In this discovery phase of Cities for People, the Foundation and its partners sought to identify new ideas and promising approaches to city-building. A group of curators identified projects to support and frame the initiative’s four themes, built innovation networks, connected the themes with each other and explored approaches to accelerating innovation within the urban landscape in Canada.
From both local and national experiments, we have been able to gauge those that suggest pathways toward the kinds of cities of the future that could claim to truly belong to everyone, and that are equipped to respond to the environmental, social and economic turbulence that is now a norm of contemporary urban life.
Recent movements around the world as disparate as Occupy, Quebec’s Printemps érable (Maple Spring), the Arab Spring and Idle No More reveal that the usual modes of what is called democratic participation are not cutting it. The act of voting every few years does not meet all of the aspirations or needs of the millions of people who depend on cities for their livelihoods, to feel a sense of belonging and to form communities. But new forms of participation, innovation and experimentation have already emerged – and it is these that we were so excited to surface and celebrate.
Cities for People provides a snapshot of what is working, and sometimes what is not working, in Canadian cities. Through the 18 months of activity, one incontestable fact became apparent: Canadians have a deep love for their urban spaces. Their industry and commitment make our cities better. The discovery phase has helped to sharpen our focus, guiding us in the choice of future grants and investments that will increase reach and deepen impact in this field.