Thursday, October 2, 2014

Better to Play Mas

Hey Readers, 

Check out the new meme released from Save Toronto Carnival!

Stay tuned to their facebook page for more memes as well as updates from the initiative!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Toronto Carnival Reflection Part #2

Hey Readers,

Quite some time has passed since my initial Toronto Carnival Reflection post and as such I hope everyone’s month of September is off to a great start. Toronto Carnival 2014 has definitely been a hot topic of debate and during the months of August and September I have noted excellent dialogue, developments and initiatives pertaining to improving the festival.  Similar to part 1, this reflection post is intended to touch upon the challenges pertaining to our carnival but also shift the focus to possible variables and interventions that could be considered when devising a solution. 

A Number’s Game? 

Tuning into several post carnival interviews broadcasted on local radio station CHRY, I was happy to hear commentary from various stakeholders on the successes and challenges of this year’s carnival. Within the interview on Dr. Jay’s Soca Therapy Show, a success that was mentioned was the increased number of registered masqueraders within bands and an example was provided of a band having upward to 4000 masqueraders. Though that is definitely an incredible accomplishment, a point that also struck me was the comparison made between the number of non-masqueraders and spectators. The number of masqueraders that participated this year in the Grand Parade was approximated to be in the range of 10,000 whereas the number of non-masqueraders and spectators was in the range of 1 million. With the stark difference in the number of masqueraders to non-masqueraders, my initial thought was I am not surprised crowd control is an apparent issue. Apart from storing this as a tidbit of information, the gradient in numbers in my opinion, warrants the question why? Why do the numbers of non-masqueraders outnumber the number of masqueraders so drastically? Is there anything that can be done to convert non-masqueraders or spectators to masqueraders? Or perhaps could it be seasoned masqueraders are transitioning back to being non-masqueraders and spectators? And of course, everyone’s favorite question when it comes to stormers, why is the preference to jump or cross the fence rather than play mas?  

In discussing solutions of how to promote the Grand Parade as display of cultural celebration and as an event that warrants the adherence of appropriate behaviors among non-masqueraders and spectators, many have voiced the need for increased public awareness. As mentioned within my part 1 post, I believe raising public awareness and education is definitely an important part of the equation.  I also believe, however, additional interventions and strategies will be needed. In addition to an awareness/education campaign, one thing comes to mind to incorporate is social marketing. What is social marketing? Broadly speaking, social marketing utilizes marketing concepts, such as Product, Place, Price and Promotion (the 4Ps), to influence behaviors with the aim of benefiting the greater social good. Let’s consider the following scenarios and the way the 4Ps and interventions derived from a social marketing approach could make a difference. 

Scenario 1: 

Picture a non-masquerader who opted to view the parade along the Lakeshore as opposed to within a designated VIP area. What does the environment look like? Well if this individual is standing along the Lakeshore portion, there is likely tall fences placed along the route. Now consider what impact could that fence have? On the one hand the fence’s intended purpose is to deter non-masqueraders from entering the parade route, inadvertently though the fence is also visual obstruction to those who would like to remain behind the fence to observe the parade.  Consider what happens to the non-masquerader on the outside as the day progresses and more non-masqueraders opt to not adhere to the fence and infiltrate the route. As you could imagine, viewing the parade from behind the fence becomes more and more difficult. Tired of being unable to see, the abiding non-masquerader decides to walk along the outside of the route with the only highlight being the possibility of running into family or friends. (as I have been told by my non-masquerader friend).  

Does this scenario sound appealing? How could social marketing make the behavior of staying behind the fence appealing? 

Reflecting on the scenario above from a social marketing perspective, I would consider Product. Product is a tangible object or service that is provided to support or facilitate behavior change. In trying to make the behavior to stay behind the fence more appealing to non-masqueraders, perhaps products the following may have an impact:

·         Placing monitor screens throughout the route which enable non-masqueraders to see parade from an unobstructed view from where they are standing. (Imagine going to a Beyonce concert, and due to your seat being far away it is somewhat challenging to see the stage. Looking up you think to yourself, thank goodness for these monitors. They are positioned to project closer images and ensure all attendees can enjoy the view wherever they are sitting). 

·         Placing promotional vendors and/or interactive entertainment placed along the outside of the route. (A driving force behind a non-masquerader infiltrating the route maybe due to feeling like he or she is missing out of the action. If an effort is made to make staying on the outside more appealing, perhaps more non-masqueraders will be inclined to stay off the route). 

 Photo Credit: C.S.

