Community Engagement, Digitally Speaking

by julia.hanigsberg | October 10th, 2012

At the centre of Ryerson University’s People First initiative is a vision of a community that is diverse, inclusive, and equitable – an environment in which every person feels respected and engaged.

Critical to achieving this vision is being attuned to our community’s perspectives and ideas and to use these to enhance our collective experience of learning and working together. Not so long ago, one of the standard ways of hearing from people was the good ol’ suggestion box. That wasn’t a terrible approach but, to be sure, it wasn’t notable for either speedy responsiveness or accountability. Nor is it a model of innovation.

Digital engagement

Well, it’s the 21st-century and we are committed to providing more – and more-innovative – ways for students to let us know their ideas. We were, therefore, thrilled to roll out SoapBox, a novel social media “suggestion box” invented right here at Ryerson by HitSend. Entrepreneurship and innovation define Ryerson and SoapBox is a great example of both principles in fast action.

Developed in our Digital Media Zone (DMZ) and launched university-wide in August 2012 (piloted in the Library and the DMZ before that), Soapbox is an online platform – accessible via the Ryerson portal – that enables students to post their ideas and then for their peers to vote on them. To date, over 6,000 Ryerson students are active SoapBoxers, posting their own suggestions and/or voting on others.

Ideas that are the most popular (as determined by the number of votes each receives) are shared with a group I lead called Idea Partners. This is a multi-disciplinary group from across the university who are able to assess what it would take to implement ideas. We meet bi-weekly to consider and respond to the wide-ranging suggestions that are now flowing through SoapBox. We bring in subject matter experts and take a first look at the impact of suggestions and their ease of implementation. Complex ideas need more time for consideration. Some things we can respond to almost right away. We’re still learning from this process (this week was only our second Idea Partners meeting!) but with the help of the Soapbox team we will get faster and better.

So keep an eye on SoapBox to see our responses to the ideas that are ranked most popular by student vote. We’ll implement what we can, learn from what we hear and offer clarifications and explanations along the way.

Community voices – we’re listening!

Genuine communities need genuine opportunities for idea-sharing; Soapbox is filling an essential need here in our Ryerson community.

We want to find the ideas that have the biggest impact for students. If you are a student member of the Ryerson community, I urge you to add your voice to the conversation. We’re listening!

 

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