Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody. --Jane Jacobs

What is Cities for People?


Cities for People Introduction / Introduction: Des villes pour tous from J.W. McConnell Family Foundation on Vimeo.

Most of us around the world call cities home, including here in Canada, where more than 80 percent of people live in urban areas. Globally, another 2.5 billion people will live in cities by 2050. Urbanization represents one of the greatest challenges of our times, particularly because of rising social inequalities, unprecedented demographic shifts, and environmental degradation. We must make fundamental changes to the way we think about and build cities if they are to become places where all people can thrive.

Our aim in Cities for People is to support inclusive urban innovation that contributes to more resilient and livable cities for all people.

Cities for People is an initiative of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation. We support a number of organizations and initiatives whose work complements our mission and expands the scope of our impact, including: Vibrant Communities Canada - Cities Reducing Poverty network; the Centraide Montreal Collective Impact Project to support new forms of neighbourhood revitalization; and Maison de l'innovation sociale to collectively reimagine Montreal and contribute to city transformation. We are also supporting explorations into placemaking in Canada as a catalyst for change as part of a Canadian Civic Commons Strategy, led by Evergreen, as well as a National Housing Collaborative to identify and implement key policy levers to address pressing housing and homelessness challenges in our cities.

What is our approach to city change?

Cities are “systems of systems”—they encompass streets, buildings, public spaces, parks, libraries, residential spaces, institutions, social networks and economic activity. Viewing cities this way helps us find opportunities to support efforts to make positive changes.

Following an experimental phase, in 2016 Cities for People began working with other entities to develop an approach for changing cities. We have teamed up with a host of institutions, municipalities and non-profit organizations to pursue the following priorities: 1) increasing equality, 2) strengthening the city as a commons, 3) enabling city labs, and 4) supporting urban innovation networks. Cities for People provides backbone functions to facilitate learning, communications, and field-building across the system. We aspire to collectively advance change and create conditions to better equip cities to meet the challenges of our times.

A bit of history

In spring 2016, we released a report on the Experimental Phase of the initiative. Have a look to find out how we supported new thinking and initiatives in the areas of Civic Engagement, Policy, Partnerships & Financing, New Economies, Arts & Community, Narratives, and Civic Commons.