Laneway Futures

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This isn't the first time we have written about laneways (see our previous stories on le Parc Oxygène in Montréal and the Laneway Summit in Toronto); they are the sites of an emerging kind of urbanism - one in which communities work together to implement on-the-ground projects that bring to light possibilities for underused or underappreciated sites. This "brainstorm, implement, share, test, and refine" model could fit under the "Lighter-Quicker-Cheaper" approach to placemaking developed and popularized by New York's Project for Public Spaces.

Last month, the Toronto-based The Laneway Project opened up one such project to the wider community by inviting residents to the Danforth East Laneway Crawl: a prototype showcasing myriad possibilities for laneway activation in the Danforth-Woodbine neighbourhood in Toronto.

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The Laneway Project and local partners the Danforth East Community Association invited passersby to "Help imagine a future for your laneway and similar laneways across Toronto!" by experiencing a range of multi-media installations and interactive activities that demonstrated a different vision of the types of compatible uses in laneways - spaces which are often relegated to afterthoughts. This forgetting of or lack of care about spaces has resulted in a situation in which communities are not deriving benefit from laneway, which could act as secondary transportation corridors, meeting spots, places to access services, to play, to experiment with gardening, to create...

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(Imagine this laneway as a destination for...)

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During the Danforth East Laneway Crawl, residents, businesses, and community groups of all stripes were invited to contribute to animating the laneway, from simple actions - like opening their garage doors - to more involved participation, like setting up a food or drink stall, sharing a project they were working on, or painting a mural.

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On August 28th, the laneway was full of colours, sounds, kids playing ball hockey, locals strumming guitars, artists working together to paint murals - all of which contributed to a feeling of liveliness and of care.

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A highlight of Laneway Futures was the incredible (and quick!) injection of art into what was a fairly typical Toronto laneway, dominated by the greys and beiges of ashphalt, fences, and faceless backs of buildings fronting busy Danforth Ave.

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This laneway animation also brought up questions about how laneways could better serve the communities surrounded them by offering alternative sites to fulfill daily needs. What if you could speak to a doctor outside of what could be perceived as an imposing institution of a medical office or hospital? Or perhaps just leave your bike casually leaning against a fence while you caught up with neighbours in a quiet space?

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Want more laneway love? This Sunday is the last of a series of The Laneway Project's 2016 Laneway Crawls Series in Toronto`s Christie Pits Park! Find out more about Christie Crawlfest, happening Sunday, September 25 from 1-6pm.

Eco-Art-Fest at Todmorden Mills

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The Eco-Art-Fest is a summer-long public art festival in Toronto’s Don Valley. This year’s festival offers six outdoor public art installations, workshops for families and all ages, guided art walks, live music performances, and a gathering space modeled after a traditional Beer Garden. This space offers visitors a place to relax, eat organic locally sourced foods, have a drink, and listen to music in a natural setting just outside the downtown. Toronto’s Don Valley Ravine is the largest and most underused green space. It is No.9’s goal to draw visitors out of their daily paths and into nature, while providing meaningful programming that brings people and communities together.

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No.9 is an arts organization that promotes environmental awareness and living sustainably in cities. The Eco-Art-Fest’s on-site programming aims to raise awareness on these issues, while our gardens and kitchen aim to lead by example through a demonstration of how one can grow their own food and shop at local venues. It can be difficult to live a completely sustainable lifestyle, but our festival brings back notions of living off the land, creating by hand, and buying local. We have created a community space where conversations are started, and where younger generations can gain knowledge and become inspired.

EVENT DETAILS

 

No.9 Eco-Art-Fest @ Todmorden Mills
June 20th - September 13th, 2015
67 Pottery Road

Friday and Saturday: Noon - 10pm
Sunday: Noon - 5pm
Free Entry and Parking - All Ages

 

THE VENUE

Established in 1795, Todmorden Mills produced paper for such people as William Lyon Mackenzie, for The Colonial Advocate. Throughout the 19th century, the industrial site provided lumber, flour, beer, paper and bricks to the city. Opened as a museum in 1967, the site features a popular theatre and gallery space and Wildflower Preserve. Todmorden Mills Heritage Site is one of 11 historic sites operated by the City of Toronto, Museums & Heritage Services.

 

The State of City Building Project Launch (Toronto)

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On Wednesday, July 15, The Ryerson City Building Institute will launch their State of City Building Project, which includes the first annual State of City Building Report and the Citylinx online database.

