Special June Newsletter: Montreal’s neighbourhood roundtables

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Click here to view our June newsletter:

  • Montreal’s neighbourhood roundtables: A unique model of inclusion and engagement
  • Collective Impact Project Awarded!
  • Be part of LEDlab’s 2017/18 internship program! Deadline: June 13, 2017
  • 17th IOPD conference - Montréal, QC. June 16-19, 2017
  • Cities of the Future: Co-creating Tomorrow - Vancouver, BC. Sept 25-29, 2017


Jane’s Walks 2017

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Discover the city through 150 walking conversations

This year is the 9th edition of Montréal Jane’s Walk, programmed by the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre.

Spring is back, bringing with it warm weather, the greenery ... and Jane’s Walk! The Montréal Urban Ecology Centre (MUEC) invites you to rediscover the city with the unveiling of the 9th edition programming for this event organized by and for citizens. With more than 80 walks in 19 Montréal boroughs and districts, citizens will have plenty of opportunities to stretch their legs on May 5, 6 and 7! Find out where walks are happening HERE, or organize your own: https://www.150conversationsenmarche.com/en/organiser-une-promenade/creer-une-promenade/

Read the full press release here: http://citiesforpeople.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/PJ2017_communiqu%C3%A9-presse_programmation_ENG.pdf

CIRM Lunch discussions at McGill University: March 21, 23, 24

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On March 21, 23, and 24, hear from innovators from academic, private, public and non-profit sectors, all of whom are seeking to ensure that 21st-century urban development balances economic, social and environmental concerns. These sessions will be bilingual (FR/EN), with no simultaneous translation.

March 21st, 10.00-11.30: Julian Agyeman, Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning - Tufts University, Medford, USA

  • Respondent: Prof. Hoi Kong. Faculty of Law - McGill University
  • Location: 3438, rue McTavish, Room 100 (McGill University)

March 23rd, 12.00-13.30: Tessy Britton, Director – Participatory City – London, UK

  • Respondent: Prof. Pierre-Emmanuel Moyse. Faculty of Law - McGill University
  • Location: 3438, rue McTavish, Room 100 (McGill University)

March 24th, 12.00-13.30: Rony Jalkh, Visiting Fellow – Project for Public Spaces – Beirut

  • Respondent: Prof. Richard Shearmur, School of Urban Planning - McGill University
  • Location: McGill Faculty Club, 3450, rue McTavish (McGill University)

Discussions will be moderated by Gorka Espiau, J.W. McConnell Professor of Practice (McGill University).

RSVP required: xavier.phaneuf-jolicoeur@mail.mcgill.ca (CRIEM)

​Montreal subway cars get new life and revitalize public space

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*Lead image from the Société de transport de Montréal: stm.info

Placemaker profile: Victoria Dickenson

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This is the first in a Placemaking Profile series in which we will share short conversations we've had with leaders in Canadian cities - from those who are actively building places that foster social inclusion to those who listen, engage, and tell stories from the communities that make up our cities. For more information about placemaking, please click here.

Victoria Dickenson: City Conversations (from the Placemaking Leadership Forum in Vancouver, BC, September 2016)

As part of a panel discussion on understanding and designing cities on a human scale at the Placemaking Leadership Forum, Victoria Dickenson shared her work organizing and facilitating in-depth, cross-Canada ‘City Conversations’. These semi-structured conversations surfaced city-dwellers’ values, hopes, and concerns about the place in which they spend time, from smaller, coastal communities like St. John’s, Newfoundland, to bustling cities like Toronto, Ontario which along with opportunities come a host of challenges, namely economic and social inequalities. 

We had the chance to chat with Victoria after her session about her learnings when it comes to seeking out, listening to, and sharing diverse perspectives about cities.

One of the aspects of placemaking that came up in your overview of the City Conversations you hosted was hearing about people’s immediate, visceral reactions to place. What are some of the strategies you use to surface those personal meanings and connections [that may not be heard or given undue attention in public consultations) so that they can be made more widely known? 

