Application Number: 12
INITIATIVE: What is the title of your initiative?
Visioning Our Future Dwelling Together
RATIONALE: Why was this initiative developed? Briefly describe your vision for this initiative: what changes would you like to see in your community, in the college/university, and for the student experience?
Visioning Our Future Dwelling together is a socially innovative partnership between Ryerson University, +city lab and Eabametoong First Nation which reimagines community design and housing. Housing is isolated as a particular issue failing across First Nations communities, the result of top-down prescriptive planning which results in social and health problems. Together, led by the facilitation of +city lab, partners break down barriers to participation in community building and propose a uniquely community-driven process. Experiential-learning classes expose students to an Indigenous worldview, forcing recognition of the historical colonial processes of planning, uniquely building Indigenous-based content into the curriculum. Indigenous populations across Canada are young and growing rapidly, similar to Canada’s fastest urbanizing centres, however without the built or social services. On-reserve housing needs across Canada are high with particular deficiencies in remote and isolated communities (Canada, 2015). As a recognized determinant of health, these deficiencies create social inequities (Mushkegowuk Council, 2016) impacting the mental, physical and spiritual health of Indigenous populations who remain on-reserve as well as those who migrate to Canada’s cities bring this legacy with them. This initiative provides a new solution, focusing on the population it serves. At its core Visioning Our Future Dwelling Together is about listening and sharing. Learning develops power and understanding through listening and capacity building. Understanding with community members how local needs and values can be translated into the design process provides a unique understanding. Building the technical skills and vocabulary required, supports a future of self-reliance. Sharing, recognizes that the initiative’s success, and the formulation of an engagement tool can only reach a broad audience by building a platform from which Indigenous voices are amplified for action. Injecting these voices into a field, historically complicit in the colonial process, can spread the outcomes of this innovative partnership across Canada, reaching the many communities in need of a solution.
GOVERNANCE AND PARTNERSHIPS: Who will oversee and manage the initiative? How does it connect with other local, regional, or national projects or networks?
This initiative builds on an existing successful partnership founded on mutual respect. All work is jointly undertaken with funding managed by Ryerson University and activities and facilitation led by +city lab. Building on the growing resurgence and self-determination movements, this innovative partnership injects Indigenous voices into Ryerson’s planning curriculum while building technical skills and a model for community-led engagement.
OVERVIEW OF ACTIVITIES: Briefly describe the activities of the initiative: when did it start, what organizations and departments are participating? Give a few examples of what participants will be doing.
In 2013, through an existing relationship with Ryerson University, Eabametoong First Nation identified housing as a central concern impacting community health. Dr. Shelagh McCartney of Ryerson University became involved with the community as a result of her experience with housing systems in the global south. This initiative and the existing partnerships are the result. Building on past successful work in documenting limitations of the existing housing system, and engaging youth in the community design process, this initiative expands the scope of the partnership. Focused on the pillars of learning and sharing, activities create alternative methods to communicate issues, values and design preferences for change. Examples of such activities include: Listening: Community members share their preferences, teaching Ryerson students rooted in an Indigenous cultural perspective. Focusing on relationships with space and place, community members reinject their culture into the housing system. Participants are encouraged to engage in visioning with their own peer group as well as between generations, building mutual understanding. Sharing: Through an exhibition hosted by +city lab, the visions and voices of community members are shared with broader audiences. This image and video based collaboration introduces practitioners, institutional partners and others to the outcomes of the design sessions. Amplifying the voices of community members, sharing their stories and the student work derived from design sessions offers a cultural understanding which looks to change attitudes and practices with First Nations communities.
STRATEGIC LEARNING: What will success look like both in the short-term and the long-term? How are you assessing results? What will you do with this information, and with whom are you sharing lessons?
Measures of success for individual activities will be developed in collaboration with participants. Changes in attitudes through the course of the initiative of all partners as well as the public who attend the exhibition will be measured. Changes in community member capacity will be tracked to ensure effectiveness of facilitation. Student work will be graded to ensure that partnership principles are being upheld. Monitoring and evaluation of all measures will use a Sametrica customized matrix developed by +city lab. Through dissemination which will include the exhibition as well as conference presentations and both professional and academic writing the initiative looks to expand its social impact over the long-term. Visioning our Future Dwelling Together creates a model of engagement which leads to a more equitable housing system, contributing to community health. Spreading this approach, through the institution and across the discipline moves towards the decolonization of planning practice.
Would you consider your initiative to be a social enterprise?
Does the proposed initiative have potential to be applied elsewhere in Canada? If yes, please explain.