Citylinx identifies and categorizes leading organizations that are involved in studying or advocating for excellence in city building. This growing list allows the public, key decision makers, and other organizations to search for and work with city building organizations. Their aim is to increase awareness of existing city building initiatives and, in doing so, build the capacity of civil society to improve the region as a whole.

To celebrate the launch of the State of City Building project, leading city builders from across the GTHA will gather for a panel discussion and reception. Alan Broadbent of Maytree will moderate a discussion between leaders from key city building organizations in the GTHA to discuss challenges, successes, and lessons learned. The discussion will be followed by a reception for city builders to connect and network. Copies of the new State of City Building report will be available. You can register here.  

The evening's agenda:

5:15 - Sign in and registration

5:30 - Welcome and Introduction to the State of City Building project

5:45 - Panel discussion: The State of City Building 2015 moderated by Alan Broadbent, Maytree
with Rahul Bhardwaj, Toronto Foundation
Richard Joy, Urban Land Institute
and Sharad Kerur, Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association

6:30-8:00 - Reception
Light fare and refreshments

To receive news about the Ryerson City Building Institute, please join their mailing list.Student Learning Building

Philanthropy and Social Enterprise: An Interview with Anne Jamieson

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This blog is part of the 'Voices of New Economies' series within Cities for People - an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks. 

The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network

This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need - ones that work for people, places, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops.

By Jane ZhangAJamieson

1. In your view, what are three key elements of "new economies"?

  • Collaboration at the individual and organization level is hugely important because there are many groups focused on a particular activity or vision, but we all need to work together.
  • Using the traditional marketplace to accomplish our social, cultural, or environmental mission.
  • Cross-sectoral partnerships with the corporate and public sectors. We should not set up an antagonistic relationship with large corporations, but really build on good work being done to get the best of all worlds.

2. What is the role of philanthropy in new or social economies?

It’s a critical pivot point for the new economy because there are people in the philanthropic world who are able to take more risk and have a better understanding of how the marketplace works in a traditional sense, and also understand how it might work for social good. What we call the “first risk” – the most risky capital – can be philanthropic capital. There are just as many types of philanthropists as there are activities in the social economy, but philanthropy can be the catalyst for a social economy. We just have to be careful that it’s not the only pillar on which the social economy rests.

For new social enterprises, the aim is to diversify the sources of revenue, with sales being the primary focus, and might be supplemented by government funding, grants from charitable organizations, donations, and fundraising activities.

3. What is the Toronto Enterprise Fund?

The TEF is a funding partnership between four contributors: United Way Toronto, the City of Toronto, the Province of Ontario, and the federal government’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy. Our fund was set up in 2000 to invest in social enterprises to hire people that are marginalized, primarily people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. We have supported 50 unique enterprises and currently support 18. We provide seed funding for startups, three-year operating funds, and continual support to those that meet our goals of generate significant revenue from sales, and moving towards being proximal business that helps a certain type of individual to become permanently connected to the labour market. For most part, the fund has been extremely successful in helping people disconnected from labour market to become and stay connected.

One of most successful social enterprises is Furniture Link, which is part of a charity called Furniture Bank, which accepts used donated furniture and reuses it for people who are moving out of shelters into independent accommodation. Furniture Link provides the paid service of furniture pickup, and employs about 30 workers who have multiple barriers to employment, whether they are living in shelters, newcomers to Canada, or youth unable to find work.

4. How does this relate to the city of Toronto?

Toronto has been around for hundreds of years, and grown enormously in last 50 years without strong urban planning. My sense is that there hasn’t been a strategy to include the social economy or social enterprises in the planning. However, that’s starting to change. In the last few years we have been rezoning our inner suburbs, which have been plagued by low levels of community service organizations, high unemployment, and unattractive residential towers. Part of the challenge is that these communities are zoned 100% residential, which means there are no businesses nearby. The rezoning would mean the businesses can be located in the towers or adjacent locations. That will help to change the dynamic of those areas to create local employment, access to goods and services, and reduce reliance on cars. Many of these businesses will be part of traditional economy, but there is now space for organizations to think about how they can help revitalize these communities through social enterprise.

5. What is the role of traditional businesses in the new economy?

In the last few years, more and more businesses are interested in being part of social economy. Many traditional business are going for the BCorps certification, which for some may be a marketing exercise and for others are grounded in their values. For years, large corporations have been looking to include sustainability, and are now looking to be more socially beneficial. This might be changing the way they hire, including people who are marginalized. There is a movement driven by the philanthropic and non-profit sector to get businesses to be aware of their social impacts, but I’m noticing that the businesses themselves are much more interested in making those changes. This is happening at all different levels from businesses operated by individuals to family businesses to large multinational corporations. I’m hopeful that this is not just fringe movement, but a deep-seated visionary movement.