Scenario 2

It’s 3:00pm and the procession of the bands is underway. As a band is preparing to cross the stage, there is an impending concern regarding the number of non-masqueraders that are infiltrating the route. Creating a challenge of congestion and a visual eye sore for judges and paying patrons in VIP areas, there is a sense of urgency to secure the “stage”.  Although the anticipation to cross the stage was high, the storming within the stage area causes many masqueraders to feel disappointed and question whether to play mas again next year. 

Does this scenario sound appealing? Could social marketing be used to make the stage more appealing for masqueraders and apparent to non-masqueraders? 

Reflecting on the scenario above from a social marketing perspective, I would consider Place.  The place component of social marketing takes into consideration where and when the target audience would perform the behavior or access the product or service. With place, consideration is given to what could be done to make the experience more convenient and pleasant for participating individuals performing the behavior.

Using the scenario above as the example, let’s consider the stage area within Toronto Carnival from an environmental context. From the perspective of a non-masquerader or someone who was unfamiliar with Toronto Carnival, do you think they would know where and when the stage presentation is occurring? My guess is probably not, because visually the stage is an open road. A non-masquerader or spectator who is unaware of the competition aspect of the parade may question, what makes this “stage” portion of the Lakeshore that much different from the section 50 meters back. In addition to raising public awareness on Toronto Carnival, we may additionally want to consider the following: 

·         Incorporating an elevated stage may provide the visual cue to non-masqueraders that the area is prohibited, in addition to give masqueraders the opportunity to showcase their costumes with minimal disruption. An elevated stage would make it quite difficult for a non-masquerader to infiltrate the space, particularly if security was positioned to secure the area. 

·         With respect to the VIP areas, positioning the cabana and vip areas near the judging stage to ensure that masqueraders are in their sections and that the view is visually appealing. 

Toronto Revellers did a great job in my opinion by factoring Place with respect to servicing their masqueraders. Being the first band to hit the Lakeshore, masqueraders were encouraged to meet at the assembly area at 7am. Taking into account the early meet up time, the band offered a “J’ourvert Breakfast” to help get masqueraders nourished, and ready for the road. Although waking up was probably a challenge, offering a breakfast to masqueraders may have made the behavior easier or more appealing to masqueraders to fulfil. 

Scenario 3:

After attending Toronto Carnival and observing all the action from the sidelines, a young woman and her friends decide they want to play mas next year. Doing research into costume prices, and noting the backline and frontline range from $150 to over $900, they quickly realize playing mas may pose a financial challenge. Being out-of-town masquerader having to factor in travel, accommodation fetes, the time to pick up costumes from the mas camps, the group was hoping an adequate alternative would be available. 

This scenario is of a non-masquerader who wants to play mas, but may be unable to access or affordability. How could social marketing be taken into consideration? 

Reflecting on the scenario above from a social marketing perspective, I would consider Price.  Within social marketing the Price component strives to decrease the cost or barriers to perform the desired behavior. Price is not limited to monetary considerations but also factor in costs such as time.  Referencing scenario 3, the price of costumes may be a monetary concern for non-masqueraders, who may be willing to participate formally if an alternative inexpensive option were available. Alternatively, in terms of the cost of time, many masqueraders this year voiced challenges of being able to locate an entrance to meet their band and as such missed the stage.  Here are some options of interventions that incorporate price:

·         Offering a cost friendly Las Lap t-shirt band which would cross the stage after all the mas bands and steel pan bands have made their way down the route. Making pre-registration and on-site registration available, the opportunity is provided to non-masqueraders to become t-shirt masqueraders on the day of the parade and deters the overused phrase “You Should Have Bought A Costume”. A Las Lap band may also promote congregation within a designated area as opposed to along the route which creates congestion.

·         With many masqueraders being social media savvy, the use of technology should be incorporated. The incorporation of an interactive map that illustrates entry points, in addition to updates as to which band is crossing the stage may be a great way to reduce the cost of time and keep masqueraders and spectators informed  with up to date information

Last but not least of the 4Ps is Promotion. Let’s consider the following scenario. 

Scenario 4:

As part of the communication strategy, promotional material is disseminated online with the goal to highlight the upcoming events within the Toronto Carnival Festival. Though the information is well crafted and shared broadly to an audience interested in the festival, each year there is concern over non-masqueraders who do not respect the Grand Parade. 

Let’s Face it, Stormers ruin the parade. What interventions and communication strategies should be used to deter it?

As mentioned within my part 1 reflection post, it is important to ensure the communication messages and methods used to disseminate the information, not only reach the target population (ie. Stormers) but also convey the desired behavior we would like them to adopt. Knowing who the target audience is and their associated characteristics is important, and often requires background work such as retrospective qualitative data collection or surveys. Collectively, I believe there is benefit in knowing the communication initiatives are being targeted to the intended audience, especially in situations where behavior change is the goal.  

