Our High River (OHR) is a community group in the Town of High River, aiming to foster community engagement by providing spaces for citizens to work on projects, supplying resources and tools to help move ideas to action, and encouraging new innovations.
On October 24th, OHR announced the launch of their new mobile app (available on Android and iOS) to promote economic prosperity, encourage town involvement, and enhance overall community capacity in the Town of High River, Alberta.
The app was put into action on November 5th in downtown High River during a playful event called Mystery on Mainstreet, which was facilitated by Field Innovation Team and teased to in the couple weeks leading up to the big day.
The new OHR app was used for disseminating clues, riddles, and challenges to participants. This innovative approach to app testing was an excellent opportunity for the community to work together and demonstrate their community spirit, and it also highlighted a brand new tool for engagement.
Using the OHR app, Mystery on Mainstreet participants were sent on a scavenger hunt to find the mayor, Craig Snodgrass, who had mysteriously gone missing earlier that morning.
Oh no!! The Mayor has gone missing! Yesterday, local resident Ted Dawson was expecting Mayor Snodgrass to join him in George Lane Park to help hang Christmas lights. Oddly, the mayor didn’t show up.
“Craig is always available and he’s usually very excited about lighting the trees for the holidays,” said Dawson. “It’s not like him to miss this. I wonder where he is.”
When the mayor didn’t show up again this morning, Ted became concerned and reached out to Councilor Cathy Couey, radio host Jody Seeley, and even the original Mantracker himself, Terry Grant, for help.
Councilor Couey mentioned that she’d recently received some strange text messages from the mayor – all in riddles:
Mystery day I couldn’t wait.
I started early but now I’m late.
In the dark. Can’t see my shoes.
Retrace my way. I’ll give you clues.
I went alone. I went as one.
I had no team. It was no fun.
But connected like the Medicine Tree,
our many pieces unlock the key.
Seeley suggested that the brand new Our High River app be used to rally the community together to help solve these clues and find Mayor Snodgrass.
“These clues are coming at us fast in real-time,” said Seeley, “and we need to be mobile because it sounds like they’re going to lead us around downtown. Each team will pursue different leads.”
Grant offered to add his tracking expertise to those participating in the hunt. His timely advice will be posted to the app’s real-time Mystery on Mainstreet news feed.
“I’m from High River and know this area very well. I’ll do my part to help the good people of this town find the mayor so that he can officially start the holiday season.”
Only by working together as a community can the challenges be conquered, the mystery solved, and the surprise reward be revealed!
They completed a variety of challenges related to town history and community trivia, which successfully revealed “the key to the town” – Citizens building community. Community building citizens. – and with it a very grateful mayor.
The OHR team will host another event to test the app in early 2017. It will be more closely related to volunteer management in crisis situations. The OHR mobile app will be used mostly for engagement and community collaboration, but it will also be a critical tool that can be rapidly repurposed in case of an emergency. Mystery on Mainstreet was an excellent opportunity to test and showcase the nimbleness of the app.
When first launching an app there are always things that may need to change once users begin to interact with the interface. The Mystery on Mainstreet event helped build awareness of the app and was an effective way of discovering any concerns users had with the app. This in turn increases the chance of users having positive first impressions with the OHR interface.
Apart from the in-app lessons learned, there was also a lot to learn when it came to the behaviour of the community. Hosting a community event can be very difficult – attendance is unpredictable, weather can be surprising, and there are always many external factors that may affect the success of the event. Fortunately, Mystery on Mainstreet didn’t face any serious problems. Nearly 75 community members came out to join in on the fun and many even followed the event in-app from their homes.
This was great news for the OHR team, giving them confidence in the capabilities of their community and showcasing High Riverites’ inspirational team spirit. It also strengthened their ability to nimbly organize surge and spontaneous volunteers. After all, during a disaster, it is impressive to see how much a community can rapidly rally together, and this event hinted at the true resilience small towns are capable of.