6. What does real wealth mean to you?

From a community point of view, real wealth is about relations between people, sense of safety, access to goods and services, and having mechanisms for problem-solving. A wealthy community would be diverse and inclusive.

On an individual level, real wealth means having a job that allows you to be a net contributor (rather than net receiver) to the economy and to society.
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Anne Jamieson is Senior Manager, Toronto Enterprise Fund, at United Way Toronto. In addition to overseeing grants to a portfolio of social enterprises, Anne is committed to building a strong, vibrant and sustainable social enterprise sector in Canada. She launched the Canadian Conference on Social Enterprise series in 2004, is a founding member of the Social Enterprise Council of Canada, chairs the Ontario Social Economy Roundtable, and is involved with the Toronto Community Benefits Network. She presents regularly on social enterprise development and impact investing at conferences, seminars and webinars.

Anne’s background is in small business development and, for contrast, international commercial finance. She helped young entrepreneurs get started with loans and mentoring while working at the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, and before that provided self-employment training and advice to out-of-work aspiring business owners in her position at the Community Business Resource Centre. Anne previously worked in the UK in trade finance and commercial lending. Anne holds an MBA from Ivey, and an Honours BA from U of T.

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.

What Bike Sharing Says About Our Cities and Our Values

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By: Michaela Kramer, Evergreen CityWorks, Intern

Bike sharing programs have gained immense popularity over the past decade. There are variations in over in 500 places around the world. Yet their presence often sparks controversy- with advocates pointing to their popularity and social value while critics object to their economic instability. Both positions speak to wider questions about what we, as a city, consider to be a public good, how new programs should be paid for, and how we can improve access to services among low income communities. The dialogue around bike sharing is important in order to improve these programs as they continue to grow, but also to explore what this global trend says about our cities more generally.

What is bike sharing?

A bike sharing program is a transportation system in which bikes are available to the public at stations around a neighborhood, or across a city, on a short-term basis. Usually these systems offer yearly or one-day subscriptions, both of which allow users 30-45 minutes of riding time between stations, with additional costs attached to rides that exceed this time limit. The systems are geared toward city residents or tourists travelling from one destination to another rather than those interested in taking leisurely cycling trips.

While the idea was originally developed in Paris, the largest system now operates in Hangzhou, China with a total of 66,500 bikes available. The first Canadian city to receive a bike sharing system was Montreal, whose BIXI program launched in 2009. This was followed by Ottawa a month later, and Toronto in 2011. In 2015, Vancouver is expected to launch a bike sharing system as well.

Bike.Share.PhotoA Hangzhou Public Bicycle station, Source: Flickr 

For most, the appeal of bike sharing stems from its ability to provide users with mobility and flexibility. Bike sharing can be added to car or transit trips to make commuting more seamless or to reach places where transit does not extend to. It allows people to cycle to their destination and then take transit back if the weather, or simply their mood, changes. And unlike owning a bike, users don’t have to worry about the initial cost of purchase, storage, maintenance expenses, or theft.

Why does it matter?

Bike.Share.Photo(3)Bike sharing programs have numerous benefits, including environmental, health, and economic effects. They are important drivers of urban sustainability, helping to lower greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, and traffic congestion. In Denver, 34 percent of B-Cycle members use bike sharing to replace trips otherwise taken by car. Also, bike sharing promotes healthy living by providing exercise to users, lowering their stress levels, and helping them to feel happier. 31.5 percent of Capital Bike Share members in D.C. saw their stress levels go down once they started bike sharing. They also help attract tourists, they can serve as a local employer, and boosts the business of bike-related shops.

BIXI riders in Montreal, Source: Flickr

Yet these benefits are not without costs. Bike sharing programs, alike most public transportation systems, provide the predicament of being expensive to implement and run while needing to be relatively cheap to the user, in order to ensure accessibility and to dissuade people from driving. Subscriptions, normally at a cost of $60-$100 per year or $6-$10 per day, despite their popularity, are not enough to finance the operating costs that bike sharing demands.This means that the revenues from subscriptions must be subsidized, either through tax dollars, by a local community group or nonprofit organization, a public-private partnership, or a corporation.

