Thursday, June 25, 2015

Connecting People to Their Waterfront – and to Each Other

Urban waterfronts, like cities themselves, are always in flux. What might be a thriving landscape of shipbuilding, canneries, or ports in one decade might experience a sharp decline in the next as fish stocks deplete or shipping traffic moves elsewhere. While some cities have turned their backs on their decrepit waterfronts and surrounding brownfields, other have sought to turn them into new industrial centers, parklands, public spaces and more. In the spirit of today's Handshake Day, many of these renewal efforts have focused on building communities that connect neighbors to each other. When the quasi-governmental agency Waterfront Toronto set about its plan to revitalize the city’s lakeshore and improve the lives of citizens, it knew that it would have to put collaboration and social capabilities front and center.

Waterfront Toronto’s priorities are to “put people first and reconnect them with the waterfront,” according to its website. The revitalization effort is expected to take at least 25 years and around $30 billion to complete*. More than just real estate development, the project’s goal is to “transform the waterfront into a marvelous public destination with vibrant public and cultural spaces.” As lofty and as admirable as that goal is, Waterfront Toronto knew that it would need both input and buy-in from all stakeholders to make it a reality.

To this end the project teamed up with IBM Premier Business Partner Element Blue, LLC, to create a new community portal powered by SoftLayer cloud and IBM Connections social business software. The portal, dubbed New Blue Edge, brings together current and future residents, retailers, students and staff in a virtual community that includes digital content and services such as wellness advice, an events calendar, social feeds and an online marketplace. The portal also showcases Toronto as a leader among smart cities. In fact, the Canadian metropolis was named the 2014 Most Intelligent Community of the Year by the Intelligent Communities Forum.

As with many great projects, Waterfront Toronto achieved goals beyond its primary vision: In reconnecting the people of Toronto to Lake Ontario, the agency also succeeded in connecting people to each other. Revitalization efforts and strategic initiatives from Miami to Johannesburg to Rio de Janeiro are resulting in smarter cities with more involved citizens. Not just on Handshake Day but every day, portals such as New Blue Edge not only let people engage with one another, they connect them to businesses, services and governments. They give people real-time traffic data, tips on saving water, new ways of managing energy consumption, and an efficient means of providing feedback. With cities like Toronto leading the way, citizens all around the globe will get to live in better communities, and enjoy a higher quality of life.

To learn more about Waterfront Toronto’s efforts to build connect the city’s citizens, click here.

* New Blue Edge website, About section.

from Social Business Insights Blog

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