Developing a plan of action to save Transit City

The fifth step toward social change that Amanda Sussman identifies in The Art of the Possible is to start putting it all together. “Once you have a clearer idea of what it is you want to work on,” Sussman says, “try to articulate it by pulling your thoughts together on paper under the following headers. At this early stage, the purpose of this document is simply to give you a starting point from which to continue learning about an issue.”

Start with the problem, and be specific in identifying it. In this case, we have a public transit plan vocally opposed by a new mayor, and compromised by a transit commission that seems ready to abandon the plan in favour of his ideas.

Then, identify the current situation. Public transit has become a high profile issue among Ford supporters and detractors alike. Councillors are torn about the issue, and it’s easy to contact them with your concerns. The original plan may not come into being, but with the right opposition to Ford’s proposed alternatives, a viable compromise could be achieved.

Next, identify possible solutions. A grassroots advocacy campaign? A proposal before city council? Regardless of the approach, pay attention to whether your ideas are similar to steps already being taken, and if so, note the organizations who are taking them.

Now, identify potential support. With an idea in mind, think about the people who might be willing to back it. City councillors who are sympathetic to your point of view? Vocal friends and advocates on Twitter? Spacing and similarly minded local publications? Feel free to get broad.

Finally, consider the implications. “What would it take to make some of those solutions reality?” Think about the funding, the contracts, and the key decision makers. Think about what it would take to bring those people – and in the case of councillors, their constituents – around to your point of view.

“At this stage,” Sussman says, “you won’t have detailed answers but starting to think through the implications will help give you a sense of where to go next.”

Indeed, in a city where we can talk with straight faces about the “war on the car,” there may be no easy way to engage with Transit City’s more rigid opponents. But its supporters can’t achieve a real victory without a shift in public opinion.

Posted in Democracy