Is bike sharing a public good?

There are two ways of looking at bike sharing: either as a public amenity that the city has interest in maintaining but seeks private funds to run or as a public good that should be financed through city revenue due to its public value. The former was adopted in New York City when proposals for Citi Bike were endorsed as a privately funded project.

But what makes bike sharing any different than other transit systems or other public goods? Many argue that bike sharing programs are an extension of public transit and should be publically financed because of their essential value to the city. These are the questions that some New Yorkers are asking as Citi Bike endures another year of financial loss despite its overwhelming popularity among users. . Similar concerns were raised when Montreal company, BIXI, filed for bankruptcy last January.

Bike.Share.Photo(2)BIXIs outside a Montreal metro station act as an extension of transit, Source: Flickr 

Some claim that the model of financial self-sufficiency was not only overly optimistic when Citi Bike was proposed but possibly unnecessary as well. If sustainability and healthy living are goals that city governments endorse, why shouldn’t more support be given towards bike sharing systems?

This is the thinking that has been adopted in Washington D.C. where Capital Bike Share is partly funded by the United States Department of Transportation and in London where Barclay’s Cycle Hire is largely subsidized by Transport for London. In Minneapolis, Nice Ride is operated by a nonprofit with money from a federal grant and the Blue Cross. In these cities, there is an understanding that the public good generated from bike sharing systems far exceeds their financial loss.

Can bike sharing systems be improved?

Accepting that bike sharing programs are a worthwhile expenditure of tax dollars is one thing, but the work doesn’t end there. There is a major problem of inaccessibility for low income communities around the world that needs to be addressed, especially if public money is going to be funding these projects. One reason for this is that in many places bike sharing stations are clustered in the commercial centers of wealthy residential neighborhoods (usually where an abundance of transit exists anyways) with disparities in low-income areas. For example, this has been a critique of Bike Share Toronto, which barely reaches beyond the city’s central core. Another problem is that low income residents are more likely to have longer commutes that might exceed the 30-45 minute time limit of most systems.  Furthermore, bike sharing programs require users to have credit or debit cards, which restricts some people from accessing these services.

These maps illustrate the differences in accessibility between various bike sharing systems, Source: modified from Quartz 

Unfortunately, these limitations stand in the way of bike sharing being accessible to the people who could benefit from it the most. Low-income neighborhoods are usually not as well served by public transit compared to other areas, so bike sharing can be an important tool to mitigate the inadequacies of transit. The person who finds it most difficult to manage the upfront cost of purchasing a bike would benefit greatly from having a bike sharing membership. Low-income residents are more likely to spend a greater portion of their income on transportation costs so developing more transit options can work to alleviate this burden. Overall, there is a need for bike sharing networks to be designed in more accessible and inclusive ways so to benefit the city as a whole.

There are various ways of going about this, some of which have been implemented and others that have only been proposed. One strategy to expand the accessibility of bike sharing is to more evenly distribute stations in low income neighborhoods or next to strategic locations like social housing. Another method is to make memberships more affordable by offering discounted rates, payment plans, or waving the temporary insurance fee that most systems charge. In Boston, qualifying low-income residents get a $5 membership and a free helmet. Capital Bike Share in Arlington County, Virginia developed a special marketing campaign in Spanish aimed at reaching Latinos with limited English proficiency. Ultimately, one of the biggest barriers is the credit card requirement. To solve this, some have proposed that local organizations or nonprofits could recommend people they trust who do not have access to a credit or debit card.

What bike sharing teaches us

Bike sharing is not about making a profit and it’s not about providing a novel amenity. It is about leading positive change on the critical issues facing local cities today. Supporting bike sharing programs illustrate the values of a local government, prioritizing health, sustainability, and livability. It improves the environment of the city and the experiences of the people in it.

Bike.Share.Photo(5)Citi Bike riders in New York, Source: Flickr 

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.

Building Excitement for Energy Efficiency

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Hackers generate new ideas to conserve energy in Toronto’s apartment buildings

By: Jessie Ma and Ramtin Attar

 On an early July weekend, ALERT (Affordable and Low-income Environmental Renewal in Toronto) hosted a hackathon at the Centre for Social Innovation. A hackathon is a community event where computer programmers, engineers, web designers, interaction designers, business people, user groups and other experts come together to create prototypes that address a specific challenge.  Teams strive to develop new solutions to address these problems and present work to a panel of judges.