VD: [In my work as a curator] I was originally working in a museum in a beautiful, wooded site. When people came they would say: “This place is so beautiful; it feels so good!”. One day I had some Anishinaabe elders from Winnipeg visiting and I asked them: “What do you think about this place?”. They said: “There’s a real sense here that you’re on territory”. And it really struck me that we don’t spend half enough time exploring what it means to feel good in place. I went and looked at the literature, and  almost all of the authors - the geographers, the anthropologists, the historians, the architects - they all said that [feeling good in place] is indefinable, we don’t know how to describe it - but we feel it.

It’s the whole issue of respecting feelings. In Montreal, the conversations [touched on] when you’re talking about place, it’s not just a photograph - it’s a sensory experience...you can feel it in your body. So to get at that - what are these places - you have to listen to people tell you about the places that are important to them.

What might this process of surfacing these personal meanings and attachments to place look like?

First, they identify places...then you pull back and ask: Why this place? What is about it about this place...Is it a memory? Is it because you grew up there? In what way is it important to you personally?...Do you feel the significance of geological features [like two tectonic plates coming together]? Yi-fu Tuan, a humanistic geographer, talks about how the Grand Tetons of landscape don’t need interpretation...but other sites need to be [brought to the surface]. In literature or in the way that artists work, you find that they identify significant places...there’s a Newfoundland photographer, Ned Pratt, who takes photographs that make place happen in the spots he takes them in..


Photo of the Grand Tetons from www.popphoto.com


Portrait by Ned Pratt, www.nedpratt.com/portraiture


Proposed M T L iconography atop Mount Royal in the heart of the city - a form of placemaking for the texting generation? Photo: www.montrealgazette.com

Listening to people’s memories of what makes a place significant, understanding traditional communities and why they are where they are...many communities are resistant to giving up their sense of place. They say: “No you can’t change this - we want it to stay the same”. Well, why? We need to get at that Looking at how artists communicate place - whether it’s visual artists, authors, poets, songwriters - they identify places that are significant. Stan Rogers, a folksinger and songwriter in Atlantic Canada, sang about bays and harbours, the small places along the coast, and influenced a whole generation of Maritimers to celebrate their place.

You have to listen and look at how people have used literature, art, and [other means of creative communication] and their lived experience in place to identify those significant places. I think one of the questions, now that we’re such a globalized society, is: do we all recognize the same place? Do we have to [agree on significant places]? And what’s the role of place - if certain places have power, which is what Aboriginal people [might say], when we’re all together in that place, does it inform who we are as a people? Does the narrative come from the ground?

From a land-use planning perspective, I don’t think these personal explorations of place are taken enough into consideration, or even considered at all.

If you don’t think of place when you start a [planning process], and you only see the ground as either commercial value or a groundscape - and you don’t ask “What are the characteristics of this place?” before thinking about [how you might intervene]...the meanings are lost. That’s one of the goals of these [City Conversations]: to get place as a category of analysis.


Dr. Victoria Dickenson is an independent scholar and museum consultant. Her experience in museums - very special places - and her interest in cultural landscapes, have led her to develop the Conversations about Place project. She lives in, and has written about, Montreal, a city whose peculiar geography ensures that the past is always present; in summer, she lives in Newfoundland, where people belong to the place, not the other way round. She presented highlights from conversations held in St. John's, Montreal, and Toronto in a breakout session on The Human Scale at the Placemaking Leadership Forum. In the new year, she will host conversations in Victoria, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Ottawa.

Montreal’s Urban Sustainability Experience: May 27th

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Interested in the transformational power of cities? Join us for Montreal's Urban Sustainability Experience , a symposium hosted by McGill University, featuring Cities for People Curator and J.W. McConnell Family Foundation Program Director Jayne Engle delivering the keynote address.

Details about the MUSE course here.

MUSE 2016 symposium invitation

Photo from Open City Projects.


