VIDEO: SIRC Webinar #3 on Vertical Resilience & Community Renewal

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On Tuesday, December 9, Cities for People and Social Innovation Generation (SiG) co-hosted the second webinar in our joint series, Social Innovation & Resilience in Cities with Graeme Stewart and John Brodhead, who presented their work on the Tower Renewal  project in Toronto. 

Tower Renewal is a program to drive broad environmental, social, economic, and cultural change by improving Toronto’s concrete apartment towers and the neighbourhoods that surround them. Their vision is to work with residents to reinvigorate these important neighbourhoods, making them more liveable and energy efficient, while bringing new community amenities to the sites.

Watch the recording here:

SIRC webinar #3: Vertical Resilience & Community Renewal from J.W. McConnell Family Foundation on Vimeo.

An Appeal to White People: Relearning our Concepts of Good Will, Intention, and Inclusion

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Alissa Firth-Eagland

(This is an abstract. The full essay is available by clicking here.)


Cities need to be created and designed by people of good will. Exercising good will is hopeful. It expresses deep belief in reciprocation, co-intentionality, and a shared design of our future.

Canada has a 400-year history of assimilation and Indigenous resistance, which began with the legislated removal of the human rights of the Indigenous peoples living here and the claiming of their land by our ancestors: colonial settlers. Until Indigenous peoples in Canada can self-determine laws, education, community structure, and governance, the conscious, unconscious, and constructed racism that has subjugated Indigenous peoples will continue. People who self-identify as white can show good will towards groups subjugated by racism, economies, class structures, government policies, and systemic expulsion, but only without expectations for reciprocal gain.

This text is an appeal for self-determined co-intentionality. Co-intentionality is the willful exertion of energy by diverse parties in a shared direction undertaken with the belief that it can result in change: people with autonomy determining common needs. Self-determination is the right to live as one chooses. It is the power of a people to decide its own political status, independent from outside interference. It is not given, artificially assigned, or even offered. Indigenous self-determination is community action driven to respond to community needs and desires.[i] This right has been stolen from Indigenous peoples with deep effects on culture, spirituality, and language.

As white people, our responsibility is to radically restructure our colonial relationships to Indigenous, immigrant, and culturally diverse peoples. Our role is not to speak for others but to speak for ourselves. That can be our contribution to changing the system. The only way I know how to confront racism is to speak for myself, not for others.

I’m a settler and a curator. Settler colonialism is lodged in capitalism’s economic language of exchange. Curatorial practice is entrenched in a history of decision-making. Left unchecked, these histories assimilate collaborative, creative relationships. The word curator means ‘to care for,’ and previously this referred to caring for a collection of works by deceased artists. More recently the definition of curatorship has shifted to mean assembling temporary exhibitions in white cubes. My preferred definition of curators is that we create public dialogues about art and ideas that address the world in all its complexities.[ii]

How does the practice of a curator change when working with artists and communities who value self-determination above all else? To act as a chooser in this case can over-determine potential outcomes, but more seriously, it can verge on the assimilative. This can be a critical moment of learning for a curator because it requires more mediative and meditative skills: negotiation, relationship-building, reflection, embodiment, and presence. In cases like this, working co-intentionally can transform the individuals involved and the commissioning organization. This requires a different kind of care, and that means—in contrast to historical and even many contemporary approaches—that artistic intent supercedes curatorial intent. This co-intentional approach trusts that the intentions of both will be satisfied if the intentions of the artist are satisfied.

Co-intentionality, at its best, is destabilizing, especially to dominant parties. It’s not easily packaged with established processes like proposal-making, consultation, advising, and mentoring, which is typically how inequitable social hierarchies are structured. It requires for all parties to define what is needed for their communities, and then for one to let go. Both as an organization and as individual members of that organization, Musagetes is relearning our responsibilities and role as a cultural broker in Guelph and as an international producer of socially engaged artistic projects.

Because power structures of colonialism reproduce themselves still, our cities are in a state of deep disrepair, socially, economically, politically, and physically. Until we become curious about ourselves and our own subconscious suppressions, we remain part of the problem. For those in positions of power, like white people, we need to acknowledge our own privilege, and more seriously, our complicity. What motivates people to get involved in their cities? How do we co-intentionally define resilience with all voices? How can we not only include people and welcome them in, but co-create our intentions together? This must be done with eyes wide open, humility, and a conscious search for shared intent. We must open our hearts and minds to difficult conversation and we must be ready to change. After all of this, we might be ready to receive an invitation from Indigenous peoples to work co-intentionally towards a mutual objective, such as a more just, healthy, and resilient world. 