The ALERT Hackathon encouraged competitors to develop prototypes geared at tackling one of Toronto’s greatest challenges: encouraging energy efficiency in Toronto’s residential towers.

Ideation

Toronto’s residential buildings are responsible for one fifth of the region’s greenhouse gas emissions. Apartment towers use the highest amount of energy than any housing type. Towers built between 1950 and 1970 pose a particular risk. During this period, construction advanced using poor insulation materials. As a result, today, these buildings waste huge amounts of energy to heat and cool units. Building owners who invest in energy efficiency retrofits can lower their greenhouse gas emissions by 74% -- and reduce operating costs in the process. Participants in the Hackathonwere asked to create an innovative solution to encourage more building owners to take advantage of energy saving opportunities.

The winning team, PowerOf5, created an app called Energy Alert that immediately notifies building owners of their energy usage and opportunities to conserve. ALERT will further refine this idea through collaborations with building owners to create a toolkit to enable energy efficiency investments.

Second place went to Powerdown, an energy data visualization tool that integrates weather forecasts into predicting future consumption. Building Rewards captured the third place prize with their idea that gives tenants incentives to conserve energy while empowering them to determine rewards designed for their community. Other ideas included a box of small energy efficient appliances for tenants, data visualizations, and interactive checklists to guide landlords.

“The ALERT PowerOf50 Hackathon leverages our collective creative assets, aspires engagement, and empowers a community that manages Toronto’s largest affordable housing stocks,” said ALERT founders and CivicAction’s DiverseCity Fellows Ramtin Attar, Autodesk, and Jessie Ma, Hydro One. “The response so far to ALERT has been amazingly positive. Many people sense the great need to address this complex economic, environmental and social dilemma, and we hope to harness this enthusiasm and make a positive difference.”

ALERT differs from existing efforts by taking a community-based approach to development. The Hackathon draws together experts from a broad spectrum of expertise, and building owners and managers are involved to ensure that the ALERT toolkit will meet their multi-faceted needs. In March, ALERT won CivicAction’s dragons’ den event, where the panel of civic leaders recognized ALERT’s potential impact, plan development and momentum.

Ideation

Hackers were inspired by experienced leaders throughout the weekend. At the opening reception on Thursday evening, former Mayor David Miller encouraged competitors by saying that “working with people in buildings and creating jobs for locals are key for tower renewal.” Adam Krehm, Principal at O’Shanter Development Company and hackathon judge, told the hackers, “If an owner saves $1 on its energy operating costs, he or she would add $20 to the value of the building.”A panel of experts in technology, buildings and the environment judged the prototypes on innovation, potential for impact and feasibility for implementation. Lorraine Gauthier, Principal, Work Worth Doing – Now House, chaired the judges’ panel. The judges were:

  • Rob DettaColli, Manager of Energy and Sustainability, Brookfield Condominium Services
  • Adam Krehm, Principal, O'Shanter Development Company
  • GordKurtenbach, Sr. Director of Research, Autodesk
  • Mary Pickering, VP - Programs and Partnerships, Toronto Atmospheric Fund
  • Thea Silver, Program Manager (Province-wide) and Strategy Lead, Environment Sector at Ontario Trillium Foundation

The City of Toronto is presently studying a new energy reporting requirement for residential highrises, among other types of buildings. If passed at city council, Toronto would follow the lead of other international jurisdictions, including New York City, for mandatory disclosure of energy use. Prototypes from the ALERT Hackathon could help building owners and governments use the power of the data to make more informed decisions.

About ALERT

ALERT (Affordable & Low-income Environmental Renewal in Toronto) is a proposed framework for a web-based toolkit to encourage energy efficiency investments in Toronto’s residential high- rises through cycles of continuous improvement. ALERT is founded by Ramtin Attar and Jessie Ma, and it is a project incubated through CivicAction’s Emerging Leaders Network. Attar and Ma connected as CivicAction’s DiverseCity Fellows, an intensive leadership development program for city builders. ALERT is a project under Imagine My City, a non-profit that enables and increases productive and meaningful community-based collaboration in issues related to our built environment.

 

Sparks of the New Economy at 100-in-1 Day

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On Saturday June 7th, citizens in Vancouver, Toronto, Halifax and Montreal created acts of urban change as part of 100-in-1 Day, a movement uniting people across the nation to make cities better. Each Canadian city hosting the event was fortunate to witness an outpouring of engagement. Two numbers tell the story: A total of 460 interventions took place across Canada - many more than the stated target of 100. Halifax had five times as many actions (on a per capita basis) as any of the other cities. Go Halifax!

