We Are Cities

Part 1: How Great Campaigns Work

Groundforce Digital
5 min readFeb 12, 2015

Great campaigns do not happen by accident. What goes into creating campaigns that capture imaginations, engage people, sparks conversations, and ultimately, lead to change?

While most case studies give you recipes and results in hindsight, we invite you to join Groundforce Digital on a journey as we document the launch and progress of the We Are Cities campaign.

Three lessons from week one of the campaign:

1. Want your campaign to take off? Solve real problems

Most Canadians live in cities, and yet we are a nation without a national action plan on how to make our cities work better for us. We Are Cities aims to start a conversation across the country to arrive at a shared understanding of how our cities could work better. We Are Cities roundtables will be happening in cities in every region of the country.

For the first time in years, Toronto hosted 19 big city mayors who gathered to discuss how cities across Canada can work together and address common issues such as transportation, infrastructure and housing.

CBC Power & Politics hosted a special live show dedicated to cities

Half of our GDP comes from Canada’s six biggest cities. They are the engines driving the economy — Gregor Robertson, Mayor of Vancouver.

Collectively, Canadian cities represent over 140 seats in the House of Commons, including some of the most hotly contested seats. Meanwhile, constant, secure, and reliable funding for many challenges the cities are facing has been missing. It’s time to put cities on the national agenda, and put our minds together as citizens to come up with good ideas.

We Are Cities campaign video

The timing for We Are Cities campaign launch coincided with the spotlight on cities, due to the Big Cities Summit in Toronto. As a result, national and local media covered urban issues, validating the problem We Are Cities is trying to address. Here’s some of the news coverage from the week of the campaign launch:

  • CBC News — Big city mayors to push federal parties for ‘robust’ urban agendas. Election year provides an opportunity, says Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson
  • Toronto Star — Analysis: In an election year, Canadian mayors’ meeting could help cities
  • The Globe and Mail — Canada’s top mayors band together to push for better federal funding

It was certainly helpful to have these headlines hit the news just as the We Are Cities campaign launched, from both awareness and relevance standpoint.

2. Make Participation Easy

Evergreen CityWorks, Cities for People, our team at Groundforce Digital, archiTEXT and other organization supporters drive this initiative, but the conversation is much bigger than our combined headcount.

To succeed as a movement, We Are Cities requires a true diversity of voices, opinions, and ideas. That’s why anyone can host or attend a roundtable to brainstorm ideas on how to make cities work better. WeAreCities.ca provides hosts with all the tools they could ever need to make participation super easy. Imagine just one roundtable conversation you could host, if you invite 10–30 civically minded people in your city with good ideas for city-building. Thanks to digital tools like NationBuilder and IdeaScale, it’s never been easier to put brilliant minds together at scale and inform policy at national and provincial levels.

Citizens Academy talking city archetypes in Ottawa #wearecities

Imagine the impact you could have, just by hosting a discussion. How many friends and great people you could meet, how valuable it can be to have an opinion, an idea, and share it with others. We Are Cities campaign makes participation its most important priority.

#WeAreCities is a handy hashtag to keep track of We Are Cities campaign

No ideas are too big or too small, and everyone is welcome.

3. Values Before Brand

What makes us think we know the secret behind We Are Cities campaign, and why it will work? Great campaigns always put values before brand. This is not an advertising campaign. When we want important conversations to happen, the best we can do is create a space for these conversations that are inclusive, accessible, and positive.

Values come before brand, before hype. Inclusivity matters, or else we risk ending up with one-dimensional ideas to solve multidimensional problems. Instead, We Are Cities campaign empowers you to take your opinions and ideas to the table, and crowd-solve some of the challenges our cities are now facing.

We Are Cities Campaign in Numbers: Week One

Everyone loves numbers. Here’s a roundup of some exciting numbers from the first week of the campaign. On the second day of launch, we’re closing in on the first ten roundtables to be held in Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, Calgary, St. John’s, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, and Fredericton.

#WeAreCities week one: 112 new ideas, 48 days left in the campaign, and 442 people joined the conversation

In addition to hosting and attending roundtables, people are encouraged to submit ideas on how to make cities more liveable: so far, 112 new ideas have been submitted, and 442 people joined the campaign.

So, Canada, let’s see what you can do! Host a roundtable and let’s have that conversation on how to make our cities work.

To be continued.. Stay tuned. Please subscribe for campaign updates: http://www.wearecities.ca/



Groundforce Digital

Digital strategy, product and campaign studio. Posts by @cswc.