We The City: 2015 Community Summit

From October 30 to November 7 of 2015, SFU Public Square hosted its fourth annual Community Summit. This year, through a series of imaginative and interactive events, we explored the theme of city-building. We reflected on the important role of creativity, arts and culture in building and sustaining our cities and our neighbourhoods. By profiling the increasing pressure facing municipalities by surging urbanization and considering what attracts and holds people to our urban centres, we reminded residents of the power they hold to shape their city. Together, we deliberated on possible futures where everyone can not only survive, but also thrive. We invigorated the public conversation on how people can connect with their cities, find their voice, and enjoy increased participation in civic life.

Summit Events

  • Researching the City

    2015, Summit We the City, Cities

    Presented in partnership with SFU Vancouver and related faculties, departments, schools, programs and institutes, this storytelling event showcased how research activities have a positive impact on cities – in public policy, economic development, social justice, health and well-being. We looked at how university research contributes to and learns from the city's communities.

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  • Campus to City

    2015, Summit We the City, Cities

    SFU Public Square, in partnership with the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, hosted a one-day national conversation on the role of colleges and universities in city-building.

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  • Resilient Renewable Cities

    2015, Summit We the City, Cities, Climate + Environment

    A number of global cities, including the City of Vancouver, have adopted a 100% renewable energy target in one or more of their electricity, heating & cooling, and transportation sectors. While reaching these goals will require a shift towards renewables, the foundation lies in changing the way we plan and build cities and consume energy. The purpose of this event was to discuss how to best reconcile increasing renewable energy supply while reducing energy use and ensuring resiliency.

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  • Housing in the City: Beyond the Headlines

    2015, Summit We the City, Cities, Equity + Justice

    Headlines remind us constantly of our housing crisis: prices run amok, renovictions, and near-zero rental vacancy rates. This evening of storytelling considered the landscape of housing in Vancouver and beyond, with an eye on working households, at or below median income, in urban centers across Canada.

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  • Actions for Housing Now: Creating Affordable, Suitable, and Secure Housing in Canadian Cities

    2015, Summit We the City, Cities, Equity + Justice

    In partnership with the Tyee Solutions Society and the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, we hosted Actions for Housing Now. Attendees collaborated on real-world policy solutions for affordable, suitable, and secure housing for working households in Canadian cities, to be presented to Canada’s new federal government.

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  • TILT City: Engaging the Streets

    2015, Summit We the City, Cities, Arts + Culture, Community Building

    In partnership with HCMA Architecture and Design and their TILT curiosity labs, TILT City engaged the streets of downtown Vancouver with urban interventions. Engaged citizens had the chance to temporarily transform spaces in the public realm during this one-day interactive event.

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  • We The City: An Evening at the Centre

    Arts + Culture, 2015, Summit We the City, Cities, Community Building

    Cities are a reflection of our human needs and values. Our signature event considered how the arts create, reveal, critique and enhance the identity of our urban centres and powerfully foster connection, incite social change and build capacity for healthy communities. Candy Chang, Teju Cole, and Buffy Sainte-Marie provided compelling talks and Mo Dhaliwal guided us through the signature event of the 2015 Community Summit, co-presented with Vancity.

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  • ReThink Food: Sustainability Innovation Challenge

    2015, Summit We the City, Cities, Climate + Environment

    ReThink Food was a one-day innovation challenge for high school students across Metro Vancouver. Participants designed a solution to our sustainability challenge question and competed for seed funding to implement their projects. Over 150 students came together on November 5th, 2015 to generate innovative projects that will have real impact in their schools.

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  • Would cities be different if they were designed by women? | City Conversations

    2015, Summit We the City, Cities, Equity + Justice, Series City Conversations

    This special edition of City Conversation focused on women’s perspectives on city building, bringing a gender lens to the theme of our 2015 Community Summit.

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  • Downtown Vancouver Re-Imagined

    2015, Summit We the City, Cities

    We are thrilled to announce the release of the Re-Imagine Downtown Vancouver findings with the Downtown Vancouver Business Imporvement Association (DVBIA).

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  • Open City: One Book, One SFU

    Arts + Culture, 2015, Summit We the City, Cities, Community Building

    Teju Cole was in conversation with CBC Radio’s Eleanor Wachtel as they explored the power of cities and the lure of literature in this inaugural event of SFU Library’s One Book, One SFU.

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  • Leading and Learning: Innovative Tools for Advancing Sustainability in Surrey

    2015, Summit We the City, Cities, Climate + Environment

    The City of Surrey is updating the Sustainability Charter, our 50 year vision for becoming a more sustainable city. Participants convened for an engaging evening with thought leaders who presented their ideas on innovative tools for creating more sustainable cities - with keynote speaker Chris Ragan, Chair of the Eco-Fiscal Commission.

