By Nabeel Shakeel Ahmed
That's neat, you say, walking down the street. Flags representing each neighbourhood or local food? Oh, this is even nicer - re-purposing forlorn street corners as public plazas. It would also be pretty cool if a bunch of folks could come together and spruce up this community centre a little bit, some art supplies and a bucket of good will should do the trick.
These aren't daydreams. These are things that people are actually doing this Saturday, June 7, in four cities across Canada: Montreal, Halifax, Toronto and Vancouver. 100in1 Day is a festival of civic engagement bringing together hundreds of people who have ideas to make the city a better place and are putting them into action. What's important is that these interventions are not based on complex ideas and led by career citybuilders or nonprofits; the entire point is to demonstrate that every citizen can make a change, and that collectively, we can change our neighbourhoods and cities.
Over at Cities for People, we're interested in the question of how people think about the economy as well. (Two of our Cities for People partners - Evergreen and the Centre d'écologie urbaine de Montréal - are coordinating 100 in 1 Day efforts in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.) Many of the interventions, despite the organizers' plea to steer clear of politics, are actually making a deep political point - that current economic systems aren't delivering shared prosperity. We're interested in exploring new ways of thinking about money and wellbeing, taking different perspectives on consumption, production and investment patterns, and finding new business models that don't privilege private profit over public loss.
With this in mind, we've been going through the hundreds of fantastic projects that folks like you and I are putting together this weekend, and linking them with our focus on new economies.
Here are some of the initiatives we love:
Community Bunting Project
11am-3pm, Mount Pleasant Farmer's Market, 2300 Guelph Street, Vancouver
Laura Smit invites you to 'design a bunting flag that represents you, your neighbourhood or your favorite local food, rub shoulders with neighbours' and think about which senses they associate with where they live.
Mo' Plaza, Less Street
8am-8pm, Morris and Queen, Halifax
Bill Campbell is pushing to transform a relatively unused corner into a public plaza where Haligonians can 'show us how this space can improve the community and serve you.' Sounds like the place to be.
At Home in the Park
11am-5pm, Withrow Park, Carlaw and Cavell, Toronto
Julie Dabrusin subscribes to the idea that our homes extend beyond our front door and that public spaces like parks are where we actually live - and so she is setting up ‘rooms’ in Withrow Park where community residents can have lunch, play games, and make music together. I wish I lived in that neighborhood.
Living Library Environment: Citizens inspiring - original practices
1pm-4pm, Garden Native Cultures, 1850 rue Saint-Andre, Montreal
What if libraries were not collections of dead trees but meeting rooms for ideas and inspiration? Of course, this is the cliche that has defended libraries since times immemorial, but Montrealers will literally see a living library next weekend. Citizens will share inspiring ideas and practices for the environment with one another. Best part: no fines for late returns.
Author: Nabeel Shakeel Ahmed is part of the curation team on New Economies with Cities for People. He works at the intersection of social finance, development, cities and social justice. Nabeel managed SocialFinance.ca, the leading online community and knowledge hub on social finance and impact investing in Canada, before a fellowship with Aga Khan Foundation Canada in Kyrgyzstan. Follow @ns_ahmed.
Photo Credit: Community Bunting Project by Laura Smit.