This wraps up Part 2 of my Toronto Carnival Reflection. Although the scenarios above highlight some of the challenges within our carnival, they were used to serve as an example of how social marketing techniques could be incorporated in determining a solution. Defining solutions is a task that will require collective effort, collaboration and buy-in from stakeholders. In part 3 of my Toronto Reflection post I plan to talk about this as well as evaluation.  (As a side note- I promise part 3 won’t take as long to post. I’m nearly done my final draft :). 

Thanks for reading!

Feel free to leave any comments below. I would love to hear your feedback! 

If you want to contact the author of the post directly, send an email to

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mark Your Calendars and Food for Thought

Hey Readers,

 Did You Know..
In the few weeks since Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival 2014, an initiative called Save Toronto Carnival has been able to mobilize and arrange a meeting with Toronto Councillor Joe Mihevc and the community to discuss the Toronto carnival. 

The meeting will be held on Thursday November 27th from 7-9pm at Toronto City Hall. 
More details will posted as they become available. 
Until then, stay engaged and informed by tuning into the #SaveTorontoCarnival Facebook page.

Below are memes that were released as part of public awareness campaign. 
Wouldn't you agree playing mas is the wiser (and more appropriate) option than to squeeze or jump through a fence?

Share your comments and thoughts below. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Toronto Carnival Reflection (Part 1)

With the dust settling from Toronto Carnival, many voices and questions have been raised regarding this year’s parade.  Critiques pertaining to the parade route, the issue of stormers, and procession of the bands were highly scrutinized; however in actuality have been longstanding topics of debate prior to 2014. Rather than reiterate the criticism, I believe it is more advantageous to shift the focus and priority to determining what can be done to propel improvement and solutions in the future. Within this post, the issue of storming and communication strategy to deter this behavior will be discussed. 

The Uphill Battle: Information and Behavior Change
As mentioned by many sites, there is a heightened need to emphasize the cultural underpinnings and respect for the mas displayed within carnival. I wholeheartedly agree and commend organizations like the Toronto Masqueraders Association and media sites such as Karabana Blog and Trinidad Carnivals for their commitment to advocacy and raising public awareness. Drawing from my experience within healthcare, one limitation I observe with the provision of information, is that despite one’s efforts it may not necessarily drive behavior change. Consider an everyday example: while watching a television program, a commercial comes on that describes the benefit of exercise and nutrition as way to prevent diabetes.  Bearing in mind only the information that is presented within the commercial, do you think you will feel motivated to exercise or eat healthier? Possibly not if you feel this commercial does not apply or is targeted to you; and even more so unlikely if you currently enjoy or prefer the status quo of being sedentary and inactive. Along the same lines, using the issue of storming as an example, although information is provided to the general public regarding Toronto Carnival, I believe if information on respecting the mas is not also targeted to the audience that engages in this behavior, changing the status quo (i.e. jumping the fence) will continue to be an uphill battle.  

Cultural Competency and Cultural Sensitivity:
Apart from the goal to raise awareness and drive attendance to the events taking place during the three week Toronto Carnival festival, I would suggest the goal should also include promoting enhanced cultural competency and cultural sensitivity within audiences.  In looking at the terms cultural competency and cultural sensitivity, the commonality is the word culture. Culture is defined as the “values, norms and traditions that affect how individuals of a particular group perceive, think, interact, behave, and make judgments about their world.”  So what does cultural have to do with being competent and sensitive? Although several definitions apply to the term cultural competency depending on the context in which it is used, one definition of the term is that it is the congruent behaviors, attitudes and policies that come together as a system, agency or among professionals and enable that system, agency or those professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations. Despite the above definition being quite the mouthful, where I see and draw the relevancy to the issue of stormers is to the point on congruent behaviors within a cross-cultural situation. Generally speaking, although Toronto Carnival is a celebration of Caribbean culture, it is held within a city and attended by patrons who are diverse and as such inadvertently the parade occurs within a cross-cultural situation. Turning our attention to the term cultural sensitivity, this is defined as the knowledge, awareness and acceptance of other cultures. Collectively, the reason why I think it is important to incorporate these terms within the lens that we view Toronto Carnival, is I believe the goal is to not only heighten knowledge and awareness, but to also to promote the adoption of shared attitudes, behaviors and supportive policies that preserve the essence of Toronto Carnival as a celebration of culture within not only masqueraders but among non-masqueraders and law enforcement. 