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  • Thrive! Surrey in 2030: A Residents’ Lab on the Future of their City

    2015, Summit We the City, Cities, Arts + Culture, Community Building

    Think like a city planner, take part in a unique city-building simulation, and experience what it feels like to live in the Surrey of 2030. Selected residents came together to build a vision for their city where everyone can thrive.

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  • Indigenous City Gathering

    2015, Summit We the City, Cities, Indigenous Voices

    Our final event of the 2015 Community Summit was a stirring evening featuring extrodinary Indigenous leaders, artists and community members exploring the theme of city building. From storytelling to live painting, traditional foods and memorable performances, the first Indigenous City Gathering sparked conversation and connection.

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In the News

First Indigenous City Gathering draws a crowd — Valentina Ruiz Leotaud, Vancouver Observer (November 9, 2015)

It was Saturday night and pouring rain. Still, activists, young people, not-so-young people and children crowded the SFU Woodward's theatre for the first Indigenous City Gathering.

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The night started with drinks and appies at a community market that was set in one room. While Corey Bulpitt did some live painting, artisans were selling dreamcatchers, accessories and organic coffee. Among those in attendance were City Councillor Andrea Reimer and Aboriginal Tourism BC representative Cecilia Point, as well as many artists and other community members.

Around 8 p.m. everyone moved into the theatre filling it completely. Shane Pointe, ceremonial traditional speaker from Musqueam, was in charge of the emotive opening words and blessings. "This wouldn't have happened 15 years ago," he said later. 

Pointe also highlighted the importance of the event by sending a message to the general public. "We know who you are, the sadness is that you don't know who we are. It's in moments like this that we get to share that with you." 

Shane Pointe.

Then came the highlight of the evening: A set by the Git Hayetsk Dancers that had the audience clapping, laughing, and dancing as they paid tribute to ancestral legends.

Amanda Strong and Bracken Hanuse Corlett then presented their stop-motion film Mia', about an Indigenous street artist who is transformed into a salmon and reconnects with her ancestral land. The movie was highly praised by the audience, as it was when it was showcased at the Toronto International Film Festival. 

Bracken Hanuse Corlett and Amanda Strong.

Among the final speakers was Ginger Gosnell-Myers, the Aboriginal City Planner at the City Manager's office who had strong words for the Indigenous community. "Hurting isn't what we are," she started saying. 

Gosnell-Myers stressed how important it is for First Nations to know who they are and where they come from to be truly happy and successful. She said studies have proven that the more people know about their background, the more likely they are to vote, volunteer, join a post-secondary institution and grow in their lives. 

Ginger Gosnell-Myers .

Buffy Sainte-Marie still has a lot to say — Dana Gee, The Province (November 2, 2015)

Iconic musician/activist has a speaking date in Vancouver

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Aboriginal voter turnout was so high in the recent federal election that some reserves actually ran out of ballots.

Buffy Sainte-Marie, the iconic performer and member of the Cree Nation, says the election turnout makes her proud.

But she does adamantly point out that electing a new government, and a record 10 aboriginal MPs, is just the beginning.

“Indigenous people can do a lot to help ourselves if we do get out and vote, so long as we don’t just become colonial ourselves,” Sainte-Marie said from her farm in Hawaii (she won’t give an exact location).

“Corruption in government can happen anywhere. There are plenty of corrupt Indian politicians, there are plenty in every group because that’s the nature of contemporary politics — there’s a lot of sleaze.

“I wish our new prime minister every success, but no matter who you elect you have to follow up. You have to keep your eye on the fox that just elected to guard the chicken coop.”

Sainte-Marie has been speaking out since she arrived on the music scene back in the early 1960s, and she will be speaking out again Wednesday at the Centre for Performing Arts in Vancouver as part of SFU Public Square’s We the City: An Evening at the Centre, beginning at 7 p.m.

The event is a discussion of the importance of art and culture in shaping a city.

Speaking at the event along with Sainte-Marie will be artist Candy Chang, art historian/photographer/writer Teju Cole, and cultural event producer Mo Dhaliwal.

“A lot of people are kind of interested on my take on whether the presence of aboriginal artists on the scene is going to make the city a better place,” said Sainte-Marie, who spent five seasons as a member of the Sesame Street gang.

“My comeback is: ‘Do the non-artists of the city have any idea of what they are missing in not celebrating all the artists in Vancouver?’

“Because I never see enough attention being paid to either music or art in the schools and out of the schools, music and art at home. I don’t think the problem is not that the city doesn’t do enough. I think as human beings we don’t do enough to encourage art in our little kids.”

Sainte-Marie is riding a wave right now, thanks to her Power in the Blood album having scored the coveted Polaris Music Prize a few months back.

