“A 21st-century city doesn’t need a brand or a slogan. What a 21st-century city needs is a strong sense of identity. What it needs, perhaps, is an origin myth in which it can take collective pride. A shared defining narrative that feels real, and not like something dreamed up by an out-of-town marketing firm.”
— Paula Simons, Edmonton Journal
 
 

A core proposition of Cities for People is to contribute to new narratives about what cities can be, and to engage new audiences.

On the national stage, Cities for People launched a website and social media platform fairly early on to accomplish several goals:

 
 

Invite

Invite people from across Canada and beyond to share their stories about urban innovation projects.

Share

Share experiences from the Cities for People demonstration projects.

Evaluate

Evaluate Cities for People’s work through structured posting of content about projects and welcoming input from our website community.

Glean Patterns

Glean patterns from the stories that we collected to understand how narratives about cities and people’s relationships to them are evolving.

 

Initially, the digital tools failed to convey a clear narrative about Cities for People, primarily because the website was launched before curators had reached agreement on its purpose and audience. However, as the initiative progressed, the level of engagement with the site and social media made it clear that the online platform was meeting a previously unmet demand – a space to hold local and national-level conversations about Canada’s cities.

Cities for People and Social Innovation Generation (SiG) presented the webinar series “Social Innovation and Resilience in Cities,” attended by hundreds of urban enthusiasts:

  • URBACT and innovative practices in European cities, with Eddy Adams 
  • vertical resilience and community renewal, with John Brodhead and Graeme Stewart
  • 100in1Day and active citizenship, with Juan Carlos Londono and Cédric Jamet
  • art that changes the world, with Judith Marcuse
  • enhancing creative community resilience, with Chiara Camponeschi
     
 
THE NATURE OF CITIES Cities for People curators Jayne Engle and Shawn Van Sluys are writers for The Nature of Cities (TNOC) website. The TNOC community comprises a broad diversity of people, from architects and designers to scientists, from practitioners to entrepreneurs and artists – pursuing transformational dialogue that leads to the creation of better cities for all. Photo by Jay Wall

THE NATURE OF CITIES

Cities for People curators Jayne Engle and Shawn Van Sluys are writers for The Nature of Cities (TNOC) website. The TNOC community comprises a broad diversity of people, from architects and designers to scientists, from practitioners to entrepreneurs and artists – pursuing transformational dialogue that leads to the creation of better cities for all.

Photo by Jay Wall

 


Cities for People also partnered with Spacing magazine to foster a national conversation on the themes raised by the initiative. Thirty-five blog posts over the course of a year addressed civic livability, shared economies and urban resilience. The bloggers, among many other intriguing subjects, covered:

  • mobile book-lending services for marginalized groups
  • creating citizen spaces through Indigenous soundscapes
  • urbanism road trips to Detroit and Pittsburgh

Spacing created a special Cities for People issue in both English and French – a first for the magazine. The collaboration also supported writers and bloggers in cities that had not previously been prominently featured, such as Guelph, Laval and St. John’s.

A host of stories, from coast to coast, covered:

  • how a Montreal-based group, Exeko, is reaching out to the city’s marginalized Indigenous communities
  • how United We Can has improved the quality of life for Vancouver’s Downtown East Side residents by providing employment opportunities
  • how three urban agriculture projects are reshaping their respective cities
  • how a Toronto photographer has compiled photos comprising at least one city-dweller from every country in the world
  • why Edmonton is considering an “Aboriginal Quarter” near downtown
  • how Jane’s Walk is engaging with suburban “community choreographers”

Cities for People greatly benefited from this influx of new ideas and fresh perspectives from a new generation of urbanists. Cities for People also supported several new ways to engage urban audiences at the local level.

