On October 31, 2015, We The City featured speakers from community, municipalities and universities including SFU, UNBC, Queen’s, Ryerson, UofT, Mt Royal, OCADU, McGill, U Calgary, Dalhousie, UBC and David Phipps from York University. The event featured about 80 participants, three cities and four buses. We The City was a great showcase of KMb in the City.
Le 31 octobre 2015, We The City présentait des conférenciers issus de la communauté, des municipalités et d’universités comme Simon Fraser, Northern British Columbia, Queen’s, Ryerson, Toronto, Mount Royal, OCADU, McGill, Calgary, Dalhousie et UBC – David Phipps, de York, était là aussi. Environ 80 participants, trois villes et quatre autobus : We The City, une fenêtre ouverte sur la MdC offerte à toute la ville.
There are a number of University based units that create opportunities to connect campus to community. SFU Public Square is one of those. Sponsored by the RECODE program of the JW McConnell Family Foundation, SFU Public Square hosted We The City, a day of events featuring projects, courses and programs that support research and student experiences engaged with partners from community and municipal organizations.
I had the pleasure of delivering a break out session with Rui Tang, a fourth year Poli Sci student from UofT. We presented on community camps collaborations. Our breakout session was on a bus (yes, on a bus…more on that later). Rui spoke about her experiences working with communities in China and with immigrant women in Canada. She reflected that her engaged student experiences were instrumental in her learning but that she didn’t find any unique supports on her campus for helping her to connect to community. I was then able to speak about the institutional supports provided by York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit that help connect students and researchers to research partners to maximize the economic, social and environmental impacts of University research.
There were great questions on the bus (I’m getting to that unique feature) and reflections on the differences between working with community or municipal partners. To illustrate the municipal perspective I told the story of the collaboration we helped to broker that undertook an evaluation of the York a Region Welcome a Centre, a hall mark of the Inclusivity Action Plan. Citing the evidence from the « York University evaluation » the Regional Municipality of York invested over $20M to expand the Welcome Centre program from one to five Welcome Centres (now expanded to Durham Region) creating 86 jobs and delivering over 48,000 services to newcomers in York Region.
The best part of the daylong event was the format. We met for breakfast at SFU Surrey and had a traditional plenary panel. Then we grabbed coffee and snacks and went to one of four breakout sessions. Each session was on a tour coach that took various routes from SFU Surrey to SFU Burnaby. We then had lunch and another traditional panel following a walking tour of the sustainable residential development called UniverCity that is neighbour to SFU Burnaby. Then back on the buses for more breakout sessions en route to SFU Vancouver. From there we had a choice of many walking tours to see cultural, social, environmental and health community innovations. This showed off some of the amazing work underway in Vancouver’s communities. I toured the lower east side and saw the incredible work helping community address poverty and its associated challenges of mental illness and substance abuse. We visited the Incite safe injection clinic, a brave and pioneering innovation in harm reduction.
The format of this event was amazing. My only observation is that it would have been difficult for someone with limited mobility to participate if they couldn’t climb onto the bus or easily join the walking tours. But accommodation could certainly have been arranged if needed.
Thank you Shawna Sylvester of SFU Public Square who, along with an incredible team of student organizers, was the driving force behind We The City. Interesting day. Even more interesting format.