Featured image: Underground Railroad Quilt, presented to Guelph Black Heritage Society by Reta and Don Raegele of Guelph. Courtesy of the Guelph Black Heritage Society

[i] My understanding of this concept is informed by dialogue with artist Cristóbal Martinez.

[ii] Karen Love, Curatorial Toolkit: A Practical Guide for Curators, 2010. Accessed online October 24, 2104 at

VIDEO: SIRC Webinar #2 on 100in1Day and Active Citizenship

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On Tuesday, October 28, 2014, Cities for People and Social Innovation Generation (SiG) co-hosted the second webinar in our joint series, Social Innovation & Resilience in Cities with Juan Carlos and Cédric Jamet, core organizers who launched the 100in1Day movement in Canada.

In this interactive webinar, our guests tell the story of the 100in1Day movement and invited participants to reflect on the question: "What do you want for your city?" At the heart of 100in1Day is active citizenship, which means going beyond voting and complaining to living consciously and embracing our own power as everyday urban citizens.

Join us in exploring the practice of active citizenship and finding your own personal connection to place and community. Dare to step out of your personal bubble and into the commons.

Watch the recording here:

SIRC webinar #2: 100in1Day and Active Citizenship from J.W. McConnell Family Foundation on Vimeo.

Global #MapJam 2014 to Put the New Economy on the Map!

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On October 13th, the Sharing Cities Network will launch the Second Annual Global #MapJam to bring activists together in cities around the world to map grassroots sharing projects, cooperatives, community resources, and the commons where they live.

Mapping all of the shared resources in your city not only shows that another world is possible--it shows it’s already here! Asset maps are powerful organizing tools. They make community assets more visible, create a base for further community development, spark new collaborations, and illuminate openings for new projects to fill in the gaps. They also get a lot of web traffic! Depending on the size of your city, your map could easily get thousands of visits in just a few months after creating it.

Scheduled to coincide with New Economy Week, the Map Jam will launch on Indigenous People’s Day and continue for two weeks from Monday, October 13th - Sunday, the 27th.

Global #MapJam Day will take place on October 16th featuring a 24hr mapping ‘round the world across multiple continents and timezones

The second annual asset mapping event will build upon the tremendous success of last years campaign when 500 mappers partied together in 60 cities and made 50 maps in just 2 weeks launching the Sharing Cities Network in the process. Groups in many cities have already begun to step up and are planning to host #MapJams in Barcelona, Frankfurt, Hartford, Louisville, Nairobi and Rochester just to name a few and many groups from last year will be coming back together… who knew that mapping could be so much fun?

The #MapJam has received a broad base of support led by the Sharing Cities Network  and partners including: New Economy Coalition,US Solidarity Economy Network,Transition US,Center for a New American Dream,OuiShare,P2P Foundation,Post Carbon Institute,The People Who Share,Students Organizing for Democratic Alternatives,Solidarity NYC,Data Commons,  RIPESS (International Network for the Promotion of Social Solidarity Economy) and many other community and Sharing Cities groups.

Interested in organizing a #MapJam in your community? Or attending one? Please sign up here to get involved.

#MapJam’s are easy to organize and a small, dedicated group of people can get together for a few hours to map as many shared resources, cooperatives and sharing services in their city or town as possible. Like a musical jam, it should be fun, social, and jammers should find a groove as they work. Join the Sharing Cities Network facebook group to get the latest updates and meet other ‘map jammers’.

Join us to Put the New Economy on the Map!

Sign up now to host a #MapJam and you will be provided with a comprehensive Guide to Mapping, Webinar, Q&A/Support Calls and Promotional Materials to support the success of your local event.

New Economy Week 2014

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What would it take to build the economy we need, one that works for people, place, and planet?

New Economy Week is a public exploration of creative resistance – an opportunity to shine a light on the thousands upon thousands of efforts that everyday people are making right now to build a new kind of economy. 