 

 
DISRUPTIVE IMAGININGS Disruptive Imaginings is a learning collective of practitioners and academics in the fields of arts, futures and sustainability who are experimenting and learning together to imagine possible positive futures. The hypothesis behind Disruptive Imaginings is that we lack imaginative foresight –compelling, creative, alternative visions to the status quo – that engage us fully as human beings. Disruptive Imaginings asks the question, “How can we use our collective imaginations to create better futures?” Cities for People provided support to One Earth and Musagetes to launch this project and gather key players, with the first workshop held at Wasan Island in 2014 and a second in Vancouver in 2015. Photo by Dagmar Timmer

DISRUPTIVE IMAGININGS

Disruptive Imaginings is a learning collective of practitioners and academics in the fields of arts, futures and sustainability who are experimenting and learning together to imagine possible positive futures. The hypothesis behind Disruptive Imaginings is that we lack imaginative foresight –compelling, creative, alternative visions to the status quo – that engage us fully as human beings. Disruptive Imaginings asks the question, “How can we use our collective imaginations to create better futures?” Cities for People provided support to One Earth and Musagetes to launch this project and gather key players, with the first workshop held at Wasan Island in 2014 and a second in Vancouver in 2015.

Photo by Dagmar Timmer

 


New Scoop YYC is a news service that explores and shares stories of grassroots change in Calgary. It was conceived as an experiment in uncovering local, community-based stories, and quickly gained traction when Mayor Naheed Nenshi tweeted a link to New Scoop’s very first newsletter to his 200,000 followers. After its 2014 debut, New Scoop was incorporated as a co-op, owned by members.

Examples abound of New Scoop’s community-minded approach to journalism. In January 2015, Kathryn Cormier reported on how faith communities can serve as community hubs, attending a meeting at the Knox Presbyterian Church, where the Interfaith Council of Calgary hosted residents who are interested in implementing the Calgary Poverty Reduction Initiative, also called the Enough for All strategy. The goal of this movement is to facilitate connections between residents and to improve access to programs and services that support individual and family resiliency. New Scoop covered it all.

The cooperative has produced dozens of such stories in the few months since it was started, and inspired a similar project for Peterborough, Ontario.
 

 
CITIES FOR PEOPLE WEBSITE The Cities for People website provided a way to highlight the work of the curators and other participants, and to create a sense of community across the diverse stakeholders and geographical regions. Ted Norris, the Urban Aboriginal Convenor at We Are Cities, talked in his blog about the four Indigenous roundtables and explored themes of importance to First Nations across Canada. Pictured here are the We Are Cities roundtable participants at the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in Winnipeg. Inset photo by Adesuwa Ero

CITIES FOR PEOPLE WEBSITE

The Cities for People website provided a way to highlight the work of the curators and other participants, and to create a sense of community across the diverse stakeholders and geographical regions. Ted Norris, the Urban Aboriginal Convenor at We Are Cities, talked in his blog about the four Indigenous roundtables and explored themes of importance to First Nations across Canada. Pictured here are the We Are Cities roundtable participants at the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in Winnipeg.

Inset photo by Adesuwa Ero

 
CITIES FOR PEOPLE NATIONAL FORUM In November 2014, Cities for People held a national forum in Toronto. Entitled Building a Movement, it was designed to bring together key thinkers and activists to shape a shared strategy for advancing a resilient and livable cities movement in Canada. Keynote speakers were Jan Gehl, the internationally renowned architect and urban designer, and Sasha Issenberg, journalist and columnist for Slate and the Washington correspondent for Monocle. The forum achieved several useful goals: introducing Cities for People to a larger audience, helping curators understand each other, exploring ideas within the themes and generating content that became the foundation for We Are Cities. Photo by Jay Wall

CITIES FOR PEOPLE NATIONAL FORUM

In November 2014, Cities for People held a national forum in Toronto. Entitled Building a Movement, it was designed to bring together key thinkers and activists to shape a shared strategy for advancing a resilient and livable cities movement in Canada. Keynote speakers were Jan Gehl, the internationally renowned architect and urban designer, and Sasha Issenberg, journalist and columnist for Slate and the Washington correspondent for Monocle. The forum achieved several useful goals: introducing Cities for People to a larger audience, helping curators understand each other, exploring ideas within the themes and generating content that became the foundation for We Are Cities.

Photo by Jay Wall