“I’m very, very smiley. It’s a great gift 50 years after I started,” said Sainte-Marie, whose many honours include an Academy Award and multiple Junos.

“I’m really very, very flattered and I’m kind of proud of myself for having come forward with a record that feels so true to myself. But besides being proud of myself, I am very proud of the record company (True North Records) for having got it heard.”

Power in the Blood is a reminder that the fiery Sainte-Marie is one of the most profound purveyors of the protest song, a genre that, aside from some hip hop, doesn’t get a lot of play these days.

“I don’t think the audience has been unwelcome to strong words. I just think that most people are just too chicken to do it — they don’t want to risk their careers,” said Sainte-Marie, whose activism got her blacklisted by U.S. radio stations in the 1970s. “The record company is scared, everybody’s playing politics.”

When she is not in her garden or reading, Sainte-Marie is working on a piece for the Toronto Symphony and finishing up a children’s book.

“I just keep busy in the arts, and then when it comes time to get on an airplane I go out and give it away to other people and see what they can do with it.”,

© Copyright (c) The Province

Developer urges women-friendly city planning — Michael Mui, Vancouver 24 hrs (November 1, 2015)

Women are getting harmed by this lack of inclusion of safety in the way we plan public spaces or communities ... walking at night, which route am I going to take that’s going to get me from where I am now to my destination — I’d probably take a different route than my male counterpart.

— Carla Guerrera, Darwin Properties

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The real estate industry and urban planners have yet to realize women are increasingly the ones buying homes for the household — and that it is for them neighbourhoods should be marketed to, according to a top female developer.

Carla Guerrera, a vice president at Vancouver’s Darwin Properties, has spent 15 years working in the development industry — in an era that’s produced such follies as sidewalks too narrow for strollers to navigate, dimly lit streets that are a hazard to public safety, and neighbourhoods where the nearest services require kilometres of travel by car.

It’s a topic she’ll be discussing as part of Simon Fraser University’s “We the City” community summit, which runs until Nov. 7.

Guerrera’s problem with contemporary cities is men were designing them with little thought as to what the other half of the population needs.

“From a development perspective, there’s a huge business and finacial opportunity with this as well — with the purchasing power women have now ... we have a huge opportunity to build development and communities really targeted and incredibly marketed to women,” Guerrera said.

A lot of this comes down to location, choosing areas most likely to have accessible and inclusive services for women — or creating new neighbourhoods sensitive to women’s needs.

“Regardless of the fact there are more women working and contributing in the work sector, there’s still a primary dominance of women in raising children, caring for parents and in home management,” she said.

“It’s those roles and that kind of lifestyle women primarily find themselves in at various stages of life are very different from men — in terms of the way they use communities, the way they use city infrastructure, city services.”

There are solutions. One North Shore property Guerrera is working on focuses on the “key principles” of a community that works for women. It’s close to schools, daycares, transit, shopping, and green spaces like playgrounds. Guerrera also targeted women in the community for feedback in the development process — voices with lifestyles often too busy to participate in traditional public hearings.

Shauna Sylvester, executive director of SFU Public Square, said the summit will feature 13 events over nine days.

Opinion: We the City — Andrew Petter, Vancouver Sun (October 26, 2015)

Simon Fraser University leads a week-long look at city building

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Great cities are not built with bricks alone. They are alive and organic, and their greatness depends less on their physical infrastructure and location than on their cultural assets and social networks.

Cities are places where people engage — where they live and work, where they meet and learn, where they party and play. No matter the grandeur of the architecture nor the beauty of the setting, cities that lose sight of these imperatives soon start to decline, decaying from neglect and dysfunction.

So, we are the city. The question, for citizens and institutions, is how do we best fulfil our responsibilities — and make the most of our opportunities — to build cities that are stronger, healthier and more sustainable?

That’s the question for the fourth annual SFU Public Square Community Summit, running this year from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7. And the Summit itself can be seen as part of the answer. One city-building role that a university can play is as a convenor of important conversations — a public square for enlightenment and dialogue on key public issues.

Actually, there are a host of city-building opportunities for research universities, as well as for colleges, medical institutions, and other creative or knowledge-based organizations. In a major new report from the U.S. National Research Network, these are characterized as “anchor institutions” — the kind of talent magnets and innovation hothouses that can help shape and structure urban economies and enrich and strengthen the artistic, cultural and social life of the city.

As Canada’s most community-engaged research university, we at SFU never stop thinking about these opportunities. For example, in preparation for this year’s Community Summit, we convened a group of students from across the country to brainstorm about universities’ capacities as city builders. They identified four themes:

  • First, and perhaps not surprisingly, they raised the role of university students and graduates as change makers — a new generation of animators for growth and development.
  • Second, they pointed to the role of research universities to generate and mobilize new ideas and discoveries.
  • Third, they noted the related role that universities can play as hubs for economic and social innovation.
  • Finally, they identified universities’ potential impact as landowners and developers.

