Political conversations support a healthy democracy

Shane Byciuk, a local political blogger, has helped organize two inspirational events in Calgary: #Polibowl  and #Poliwings.  And because we are so impressed with these events and with the importance of political conversations supporting a healthy democracy, we asked him to share his story.


Q: What inspired you to create  #Polibowl and #Poliwings? And when did you decide to just do it (and make it more than just a good idea)?

#Polibowl was the brain child of a group of political bloggers I had collaborated with prior to the 2010 Civic election. (Calgarypolitics.com)  This group consisted of 4-5 political bloggers from different political spectrums that worked together to write non-partisan posts on the civic election campaign.  From that group, we decided to hold an impromptu bowling fundraiser with a political theme, in an attempt to create a fun, unique event.  To our surprise, it quickly sold out and became a huge success.

I organized this event again in 2013 and 2014 and this September to continue to raise funds for an amazing local charity: Brown Bagging For Calgary’s Kids.

#Poliwings was created in much the same way.  It was the brainchild of one of the CalgaryPolitics.com members, Joey Oberhoffner, in 2012.  Poliwings is a casual, open group of politically engaged local social media people. During the year, people from all political beliefs get together to have some wings and discuss local issues, all in a friendly, open invite, non-partisan environment. It is refreshing to see people in a heated political debate on twitter one night then sitting next to each other and having some laughs at Poliwings the next day. All discussions at poliwings are always respectful and fun. The fun in poliwings rests in that there is no “formal” organization to the dates and times that they are held. Often, one of the attendees will randomly post a tweet or Facebook message asking if anyone is interested in getting together (usually within a few days/week of the post) for some drinks and wings. This is an entirely open group and everyone is welcome to show up and attend. (No RSVP required… you just show up.)  The night results in fun and informal political and civic issue discussions. This group has grown from a handful of people to over 140 members on the Facebook page!

The Poliwings members have also taken part in some unique fundraisers over the years!  A few examples of these impromptu events are #WingaPalooza and #FoodaPalooza which we usually hold in November to support Inn From The Cold. These events group a few representatives from different political parties to reach out and challenge their social media followers to “sponsor” them in their attempts to individually devour wings, tacos, or perogies. Each eater gets pledges from their contacts based on each food item they eat ($.25-$1.00). This adds up quickly when you have over a hundred people pledging you!  Last November, we raised over $10,000 in pledges doing this!  (We raised the same amount in 2012 at the first event!)

Q: #Polibowl and #Poliwings has struck a chord with us and has successfully attracted involvement. Why do you think that is?

I think that Calgarians are the most generous people in Canada and they are always looking to help raise money for local charities. PoliBowl is unique because it is a hilarious fundraiser that allows people to see local politicians “out of their element” on the bowling lanes! Most fundraisers tend to be stuffy affairs, whereas Polibowl and FoodAPalooza  are nights filled with fun and laughter. There are not many events that you can mix politics, social media, and charity all in one night!

It also seems to be unique in the fact that anyone can join in and take part in the event.  It has a unique inclusiveness that appeals to most people, I believe.  Many people that attend would never go to a typical political fundraiser or gala feel at home with a fun event like PoliBowl.  Also, it is a stereotype that politicans are always asking for donations to their campaigns…and yet at Polibowl the politicians are making donations themselves to support local charities.   


Q: In the interests of inspiring others to take action in support of making Calgary even better:

What was/is easy about your project?

The PoliBowl and Poliwings/Foodapalooza events are really low-key events to host and run, which is refreshing.  That was part of the appeal of organizing these events.  They are an easy sell to the public and local politicians as everyone wants to help raise money for BB4CK as it is an amazing organization that helps local kids.

What was/is challenging?

The most challenging part was the initial logistics set up for the event. (Finding the right location to host the fundraiser, sourcing the best ticketing options etc.)  This is always evolving to meet the attendees needs.

What’s your advice for people who might want to do a similar project for Calgary?

The best advice I have is to just brainstorm an idea and run with it!  I believed that fundraisers needed to be these huge, stuffy/formal events, which was incorrect.  It’s becoming increasingly difficult for charities to raise money and these events, no matter how big or small, can have a huge impact by raising much needed money for local non-profit/charity groups.

I use social media (Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/Instagram) exclusively to market and sell tickets to Polibowl. I would urge people to use social media to promote their events and get people engaged. In addition, I would urge people to use technology and emerging apps to help make the collection of the money raised/pledged easier.

Q: Have you had enough of #Polibowl and #FoodaPalooza? What’s next?

These events are so much fun to hold and attend. I will continue to host these events as long as people are still engaged.  We are always looking for new types of events to add over the year, which is exciting!


In Samara’s Democracy 360 Report Card we learned, among a host of many ‘things’ that  ”39% say they haven’t had a single political conversation -online or offline- in a year long period”.  We would like to challenge you to engage with others, no matter their political stripe or lack of stripe,  to have a conversation about the importance of politics and what ‘politics’ means to you.











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