(Image by jstrak)

I’ve been meaning to write out my thoughts on the Engage Pittsburgh event that Emily and I attended a few weeks back. This event, sponsored by The Sprout Fund, was meant to serve as an idea-roundup for ways that individuals wanted to change the city of Pittsburgh. There were ideas fitting many categories, including transportation, economic development, housing, arts & culture, etc. Based upon the ideas that came out of the event The Sprout Fund will be issuing around $100,000 to help with the implementation of some of these initiatives. If you’d like to see one of the ideas I helped to conceive you can link to it here. The idea centers around changing the Pittsburgh busways so that bikers could use them as well. Though there would definitely be some infrastructure issues I think an idea along these lines would be extremely beneficial for the city.

The whole event, though noble in intent, was lacking in several ways. First, Emily and I were immediately split up. Though we came to the event to experience and brainstorm ideas together the staff separated parties that came together. Though I could understand the intent of this procedure there was no advance warning that such a split would occur. This was surprise one of the day.

Though I was really hoping to engage personally with individuals there wasn’t much time for such interactions. The whole event was extremely structured, and we were meant to keep a stringent schedule. In that sense the event felt extremely inorganic. While there was a large contingent of people who knew one another (the “in” crowd), I was not one of these people. It seemed that both the staff and “in” individuals weren’t interested in getting to know me. I was saddened by this reality. But toward the end of the day I did get to interact with a few people a bit more fully, so I wouldn’t call the day a relational waste.

I commend The Sprout Fund for their initiative on this event, but I thought that the details could’ve been carried out in a friendlier and more efficient manner. As a silly example, though there was a lunch provided only about 25% of them were vegetarian. But this was an event for the GRANOLA crowd of Pittsburgh. I’m being a bit facetious but you get my point. By the time Emily and I got there the vegetarian option had vanished. And I know that a lot of other folks experienced the same problem.

I’m hoping that the event actually advances change in the city. I’m weary that there was a lot energy generated that will vanish into the ether. Hopefully I’ll be proved wrong on that point.