The CBC is a warm welcomer in smaller communities. I was invited to come and talk about PovNet and the event to be held at the local library for the local afternoon show. After I’d adjusted my mike so I could actually see her through the glass, the host started into asking me about PovNet, what kind of things work online and what doesn’t. And plans for the future — where was PovNet going. Which led into a bit of talk about the fellowship, and I was doing this year, thanks to the Carold Institute. She was pleased I was staying for the weekend to go to the Frostbite music festival (I later saw her as one of the evening MCs).
My hosts and I arrived at the public library after picking up coffee from a local coffee place. We pulled the “bad for you” store-bought cookies out of the bag and onto a plate (I wouldn’t let L make homemade brownies — I did have a bit of a budget after all).
M arrived first — was wasn’t connected with the Anti-Poverty Coalition — she was moderately new in town — from Watson Lake. She’d seen an ad in the local paper about this session, and was curious. We talked about some information she needed, and D gave her some ideas about who she could get in touch with locally and who might be able to assist her. She helped herself to a cup of herbal tea, but no “bad for you” cookies — she has diabetes. I usually do bring fruit too, but I had forgotten this time.
Members of the Anti-Poverty Coalition trickled in, shrugged out of parkas and mittens and helped themselves to coffee and cookies. Then D officially introduced me and we started to talk about PovNet — how it works for advocates in BC and other parts of the country. And other online organizing ideas.
I asked people to introduce themselves and talk a bit about their experiences using online tools for organizing. We talked about the sophisticated use of the internet in the Obama campaign and whether or not we could “steal” some of their online toolkits. Someone said that the Anti-Poverty Coalition was talking about fixing up their web site, which precipitated a discussion about how important is the actual web site compared to getting people together to talk about what information they want on it, and how to organize locally.
I talked a bit about how we’ve expanded the PovNet site and particularly about RSS feeds which allow the site to pull in poverty information from news sources around the world. I threw out my anti-poverty book club idea; L said that CBC was doing something like that with “Canada Reads” — I noted to myself that I should check in out; maybe we could use the same format to get people using the interactive components of the web site.
M talked about how she used public access sites, and how they can limit getting online, as they’re not always available and the lineup at the public library is long. G said that the women’s centre had a public access site that wasn’t as busy.
I let people know about some of the PovNet email lists that they might be interested in joining — north of 55 and the older adults list, as well as the national CPP, EI and issues lists. We shared some ideas about how the revitalize the north of 55 list — perhaps if advocates took time to post once a week or so in the territories and northern parts of provinces. But advocates are busy, I know …
As we were leaving, someone asked me how you post to the lists. I was reminded, yet again, that technology is neither obvious nor intuitive, even on PovNet.
And now, two days later, I’m sitting at the kitchen table in “the cabin” (as it is modestly referred to) at Crag Lake. It’s 30 degrees outside (which, I now know, means 30 degrees centigrade below zero). I’ve just put another log in the wood stove. The sun is shining on the snow and it’s spectacular out there, through the window. Later, L and I will go out and get more wood and I will look for sun dogs. There’s no internet of course; I will post this once I get back to Whitehorse.
Next week I go off to the second national Housing and Homelessness conference in Calgary. Homelessness in this part of the world is about couch surfing, not sleeping under bridges like at home in Vancouver. But it’s just as bad, and the cold beauty of this frozen place doesn’t hide it.