Social Innovation and Cities – Les Jardins Gamelin, Montreal

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This blogpost by Social Innovation Fellow Lyndsay Daudier was originally written for the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation blog. It has been re-posted with the author's permission.

Definition: An influence process leading to social change that rejects existing social standards and proposes new ones.

When referring to social innovation in cities, the one and only concern is the welfare of human beings in the environment where they evolve. This is increasingly important today since 80% of the population live in cities. We are experiencing a constant renewal of urban areas in order to meet the new needs of its inhabitants. We are witnessing political transformations, planning changes, technology improvements and the discovery of changes by city-dwellers and visitors alike.

For true innovation to occur in a city, economic/technical innovation must merge with community innovation, as it is largely the community that will benefit from these changes. A community does not consist only of its representatives, but all those who use it: children, young people, the active population, the inactive population, seniors, people with disabilities, newcomers, immigrants, First Nations members. It is therefore critical to clearly identify everyone’s needs.

Moreover, in keeping with the times, innovation also requires a smart design, whether it be in the use of technological tools for a comfortable urban life, the planning of a city space or the ergonomics of public equipment. The challenge today is also about working with what already exists and making the most of it. For example, the planning of a city space must take into account what has happened there historically, the population groups that already frequent this locale, as well as the existing architecture. Innovation is not a substitute for heritage. Instead, it must go further to find out what must no longer be done and respond to the new needs.


The builders of the city are not just the people who envision it; they are also the ones who pass through it and who live in it. To make the transformation movement a success, we must join forces. A vibrant example of this is the development of Jardins Gamelin in Montreal last summer. Beyond the notion of creating a city space, this garden was intuitively designed to take everyone’s needs into account. This public square, which had long been occupied by a homeless population, had to reinvent itself by keeping things simple so that everyone could use the space…without uprooting the homeless! A place where people can sing karaoke, relax and do yoga or garden and grow vegetables right downtown to help feed the underprivileged population. Among the highlights: a local user telling a tourist not to wake a homeless person who is sleeping in the sunlight and not disturbing anyone. After all, he’s at home…

Lastly, social innovation must not come at the expense of the environment. With findings across the globe, such as those established at COP21, we are going to have to innovate while preserving our resources, reducing our carbon footprint and using renewable energy.

Social innovation in a city is an often-misused term. Innovation must be developed with an overall vision: it requires a shift in thinking to change our cities while taking into account the needs, the design and the environment. More and more, the public is making its voice heard. Innovation also means sharing ideas, which often results in beauty and admiration for what has been created.

Musikiosk: Adding new layers to our sonic environments

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Our experiences in cities touch upon all five senses. Yet as planners, achitects, urbanists, and the like, we often fail to consider the element of sound. When we think about changing the built environment - adding a new building, streetscape, or park - we often limit our perspective to things like building height and massing, light,  shadows, wind, smells, microclimate. These are all important considerations, but the auditory effects of the spaces we inhabit, spent time in, and move through, may be neglected. We think it's vital to bring sound into the conversation, particularly when it comes to the public spaces that make up the shared fabric of our cities. A recent project that examines the effects of sound in urban environments is Musikiosk, a collaborative research project between the École de technologie supérieure (ETS), McGill University, the Plateau borough, and Montreal residents.


Image courtesy of McGill University, 2015

From Daniel Steele, Musikiosk research lead:

The opportunity to purposefully add sounds to the urban environment with the intention of improving quality of life is rare. In our cities, we spend lots of resources targeting and reducing sounds that we find unpleasant (noise), but an environment with no sound at all isn’t all that pleasant either, especially in the city centre. A growing movement, called soundscapes*, focuses on understanding and promoting the sounds of the city that we find positive: people laughing on the sidewalk, children playing in the park, music performances while we are eating. Good soundscapes can contribute to a sense of place and quality of life, especially when they are appropriate for their location and activity. But more research is needed to understand these links and how we can apply the lessons in the domains of urban design and planning.
*Soundscape is defined as the acoustic environment as perceived and understood and/or experienced, by people or society, in context.