Yes, the engagement strategy and processes used here can be applied to remote and isolated First Nations communities across the country facing similar problems. Outcomes will be different based on community needs, values, climactic conditions and a variety of other factors. The principles of engagement and values of partnership, foundational to the project however remain the same.
1. APPROACH: Which departments are involved in this initiative? How will they work with community organizations, social enterprise, local government and within post-secondary institutions (i.e. with professors, administration and students)?
Planning at its core is a multidisciplinary practice, bringing together ideas from various fields to strengthen communities. This is reflected within the School of Urban and Regional Planning’s position in Ryerson University’s Faculty of Community Services. Drawing on faculty partners in social work and public health this initiative builds on the faculty’s mission to “transcend disciplinary boundaries to find lasting solutions to social issues” (FCS, 2016). This initiative exposes students to a problem not only multidisciplinary but also multi-cultural with strong historical legacies. Under the mentorship and guidance of Dr. McCartney as well +city lab, students will learn the values of community-driven engagement process and how to begin facilitation in such an environment. This initiative provides an experiential learning opportunity which instills the importance of cultural understanding, listening and learning in practice.
2. INFLUENCING POST-SECONDARY INSTITUTIONS: Will research or teaching within the post secondary institution you are a part of or working with be changed as a result of this initiative? How will the administration staff, faculty, and students be involved and recognized for their accomplishments within the college/ university?
Visioning our Future Dwelling Together introduces an Indigenous worldview, in particular around land and place, into a curriculum in which it is not currently present. Students learning directly from community members, and presenting this work to peers enacts recommendation 62.ii of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to action, integrating Indigenous knowledge into classrooms. This initiative would support the Chair for Indigenous Governance at Ryerson’s call for “sharing a commitment to transformative change” (Palmater, 2015) across the institution. Visioning our Future Dwelling Together looks to engage not just the students within its studio projects but the school to the importance of Indigenous knowledge within the discipline, and create champions for the inclusion of Indigenous content across the curriculum. Building on Ryerson University’s Academic Plan which encourages “fostering innovation” throughout the university, this initiative exposes this spirit of change into planning. Exposing students to the capabilities of their discipline to impact positive outcomes in communities, acts as an attempt to catalyze their own desires to use their technical education to create change in the communities where they choose to live and work. Visioning our Future dwelling together looks to disrupt the existing housing process, asking students to think critically about the systems which created and sustain the status quo and become part of creating a new model. The knowledge mobilization aspect of the initiative, captured within the idea of sharing allows the university to position itself as a leader in an emerging field. Students are given the opportunity to share their work and learning with peers and professors through final studio presentations at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Exceptional student work will also be featured in the exhibition exposing student work to the discipline more broadly. This initiative also allows for traditional academic publishing, led by Dr. McCartney as a means for mobilization to affect change within planning theory, practice and pedagogy. Bringing this initiative, partnership and exhibition to Ryerson University brings a new diversity to the school’s work. Creating important connections between north and south, allowing stories to be shared, community issues understood and creating a culture encouraging innovation in process and outcomes.
IMPACT: What will you be able to accomplish now that you could not before the collaboration? In what way will your organization work differently as a result of this initiative?
This initiative would allow +city lab the opportunity to grow its partnership with Eabametoong First Nation and increase its presence as a consulting firm in the space of Indigenous community development. As an emerging social enterprise, +city lab is focused on bringing innovation to this field, embracing community-led development and ensuring that Indigenous values are placed at the centre of decision making practices. Breaking from the existing colonial model, whose social impact continues to devastate communities, we look to develop an alternative. Visioning our Future Dwelling Together builds towards creating a healthier community, translating the visions shared by community members into action and through sustainable change focused on capacity development. Enabling +city lab to work with Ryerson University students creates the opportunity to influence the future of the discipline. A future which is also influenced by the exhibition, allowing +city lab to lead a showcase of this initiative to a broad audience, changing attitudes towards planning with Indigenous communities. Sharing and building allies across institutions and disciplines furthers the goal of creating healthier communities. Further dissemination, made possible by this initiative will look to disrupt the existing housing system, influencing policy, processes and practice by injecting a new set of values. This initiative would support an innovative partnership in providing a model of engagement, allowing +city lab to introduce the value of community-focused development to a much broader audience and drive action for change amongst all partners.
Dr Shelagh McCartney
Phone Number: (416)979-5000 x.2133
Mr Jeffrey Herskovits
Phone Number: (416)992-0073
Mr Neil Loewen
Dr Shelagh McCartney
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