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Civic Impact

Brainstorming ways to build better cities

How can Canadians living in cities work together to make their cities better places to live? And what should governments and policy-makers be doing to help them?
To find out, the We Are Cities project is asking city-dwellers from across the country to participate in roundtable discussions to “build a vision and action plan to make Canadian cities healthy and exciting places to live, work and play.” Launched this month and led by Evergreen CityWorks, We Are Cities is an offshoot of the Cities for People project to raise awareness, create networks and produce ideas around building better cities. While Cities for People is an ongoing “experiment” to increase collaboration and test ideas, We Are Cities will wrestle with policy and research barriers, ultimately offering a Canadian policy agenda for better cities.
“The idea is for citizens and organizations to do two things,” says John Brodhead, executive director of Evergreen CityWorks. “First, to put on the table a vision for a sustainable, resilient city. But also some prioritization of that so we don’t get a laundry list and we can make some choice about what are the most important things and how we’re actually going to get there. These things are rarely free, so we’ll look at the resources we need to execute the vision we’ve laid out.”
There are no official roundtables; the idea is that community groups and other interested parties will jump in to host their own. Brodhead is hoping more than 50 groups across the country will conduct local discussions. We Are Cities has provided tips for hosting roundtables, a way to upload the ideas that get generated and a web portal so hosts can connect with each other.
So far seven roundtables have been scheduled around the GTA, including one this week at Urbanspace Gallery. That gathering will zoom in on several topics, including how the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan American Games will affect the city, whether people will use the Union Pearson Express, the future of the Gardiner Expressway and the impact of recent TDSB school closures.
The roundtables, along with interviews with experts, will be captured in an action plan that will be released by late 2015 or early 2016. “I really don’t know what’s it’s going to look like. It’s really going to be a co-created model. That’s the exciting part and the scary part,” says Brodhead. “The way we’re creating is different and the way it needs to look should also be different. We’re exploring things with artists on how to visualize it. We’re talking to novelists about how to turn it into a novel. While we’ll have the base action-plan document, we’re going to find other ways of telling the story.”
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: John Brodhead
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