FESers Help GET Get Linked

                        by Ayesha Ahmed


Ayesha Ahmed, MES II, did an internship with Green Enterprise Toronto (GET), Toronto’s local living economy network, during the summer of 2007.  Part of her work involved helping GET begin a business/products/services directory that can simultaneously help green people’s purchases and support local/sustainable business.  Keith Brooks, another FESer interested in the power of new networking tools in community transformation, also worked on the GET project.  In addition to being a BALLE affiliate, GET is headquartered at the Centre for Social Innovation, at 215 Spadina.  This innovative green retrofit, home to many Toronto social movement groups, is owned by GET member Urban Space Property Group, which also owns 401 Richmond and the Gladstone Hotel. 


Green Enterprise Toronto has a new project cooking! It hopes to launch a website that will enable both consumers and business partners to collaborate with the help of technology such as Tiki Wiki software to constructively discuss various Green Enterprise in and around the Greater Toronto Area. Currently, the domain name of this website is still to be decided but has been tentatively named gettoronto.ca.


The website is attractively designed – thanks to TikiWiki which enables users to design and upload images in a user-friendly and hassle-free manner. Currently, the main theme color is a pleasant shade of blue as the background, with black color for the font. As with most software applications, the font size and various other visual effects can be effected by modifying the syntax (jargon for programming code). If the above seems very tech - heavy, no fear! Tiki Wiki is so easy and thanks to Michael Pilling – the dynamic Project Leader – just a simple double click of any page on the website allows the user to view the syntax ( TikiWiki code ) that brings alive a webpage on the website.


Other notable features include icons atop every page that allow users to monitor the number of page edits and also the users who made those edits. The site is very public – meaning that the entire history of the evolution of each page can viewed on the ‘Last Page Changes’ section. If you are familiar with Wiki software or are used to Wiki on any other websites to voice your opinions/thoughts or to add content, you will be pleased to know that this website, as the most famous ‘Wikipedia’ website, also allows users to view successive edits. It is being debated as to who should be allowed to make edits or add content on the website – so as to maintain some degree of privacy and also for ethical considerations. It is hoped that the community themselves protect the commons and preserve the purposeful nature and high-quality of the website and help grow it into a destination for anybody interested in obtaining information about establishments that sell or grow green products, green produce, etc.  It is also being debated by the GET Advisory Committee as to whether all Green Enterprise Toronto members should automatically become members of the GETWiki website or whether only those members that meet certain criteria should be given membership and be featured on the site. Another point of debate is whether a fee should be charged for membership.


Apart from the above, another attractive feature of the website is that a Google map is displayed on every page – that pinpoints the business location along with a description of the business. As with most Google Maps, it allows the user to view the area surrounding the business in satellite, plain map view as well as hybrid modes. The Google Map is very user-friendly and allows the user to drag the map around as far as Google allows (which is a very substantial area around each business) so that the user can exactly locate the directions to the desired business establishment from his location. If one hasn’t used Google maps already, you will be pleased to know that by adjusting a bar embedded in the map (or by even holding down the mouse button and scrolling) you can adjust the view of the map – either close up or an overall long distance high-altitude view ( as from a airplane or satellite).


The address of each business establishment is entered as input in fields (spaces) provided below the Google map (where it says ‘Enter Address location’) and this autopopulates (again, tech jargon for ‘automatically popping up’) the latitude and longitudinal co-ordinates for the business establishment. Thus, Google Maps – as in any application that they have been used in – being after all ‘Google’ – have proved an enormously invaluable addition to the website.


The directory is still a ways from going public, as GET explores possibilities for co-sponsorship with interested groups.  While work so far has been carried out largely by volunteer efforts, funding possibilities are being explored.  Meanwhile the project continues and The Project Team welcomes anybody who’s interested to collaborate and work on it. There are several dimensions that one can work on – such as TikiWiki coding, or writing about each business, or research, or even just thoughts/views/opinions on Sustainability Indicators, criteria for membership, project direction, etc.   Internships for summer 2008 seem likely. 


The gettoronto.ca site requires a login name and password to access information on the site as it has not yet been formally launched, but the Project Team is tentatively projecting a late 2008 launch. Overall, the project is extremely promising and serves as a great avenue for anyone interested in developing skills in software, website design or who is interested in working/learning about Green Business and how a local community can thrive happily using and buying locally made, green, organic products. A major goal of Green Enterprise Toronto and its dynamic and enterprising leader – Mr. Chris Lowry (Network Director – GET) - is to keep currency flowing in the local economy and thus helping local producers and growers get fair remuneration for products. It is hoped that under the Umbrella of Green Enterprise Toronto and the Centre for Social Innovation this goal can be achieved.


Hope to see your input on the site soon!