From October 13-19, the New Economy Coalition (NEC) will be hosting live keynote panels, publishing powerful essays, and spotlighting member events (open-houses, info-sessions, film screenings, panel discussions, pot-lucks, etc.) from across the US and Canada — with the goal of raising the profile of those doing this work and diving into some of the questions that stand between us and a New Economy.

NEC has partnered with YES! Magazine online to share some of the best responses to their 'questions of the day':

1. How can we honor and learn from the rich histories of communities building New Economy institutions on the frontlines of fights for racial, economic, and environmental justice?

2. How can we catalyze public conversation about the need for systemic change and the viability of economic alternatives that put people and the planet first?

3. How can we connect and learn from successful experiments, pilot projects, and campaigns to build broad-based power and effect deep transformation at scale?

4. How do we transition to a renewable economy without leaving the workers, young people, and communities most impacted by extractive industries behind?

5. How can we support neighborhoods, cities, towns, and regions as the fertile ground for the kind of economy we need?

Get Involved!

We invite you to join these conversations online and to host some conversations of your own in your community.

VIDEO: SIRC Webinar #1 with Chiara Camponeschi

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On Tuesday, September 30, Cities for People and Social Innovation Generation (SiG) launched a new online series, Social Innovation & Resilience in Cities with Chiara Camponeschi, author of of Enabling City.

Enhancing Creative Community Resilience

What is the connection between resilience and civic imagination? What role do local culture and creativity play in processes of social innovation? And how can participatory practices turn cities into co-creators of ‘enabling’ frameworks?

In this webinar, Chiara Camponeschi draws on insights shared in her latest book, Enabling City Volume 2, to explore movements of collective creation that provide society with the ideas, identities, and even ideals to collectively explore – and enhance – narratives of socially innovative resilience.

Watch the recording here:

SIRC Webinar 1 Community Resilience with Chiara Camponeschi from Cities for People on Vimeo.

Hidden Gems- How Daylighting Rivers are Revitalizing Cities

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By: Michaela Kramer, Evergreen Cityworks, Intern

The saying “you don’t know what you’ve got until its gone” has come to resonate with cities around the world that are reclaiming their once abandoned natural features. While pressures of industrialization and urbanization at one time led planners to cover up natural sites in cities, many are now coming to realize the social, environmental, and economic benefits of rediscovering these hidden gems. Cities have embarked on what’s known as ‘daylighting’ wherein buried streams and rivers are exposed from beneath pavement or underground tunnels to become vibrant public spaces. The success of such projects, with cases from Yonkers, New York to Seoul, South Korea are inspiring more people to rediscover the hidden waterways in their city too.

The history of covered-up urban rivers and streams is a common one, with examples including Sunswick Creek in Queens, River Westbourne in London, the Neglinnava River in Moscow and most other places. They were usually the result of city officials reacting to flood problems, heavy pollution in streams-turned-sewers, or the demand for more space to accommodate urban sprawl. Once covered with pavement or channeled into tunnels, rivers and streams were soon forgotten, with new generations having no idea about their existence right under their feet.

Yet there has been a renewed interest in the streams secretly flowing beneath freeways and parking lots. Urban explorer and photographer Steve Duncan has found his way into many of these sites and in Toronto, local environmental organization host tours of what they call The Lost Rivers. But it’s not just adventurous urbanites that have become fascinated, city governments and planners are coming to rethink the city’s initial position on these environmental treasures.

CheonggyecheonSource: LAF, Inhabitat

This was the case in Seoul where the Cheonggyecheon River was paved over and replaced with the 1970s Cheonggyecheon Freeway, then considered a symbol a modernism and engineering achievement. As the highway infrastructure began to crumble 40 years later, the city decided against reinvesting in outdated infrastructure that prioritizes cars, and instead worked to reintroduce the river to the city as a public space. Two years, and $348 million dollars later, the five-kilometer daylighted river acts as a centerpiece of the city, attracting 500,000 visitors each week.

Saw.MillSource: Steve Duncan, Flickr

Other more modest examples belong to Arcadia Creek in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Broad Branch Stream in D.C. In 2010, Yonkers in New York State restored the Saw Mill River, which had been paved over in the 1920s due to sanitation and flood problems.  Today, the exposed river acts as a successful new space for people and wildlife, a highlight of the city’s ongoing revitalization project.