Targeted Interventions and Engagement
How then can we inform, raise awareness and effect behaviors pertaining to participation in Toronto Carnival and in particular the Grand Parade? In considering the delivery of information through social media, newspapers and magazines, my personal observation is although phrases such as Jump on de Road or Feel the Vibe, highlight the festival as a celebration of culture, it does not promote the desired behavior of stormers to respect the mas or allude to the parade being in part a competition. Although I am not suggesting I have concrete answers as to how to solve the issue of stormers, I do believe the possible solution lies in the combination of interventions that include providing information, use of products such as fences and wristbands, incorporation of policies and enforcement and participatory engagement from multiple stakeholders.

Apart from effective management, organization and inclusion of initiatives that ensure the parade runs smoothly, I do believe there is utility in designing targeted messages and interventions to deter storming among the audience that participates in this behavior.  But who is the target audience or more simply who storms? If we define a stormer as non-masquerader that enters the parade route, one intervention could be to incorporate signage posted on fences which advises one to stay behind the barrier. As a realist however, I know posting a sign to stay behind the fence, would be unlikely to stop a non-masquerader who is equipped with wire cutters, especially when the current status quo (ie. ignoring the sign and passing through or jumping the fence) is deemed as acceptable in his or her eyes. Well what about the incorporation of security as a secondary intervention, for those who don’t adhere to the signs? Although I think this is great and also necessary, its limitation is that it is a reactive intervention rather than proactive intervention.  This leads me back to thinking about the question of who the target audience is and perhaps warrant the need to define stormers with more specificity. Retrospectively, I acknowledge it would be quite difficult to collect information on the number of stormers that were on the route, in addition to what were their characteristics, however I cannot ignore the fact this type of information could prove to be quite useful when trying to design and deploy messages that are targeted to this audience. 

Are we really reaching Stormers?
When evaluating the effectiveness of current strategies (more on this topic later), one variable that should be considered is whether there was a change or impact within the target audience, and the reasons why or why not it occurred. When I consider information I post on The Collabo blog or Facebook page, for example, I am aware that the audience that reads my blog is likely interested in carnival and associated information on the parade and upcoming events. I assume these readers already have connectivity or interest in the information that is being shared, and as such they want to stay informed on the new information pertaining to carnival. Do we however view stormers the same way? Are stormers reading our blogs, visiting our Facebook pages or websites for information? My guess is probably not. Regardless of how well the message is constructed, if it is not delivered through channels that the target audience is engaged with or exposed to, its effectiveness may be limited. This leads me to suggest that if our intention is to provide information with the aim to promote awareness of Toronto Carnival, and in addition promote cultural sensitivity, competency and overall behavior change within stormers, the latter communication and interventions should be delivered from a targeted approach.  If for example, the perception is that a large proportion of stormers are males between the ages of 20-29, perhaps one strategy to communicate messages to participate in playing mas, and/or adhere to staying behind fences would be to have this information available and accessible within locations that the target population visits (ie barber shops) and incorporate information the audience values (ie the ratio of women to men). Using an everyday example, think about the interventions and communication strategy that has been used to deter driving and texting. Only a few years ago this behavior was commonplace, however with the introduction of visual cues on billboards on our the highways, the enforcement of fines, as well as the delivery of messages that highlight the danger and potential implications, driving and texting is becoming less of the norm.  Perhaps addressing the issue of storming is similar in that it requires a mix of communication strategies and interventions that are used to deter and prevent this behavior.

As a summary of Part One of my Toronto Carnival Reflection, this post was intended to highlight the relationship between the provision of information and behavior change, in addition to encourage the inclusion of cultural competency and cultural sensitivity as an underlying goal of communication strategies. 

Stay tuned for Part Two of my Toronto Carnival Reflection, where I plan to discuss the use of social marketing, evaluation and inclusion of a participatory approach (bottom up and top down). 

What are your thoughts? Feel free to share your opinions by posting a comment below or sending an email to the writer, Yinx, at 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Toronto Carnival 2014 Photos

It's carnival time in the City! On Saturday August 2nd, the Grand Parade of the Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival took place the CNE and Lakeshore. Thousands of masqueraders donned in bright colorful costumes, feathers and intricate designs came out to play their mas and revel within the Toronto Bands. Stay tuned to the blog for my more detailed post on my reflection on Toronto Carnival.

Until then, to see pictures from the Grand Parade click here and here


Toronto Carnival King and Queen 2014

The King and Queen competition, is considered the first big event of the Scotibank Toronto Caribbean Carnival weekend. The outdoor event held this past Thursday at Lamport Stadium and was filled with spectators who came to support the showcase of elaborate mas created by Toronto Carnival Bands.