We’ve taken a closer look at some of the interventions that have new economies at their heart. New economies are about taking a holistic perspective on the nature and origins of wealth, and evaluating the ways in which economies can work for people and the planet through shared, just, and lasting prosperity. This includes fair trade, the sharing economy, collaborative consumption, alternative measures of progress and wellbeing, social enterprise, and social finance.

OVER 460 URBAN INTERVENTIONS ACROSS CANADA IN 1 DAY!

Toronto featured 174 interventions, including one on the reclamation of public space. In the People's Queen Street, people occupied parking spaces on a major street, and filled the spaces with grass, hammocks, back yard patio furniture and games. Similarly, public spaces came alive with people participating in public poetry (Halifax), hosting a piano picnic (Vancouver) and hosting a potluck in a park

In Halifax, 52 interventions took place. In one, people shared ideas for a new tool library...

“Setting up on the street and selling hot dogs was a great opportunity to raise awareness about the Tool Library in the community where it will be located. We received useful input on our lending policies and some neighbours took the opportunity to donate tools. Like many of our engagements, the most fulfilling aspect was watching people come to grips with the concept of a Tool Library for the first time. We hope it will spark other ideas for the resources we can share.” Halifax Tool Library

Montreal was also buzzing with energy as over 87 interventions took place in the urban fabric - even families got into the action, planting a garden that would encourage eating their leafy greens...and plenty of muddy playtime. One of the 83 interventions in Vancouver was the Match Maker booth hosted by Kits Space Projects at Vancouver's Maker Faire. It provided an opportunity for makers to connect with the Strathcona Resource Exchange where business waste is repurposed for creative projects and new economies...and people see what’s possible when waste is recognized as a resource.

Citizen actions explored the links between the economy and ecology in Toronto: people came together to discuss what engineering means to them; they walked through a ravine while pondering the effective integration of nature and people.

Interventions encouraged local and indigenous food consumption, including by designing a First Nations Indigenous Garden, by holding a permaculture blitz, growing an organic food forest (Vancouver), by distributing seed bombs, and by learning about urban beekeeping (Halifax).

And across the border in Boston, Canadian Justin Ritchie (nonprofit The Extraenvironmentalist) recorded a livestream of the New Economy Coalition conference, CommonBound. He interviewed Mike Lewis of the Canadian Centre for Community Renewal. Other speakers from Canada include Béatrice Alice of Chantier de l’économie sociale and Mike Toye of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDnet). Web: http://commonbound.org/register

WHAT DOES REAL WEALTH MEAN TO YOU?

The One Earth team took to the streets of Vancouver to discuss new economies, talking with people to figure out what “real wealth” means to citizens. Our question, “What does real wealth mean to you?” generated interesting responses like, “people reclaiming their power”, “access to sports”, “being in love”, “accomplishing your goals”, and “kindness”. An 88 year old pensioner we spoke with said that real wealth “is loving what you do”, while a 5 year old girl confidently stated with that “snails” make her feel wealthy.

These genuine responses to understanding wealth brought to light an important aspect to consider while re-evaluating our current economic system. They reveal that wealth is a state of being, and not necessarily a state of ownership. This is what the new economy is striving to highlight through these generative discussions on the roots of value, money, and exchange.

Economics has traditionally been about understanding the allocation of scarce resources - but what we saw on June 7th was an abundance of happiness, enthusiasm and connection, not scarcity. The intangible qualities of what real wealth can mean - creativity, innovation, equality, participation, capacity, and ability - all expand the more they are used. These are important to keep in mind when thinking about what we want our present and future to look like, and how economies should be understood and measured.

Our commons don’t need to become a tragedy - they can, instead, be bountiful and rewarding shared assets. 100 in 1 Day showed that through people coming together to act, express, engage, connect and design what they want to see in the world, we join together on the path to manifesting that reality.

JOIN US CITIES FOR PEOPLE IN FOSTERING NEW ECONOMIES...

Cities for People will continue to explore the different ways in which we all engage with new economies. Sign up on our mailing list to receive updates and invitations to future events, access to insightful discussions, and prizes.

Click the following links to get involved in the upcoming events:

- Sharefest TO, July 16, Toronto

- New Economy Week, 12-18 October

- Cities for People Toronto Leadership Summit, 12 November, Toronto

You can also sign up to watch the recorded livestream from the new economy conference by CommonBound June 4-6th, Boston.

Photo credit: Lucy Gao