Beyond the role these serve in introducing natural spaces to the public, daylighting projects boasts impressive environmental and economic benefits as well. Exposed streams and rivers absorb storm water runoff much better than underground pipes, not to mention the money this saves cities from having to repair old pipes that are being overused during storms. This is especially important considering the heavier-than-ever downpours being experienced in many places due to the onset of climate change.

Moreover, rivers and streams are important places of biodiversity: they help to improve water quality and mitigate heat island effect. The Cheeonggyecheon River in Seoul has seen the rise of fish species from 4 to 25, bird species from 6 to 36, insect species from 15 to 192, and plant species from 62 to 308. Also, the average summer temperature in the area has dropped by 5 degrees. Daylightng serves to boost local economies, attracting tourists and investment in nearby areas. For instance, Cheeonggyecheon increased property prices within 50 meters by 30-50% and earns millions in tourist spending.

Overall, these cases bring to light (pun intended) an ideological shift in cities where people are coming to value environmental assets over unchecked sprawl. This is the same line of thinking that has lead many places to reconnect with their waterfronts or remediate polluted wetlands. Nature is no longer seen as an obstacle but instead as something to celebrate, benefitting the city in various ways.

Source: WordPress


Urban Installations and the Element of Surprise

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By: Michaela Kramer, Evergreen CityWorks, Intern

Something that cities offer is unlimited access to surprise, to unexpected interaction, to a blending of different people and ideas at any moment. The anticipation of this is a reason why people are drawn to cities, and especially to their public spaces. Think of the feeling we get when we stumble upon a musician playing on the sidewalk, when we notice a freshly painted mural on the side of a building, or when we taste food at festival like nothing we’ve tried before. It is the possibility for these experiences that makes living in the city so attractive.It’s not just about doing something exciting, it’s also about the potential that these experiences have for people to interact, engage, and to change their city for the better.

But these occurrences don’t need to be left completely up to chance. Instead, designers have an opportunity to develop spaces and places awaiting surprise. It is possible to plan for these kinds of spontaneous experiences by creating spaces in the city that nurture social interaction in creative ways, and in doing so, tap into the unlimited potential for joy and transformation in the city.

One way this can be achieved are through installation projects that temporarily alter the city landscape- using design to encourage play and civic engagement. Unlike major infrastructure, installations can be time and cost effective. There are examples of this kind of design intervention across Canada, which can serve as an example to inspire future projects with these same goals.

Pop Rocks, Vancouver

Capture(2)-poprocksSource: David Niddrie Photography

Pop Rocks was a project in downtown Vancouver during the summer of 2012 that temporarily transformed a street into a social space using a collection of pillow-like boulders. The installation reshaped the street in order to encourage play and leisure among pedestrians. It also incorporated an aspect of environmentalism, not as an obstacle, but as a catalyst for innovative work- the boulders were made entirely of re-used material and were recycled once the installation came to a close. This information was displayed for users, incorporating an educational element to the project.

Cardboard Beach, Toronto

Capture-Cardboard.BeachSimilar to Pop Rocks, Cardboard Beach was a temporary installation placed in the downtown that used whimsical urban furniture to create social space and promote civic interaction. Created as a hub for the 2014 Luminato Festival, it was made up of an array of beach-style lounge chairs and umbrellas all made of cardboard. The project transformed a normally empty public square into a new, exciting place. The unusual cardboard forms attracted unprecedented interest from city dwellers.

Source: BlogTO


Pink Balls, Montreal

Capture-pink.ballsSource:Claude Cormier and Associates

Unlike the previous projects, Pinks Balls served more as a decorative installation, marking a street in Montreal’s Gay Village that becomes pedestrianized during summer months. The project involves strings of pink balls suspended above the street, which embellishes the landscape and designates this social space. The piece introduces the temporary pedestrian space to the city and calls upon new visitors with its celebratory design.

What these projects exemplify is the power that temporary installations can have in shifting the everyday landscape of an urban space into a new, dynamic stage for civic enjoyment. Cities, by nature, foster the melding of ideas and the production of culture, but it is up to people involved in design and planning to celebrate this, through the making of creative public spaces. Installations are useful not simply because of their novelty but in the way that they tune into the public’s desire to participate in play and develop community. The city is open to surprise and design can be an important tool in inspiring joy and engagement in the public.

Two Months, Twenty Cities, One Movement – The Blue Dot Tour

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The David Suzuki Foundation has announced the Blue Dot Tour - a cross-country celebration featuring David Suzuki and a star-studded line up of Canadian performers, artists and leaders.