As an institution once dubbed “the radical campus,” SFU has never questioned the ability of our students to provoke or guide change. And being a leader in research mobilization, we have no doubts about the power of our research and discoveries. We pride ourselves on connecting this capacity to communities through facilities such as 4D Labs, a materials science lab that is programmed to work with private-sector partners on research and development.

This year’s Community Summit also follows the launch of SFU Innovates, a university-wide innovation strategy to link and harness our entrepreneurship programs and business incubation facilities — including Venture Connection (our student incubator), VentureLabs (our digital technology accelerator), and RADIUS (our social innovation lab).

Finally, as a landowner and developer, SFU has leveraged its physical assets to strengthen the communities we serve and to facilitate the exchange of education, culture and ideas. In Vancouver, we continue to build the downtown precinct that this paper has called “the intellectual heart of the city.” Our most recent facility, the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, will soon be joined by our new social innovation centre across the street at Hamilton and West Hastings. In Surrey, we’re planning to expand the campus that spurred the development of Surrey City Centre, and given rise to our Innovation Boulevard partnership with the City of Surrey and the Fraser Health Authority. And on Burnaby Mountain, we have drawn the community to our campus with the development of UniverCity, a model sustainable community that has earned environmental awards and international recognition.

The thread that runs through all of these city-building initiatives is engagement. As the National Research Network attests, the best university/city relationships are based not on “discrete transactions” or “partnerships of expediency,” but rather on “identifying shared interests, … co-creating ambitious goals and working together to achieve them.”

Simon Fraser University is leading the way in showing how this can be done, something we hope to advance even further with this year’s Community Summit. From a research activities showcase Friday (Oct. 30), to housing affordability dialogues Monday and Tuesday (Nov. 2 and 3), to a major public forum Wednesday (Nov. 4) on the role of arts in city-building with author/historian Teju Cole and singer/activist Buffy Sainte-Marie, we invite you to join us in a week-long series of events about city-building that are themselves an exercise in city-building.

With your engagement, we will learn and show how to make our precious city even better.

Andrew Petter is president and vice-chancellor of Simon Fraser University.

CBC Vancouver Sponsors We The City — CBC (October 16, 2015)

Reminding residents of the power they hold to shape their city

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CBC Vancouver is proud to sponsor We The City - the SFU Public Square Community Summit from October 30th to November 7th. We The City will provide the public a chance to reflect on the important role of creativity, arts and culture in building and sustaining cities and neighbourhoods. The summit aims to remind residents of the power they hold to shape their city.

Various events will be held across Metro Vancouver as part of the SFU Public Square Community Summit. For a detailed list, please visit the SFU Public Square website.

What will Vancouver look like when it grows up? [VIDEO] — Vancouver Observer (August 17, 2015)

'Re-Imagine Downtown Vancouver' is a chance for the public to take in a lunchtime panel and speak up about where it's headed.

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Where is this city headed in 25 years? And what kind of future do we want?

Those are some of the questions being posed at an SFU City Conversation event at a downtown park this Thursday, Aug. 20, co-sponsored by Re-Imagine Downtown Vancouver and Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) .

Re-Imagine Downtown Vancouver is a chance for the public to take in a lunchtime panel and speak up about where it's headed. What do you love about downtown Vancouver? What needs to change? How can we make this community one of the best in the world in which to live, work, play and learn?

These are important questions during this city's rampant growth — not unlike a teenager.

"Vancouver is still an adolescent not realizing it’s becoming an adult and not knowing what it wants to be when it grows up," says renowned architect and urban designer Bing Thom. “The fact of the matter is, it’s going to grow up very fast and if we don’t get a hold of it other people will determine how we’re going to grow up."

Vancouver appears to be all grown up but is still in adolescence, says renowned architect Bing Thom. Screen shot from DVBIA video (below).

The event takes place from 12:30-1:30 p.m. in the urban park setting at the north end of Hornby Street at West Hastings, part of the the DVBIA's 25th anniversary event that includes developing a collaborative and compelling vision for the 2040 downtown Vancouver experience.

A panel of speakers presenting their visions include: Lance Berelowitz, a planner, urban designer, award-winning writer and commentator, who will look at the evolution of downtown Vancouver's urban planning and design culture; Keltie Craig from the City of Vancouver, who will share her vision for downtown as a "healthy city" Rounding and the Very Reverend Peter Elliott, dean and rector of Christ Church Cathedral Vancouver, who will discuss his hopes for social inclusion and community building in downtown Vancouver.

Then it’s the public's turn to question, observe, and offer perspective and opinion. Here are a few:

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