This year the audience was treated to a pre-show program which included Mas, Calypso and Steel Pan performances. Surprise performances from international soca and chutney artists such as KRich, Drupatee, JW and Blaze and Iwer George graced the grand stage during the half time intermission.

2014 Female Individual Winner Carol Tanis

2014 Male Individual Winner Mr Meggy

2014 King of the Bands Shane Mungal

 2014 Queen of the Bands Joella Creighton

In case you missed the King and Queen competition, check out album1 and album2 on Facebook for pictures.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Toronto Carnival 2014 Events

The pinnacle of the three week Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean festival is finally here! With so many  sights and sounds to experience, here is information on some great events taking place during the week and weekend. 

King & Queen Competition
Thu. Jul. 31, 2014 - from 7pm to 12am
Allan Lamport Stadium 

The Allan Lamport Stadium becomes an outdoor theatrical stage where the Kings and Queens of the bands along with individuals compete to be the best of the best. They give the audience the opportunity to appreciate the talent and artistic skill of the designers and costumer builders. The Ontario Science Center continues to award a special prize for the best environment use of material in a costume.

Jab Jab Jouvert
Carnival Friday August 1st, 2014 - 10:00 pm till 4:30 am
Outdoors @ Wilson Avenue Outdoor Arena - 1677 Wilson Avenue, Toronto (Jane & Wilson)


Jab Jab J’Ouvert is a night till morning event - full of fun and straight from the islands of Grenada and Trinidad. Live entertainment by: Talpree, Lava Man, Skinny Fabulous, Bunji Garlin, Fayann Lyonns, Problem Child, JW & Blaze, ASA Banton, Mr Leggs, Tommy G, G-Bolo, Plus a Special Female Guest.  

Experience a night of Jab Jab fun with mud, paint, oil; 3 Water Trucks; 3 All-Access Bars; more than 12 different food and vending areas; with a VIP Zone, Foam Zone, Dutty zone, Clean Zone and lots of good times to start your Carnival in Toronto!

- $40 regular advance
- $50 Cool Zone / No wet or no dutty access!
- VIP - $60 - Includes - All access to cool zone & Food and limited two drink tickets per person , Carnival Swag bag & Can b nice  Swag bags!

Grand Parade
Sat. Aug. 02, 2014 - from 9:00am to 6:00pm
Exhibition Place & Lakeshore Blvd - Map

The marquee parade is the showcase of the Festival. After months of preparation, masqueraders in colourful and striking costumes and steel pan bands wine their way from Exhibition Place along a 3.5 kilometre stretch on Lakeshore Boulevard. This performance of bejewelled masqueraders continues to draw millions from all over the world to see the live performing street art year after year. With opportunities for VIP seating in designated, controlled areas, which will include upgraded seating, tents, and marketplace.

  Summer Slam

Carnival Saturday August 2nd, 2014 - Gate opens: 8:30 pm;   Showtime: 12:30 am to 4:00 am Sharp
Outdoors @ Wilson Avenue Outdoor Arena - 1677 Wilson Avenue, Toronto (Jane & Wilson)
Summer Slamm 2014 with entertainment by: Bunji Garlin, Fayann Lyonns and the Viking Band; Destra; Iwer George; Skinny Fabulous; Problem Child; JW & Blaze; KI; Drupatee; Salsa / Latino performers; Major Lazor DJ; Talpree; Lava Man; Plus Special Guest artist from Jamaica!
DJs : Marxman; DOC; Whitebwoy; G- Factory; plus special guest DJ Myles from Slam radio 100 in Trinidad

Hosts: American Superstars ; JW from Trinidad - Claudia Jordan From The USA

- $40 Early Birds
- $45 Regular Admission - more at the gate!
- Regular VIP $100: includes: Food; two Drinks and side Stage VIP access only!
- Ultra VIP Area - $150 includes: Unlimited food; limited drinks - 4 drink tickets per costumer; Ultra VIP view; All access / backstage access after the show! Meet & Greet with photo of your favorite artist; receive a Carnival Swag Bag & Can b nice swag bag; Posters and CDs for Ultra VIPs
- Presidential VIP Package: $500 for Family of 5 or more includes: Unlimited food; 7 drink tickets per person; All access / backstage access - Meet & Greet with artist; Photos; receive - Carnival Swag Bag; Presidential View from Stage side
Special section catered with tables and waiter service!

Carnival Island
Sun. Aug. 03, 2014 - 12:00 pm
Olympic Island

The Carnival Island event is the fusion of popular Caribbean musical styles, Calypso, Soca dance music and Indo Bhojpuri folk, Chutney. End your Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival weekend on a high note at this family-friendly event.

 An added bonus is tickets to many of the events can be purchased online at