As I wrote in my last two posts, I believe that “The Outdoor Walking Event Not To Be Missed in Chicago” has the potential to be a uniquely Chicago event with wide appeal.
In its first iteration this May, Jane’s Walk Chicago was organized under the auspices of Friends of Downtown, which is a completely volunteer-run organization. It currently has approximately 100 members, and had a 2013 operating budget of around $8,000.00. To increase our impact and publicize our inaugural event, The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation was kind enough to provide a grant of $5,000 to cover print and online advertising.
A committed group of board members – Mark Minor, Thorsten Bosch, Teresa Fourcher, Susan Hickey, Jim Javorcic, Gigi McCabe Miele, Jessica Schramm, and Emily Ziring worked on designing the graphics and advertising, and handled t-shirt production and Walk Leader recruitment, among scores of other details. We had two additional volunteers – Marlise Fratinardo and Jane Wilberding – focus on social media, and Amy Chan at the University of Chicago Community Service Center enabled us to double the number of walks we offered.
Having received so much positive feedback on our inaugural effort, I started thinking about the best way to organize this event for the future.
In the model that’s been used by the Toronto originators of Jane’s Walk – and replicated in eighty-five cities – the first Principle is that Volunteers lead Jane’s Walks and participation is free. No fees, charges or any promotion of commercial activities can be connected to the content or activities of any given walk.
However, there are so many opportunities for one-of-a-kind experiences in Chicago, and so many opportunities to encourage Chicagoans to visit other neighborhoods that they would otherwise know nothing about, that we shouldn’t limit the Walk Leaders to those who can afford to serve pro bono. For example, there are a dozen potential walks in the Lawndale neighborhood alone, that could include the subjects of community gardens, the Contract Buyers League, and tours of the original Sears complex. It seems to me entirely appropriate that resident Walk Leaders sharing their experiences and knowledge of that area’s extraordinary history should be recognized through honoraria.
And just as there are so many opportunities for one-of-a-kind experiences in Chicago in the fifty wards, it’s not logistically feasible to offer them on only two days a year… even if Jane Jacobs does deserve to have her birthday honored as the inspiration for this event. I want to be responsive to any potential participants who might agree with one of this year’s Survey Monkey respondents: “At the end of the walk, everyone enjoyed so much and enthusiastic [sic] that it would have been a great opportunity for donation. The organization needs to do better to link the wonderful experience into marketing. Close the loop!”
So, if the event won’t be limited to commemorating Jane Jacob’s birthday on the first weekend on June, what should it be called? Jane and Martha’s Chicago Walks?
I’m sure there’s a snappier name out there, just waiting to be thought of.