us on the organizing committee want to be fully transparent and share what we learned from our first year’s event and the feedback survey — in part to benefit anyone thinking of organizing something similar in another city — and discuss our plans for the future.

Six things we learned from organizing the inaugural Edmonton Resilience Festival:

1. Food trucks do not typically operate in winter. As a result, only one food truck — Incredible Edibles — answered our call for food trucks to serve festival-goers, and Sarah Jackson of pop-up cafe Luzzara agreed to help us out. To our chagrin, this unfortunately meant that there were few vegetarian and vegan food options available, and that lack was definitely noticed by attendees who completed our feedback survey. 
How we’ll adapt: Move the festival to the spring! This will also reduce our risk of weather-related cancellations and poor event turnout caused by snowstorms.

2. Families did not participate in the free outdoor activities in the numbers we had hoped for, in large part because of the frigid temperatures we had that weekend.
How we’ll adapt: Moving the festival to springtime to take advantage of warmer weather will also make it easier for families to participate. We are also considering having events in various Edmonton locations, with the hub of programming being at Boyle Street Plaza.

3. Creating ticket streams of related workshops is difficult when workshops have really diverse topics. We also heard repeatedly from attendees that bundled tickets didn’t work for them.
How we’ll adapt: This year, all tickets will be sold individually so you can choose your own adventure

4. Tightly scheduled workshops over a two-day period meant early-morning start times, classes that felt too short, and breaks between workshops that were not long enough to engage in conversations or the other festival activities.
How we’ll adapt: Reduce that rushed feeling by keeping the number of workshops the same but extending the festival to three days from two, starting a bit later in the morning, and increasing the workshop slots to 2.5 hours from two hours and the breaks to 30 minutes from 15 minutes.

5. The Conversation Cafe space was chosen so that people could drop in and leave as they desired, but in practice, it was too noisy.
How we’ll adapt: We will move the Conversation Cafes to a quieter, more intimate space in the building.

6. We will be taking feedback to heart on improving accessibility and affordability, and ensuring that our instructors provide contact information and handout sheets.
How we’ll adapt: We will
attempt to find a more convenient balance with the workshop schedule, to ensure you can attend the topics that you find most interesting.

Would you like to help us build community resilience with the 2016 Edmonton Resilience Festival by becoming a volunteer? Do you have suggestions and ideas? If so, please contact us at yegresilience@gmail.com.


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