They are doing this to  promote a simple idea: That all Canadians should have the legally recognized right to drink clean water, breathe fresh air and eat healthy food.

From September 24 to November 9, 2014, David Suzuki and the Blue Dot Tour will take this message on the road. With stops in 20 communities from St. Johns, Newfoundland to Vancouver, B.C., this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience not to be missed.

As David makes his way across the country, he'll be joined by other Canadian icons who believe that by coming together to take action locally, we can guarantee all Canadians the right to a healthy environment no matter who they are, or where they live.

David says this is the most important thing he’s ever done.  Around the world, more than 110 nations already recognize their citizen's right to live in a healthy environment. Canada is not one of them. But by standing together, The David Suzuki Foundation believes we change that.

Visit for dates, line-ups, and tickets.

For more information, contact the David Suzuki Foundation at 1-800-453-1533


Photo credit:

When fruit and sharing come together, everyone wins

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Good news of the week: the Sharing economy has set sail. With AirBnB reaching over 1 million users a month, the world’s first fair trade and open source Smartphone being launched in Amsterdam, and locals hosting pop-up restaurants in their homes  across the globe, a new cultural narrative of collaborative consumption is unfolding. And with summer fruits ripe and ready to be picked, what better way to celebrate than by sharing fruit -- urban fruit, that is.

In today's world where over 30% of food goes to waste, every little bit counts. Community-based initiatives have sprung up in several cities to reclaim the overlooked edible bounty of our own city streets and backyards.

Two non-profit initiatives in Toronto and Montréal are harnessing helping hands from local communities to harvest urban fruit trees in people's gardens. Most homeowners are unable to keep up with the abundant harvest produced by their tree, leaving thousands of fruits unharvested each year. Not Far From The Tree in Toronto and Les Fruits Défendus in Montréal see this as an opportunity -- to reduce waste by redistributing fresh, local produce to local food banks, shelters, and community kitchens.

NFFTT volunteers

Not Far from the Tree volunteers picking cherries in Toronto. Source: Flickr.

Not Far From The Tree aims to inspire residents "to harvest, share, celebrate, and steward the bounty from our urban forest as a way to connect more intimately with a sound environmental way of life."

As Les Fruits Défendus puts it, "[this] brings together fruit tree owners and volunteer fruit pickers in order to give the city's delicious fruits a happier fate." In the end, everyone's happy - homeowners, volunteers, community members, and even the fruits!

In fact, there are dozens of organizations across the country carrying out similar "fruit rescue" operations, with 15 in British Columbia, two in Alberta, two in Quebec, two in Manitoba, one in Newfoundland and Labrador, and eight in Ontario.

Three geographers and photographers from the University of Colorado took on the ambitious project of quantifying these urban resources on a global map. Falling Fruit's website reads:

"Falling Fruit is a celebration of the overlooked culinary bounty of our city streets. By quantifying this resource on a map, we hope to facilitate intimate connections between people, food, and the natural organisms growing in our neighborhoods. Not just a free lunch! Foraging in the 21st century is an opportunity for urban exploration, to fight the scourge of stained sidewalks, and to reconnect with the botanical origins of food."

fruit map - world

Falling Fruit world map. Source

The map data is crowdsourced, meaning any local from Montreal, Barcelona, or Beijing can go on the website and input the geo-coordinates, a photo, and a short description the plum tree down the block. Talk about open source! Being able to share data now means being able to share resources, like deliciously free local fruit.

fruit map - apple

A lonely apple tree in Michigan, submitted by an anonymous user. Source

Another troupe of three decided to form an art collaboration around abandoned fruit in Los Angeles. Fallen Fruit "uses fruit as a common denominator to change the way [people] see the world", first by mapping fruit trees in public space in L.A., then expanding to public projects and installations in various cities around the world. By working with fruit as media, their projects reimagine public interactions with the margins of urban space, systems of community, and narrative real-time experience. Their people- and fruit-focused programming includes such fringe activities as Public Fruit Jams, Nocturnal Fruit Forages, Public Fruit Meditations.

Food is central to the way we perceive urban space, and sharing is the economic paradigm of tomorrow. What could be a sweeter, juicier marriage of edible urban landscapes and the sharing economy than enjoying fallen fruit with new neighbours.