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Central Conference March 2018 Update

The feedback I’ve received so far in meetings on the phone, in-person and through email has been extremely positive. In short, this is an event worth having.
March 28, 2018

It’s been almost a month since I went public with Central.

I’ve been giving the pitch for this unique non-partisan, expert-led urban issues conference to anyone that will listen: in-person at events, as well as through emails and DMs.

The feedback I’ve received so far in meetings on the phone, in-person and through email has been extremely positive. In short, this is an event worth having.

With 2018 being an election year at the provincial and municipal levels, there is a growing desire for conversations about the future of urban Toronto and how it fits into the priorities of future governments.

It’s a crucial time for these conversations. A status-quo city council has put Toronto in an untenable position for the future and the Ontario government has a remarkable amount of control over what revenues, transit services and planning principles are put in place in the city. (For more on that read the wiki about the 1998 city amalgamation.)

Assembling the Central advisory board

Accordingly, my work in March has been dedicated to recruiting a board of advisors who urgently feel the need to have these conversations. These are people with different professional and life experience that can help inform the speaker program at Central. That means insuring a diversity of perspectives and a focus on the issues that matter most, whether they are specific cases that should matter to Torontonians or systemic issues that need examination and explanation.

The individuals that I’ve spoken to so far are urban planners, community organizers, academics, urbanists and former city staff. Through their actions, they’ve demonstrated a commitment to improving Toronto on either a micro or macro level. The advisory board will be partially unveiled in coming weeks and I expect more people will be added after that point.

So far, advisors have given me ideas for new potential topics, given me feedback on the website and the pitch deck language. It’s all helped me sharpen the vision for the event.

If you want to be involved in the advisory board, please do send me an email ben@centralconf.com and we can talk about the role some more.

Other time this month has been spent on the pitch deck, polishing the website a bit, and a whole lot of reading about what kinds of issues matter to people.

A foundation of transparency

Putting together this event, I have a few basic principles that I would like to follow. One of them is to be transparent in the process and outcomes of the conference. To that end, I’ve written the conference FAQs (additions will come, I’m sure) and I will continue to write updates like this at regular intervals.

One of the items I haven’t yet shared is the conference pitch deck (March 2018 version). This short slide deck is meant to convey the spirit of the conference and a bit about my experience creating events.

When more financial information about the costs of the venue, food (potentially), A/V and more are available, I’ll share as much of that as people are interested in seeing. On the revenue side, I’ll show where the ticket costs are going, something like this TedxUofT graphic.

A note about sponsorships

Many large and small events are run on sponsorship dollars. Based on my experience, it’s also fair to say that they exert some influence (whether explicitly requested or not) on the speaker program in order to get some return on their investment.

I don’t want that to become an issue for Central. On civic issues, we need less corporate influence and more engagement from underrepresented individuals.

However, I want Central to be a high-quality event with comfortable chairs, great A/V and an accessible location -- money helps with that. So on this topic, I will commit to only partnering with organizations that match the spirit of the event and I will explicitly note any kind of engagement that is sponsored.

Right now, there is no sponsorship kit or breakdown of packages and dollar amounts. If there ever is one, I’ll share it here.

Coming up in April

April will be dedicated to finalizing the advisory board, doing more research on venues, more research on speakers and potential topics, and creating in-kind partnerships with like-minded organizations.

Thanks to everyone that has offered feedback so far. Let’s keep it going.

-Ben

ben@centralconf.com

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