Installing the Musikiosk speakers

Using the soundscape approach, a team of researchers from McGill and ÉTS worked with the Plateau Borough to animate the Parc du Portugal with sound. The researchers provided a system, named Musikiosk, that lets park users play DJ. Park users needed only bring their music devices and connect them to the provided cables or Bluetooth, then play whatever they want. (It’s that simple!) Users have had picnics, dance parties, and sing-alongs, and many more types of activities are possible. In the end, the researchers hoped to be able to enliven our small parks with the potential for more activities for users, provide the city with information about how to improve noise regulations, and contribute to the scientific understanding of the role of sound in urban places. Musikiosk ran every evening from July 31th- August 31th in Parc du Portugal.
musikiosk night

Musikiosk in the evening, bringing new sounds to Parc du Portugal

What's next for Musikiosk? The research team is interested in getting more details from you, our user, on your experience with the system and, for example, how you think it can be improved for future uses. We invite you to take part in a follow-up interview (30 minutes or less) in the Musikiosk gazebo in Parc du Portugal this coming week. This invitation is also open to those who have already taken our questionnaire – these questions are different. To thank you for your time, we will offer you a delicious gift!

So if you’ve used the Musikiosk system and you’re interested in talking to us (either in English or in French), please email musikiosk@gmail.com or reserve a time slot.

musikiosk logo 2
Cities for People was proud to support Musikiosk by facilitating some early neighbourhood outreach. As Parc du Portugal is an important gathering space for Portuguese communities in the area, the research team subsequently strolled the neighborhood with a Portuguese translator to talk to folks about their musical tastes and make sure they felt included by the system. While most Musikiosk users were not from this community, Portuguese neighbours actively participated when Portuguese folk music was played, and lit up the park with singing and dancing! We certainly think this was a worthwhile experiment in adding new sounds that add experiential value to a public space, and look forward to following this cross-disciplinary research team's work.


Find out more about Musikiosk:

You may also contact the Musikiosk researcher team:

Daniel Steele, daniel.steele@mail.mcgill.ca, soundscape researcher, Musikiosk research lead
Romain Dumoulin, dumoulin.acoustics@gmail.com, acoustician, Musikiosk technical lead
Jaimie Cudmore, jaimie.cudmore@mail.mcgill.ca, urbanist, participatory design researcher
Edda Bild, eddabild@incas3.eu, soundscape researcher
Prof. Catherine Guastavino, catherine.guastavino@mcgill.ca, soundscape researcher



Workshop on evaluating change: Montreal, Oct 27-29

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Evaluating Community Impact: 
Capturing and Making Sense of Community Outcomes

Interested in evaluating large-scale community change initiatives? The Tamarack Institute is hosting a three-day workshop in Montreal, October 27-29,


From their website:

"Moving the needles" on community-wide issues requires cross-sector coordination and an engaged community.

There are countless community change initiatives working on a diversity of issues in our country, such as early childhood development, health care, education, poverty and homelessness, immigration and workforce development. Evaluating Community Impact: Capturing and Making Sense of Community Outcomes is a three-day workshop intended to provide those who are funding, planning and implementing community change initiatives with an opportunity to learn the latest and most practical evaluation ideas and practices.

This workshop is best suited to those who have an interest and some basic knowledge and experience with evaluation and are eager to tackle the challenging but critical task of getting feedback on local efforts to change communities. It is not designed for professional evaluators.

This workshop is for you if:

- You manage programs that need to be evaluated

- You are part of a collaborative that is trying to understand how to evaluate

- You are a community development professional who wants to make the connection between learning and community change

- You are in a collective impact network and wanting to understand shared measurement

- Evaluation is part of your job description

Workshop Location:

Hôtel Omni Mont-Royal
1050 Rue Sherbrooke O,
Montréal, QC H3A 2R6

Find out more about the full learning agendaworkshop faculty, and registration.

Photo from Community Story Strategies.

Watch the video: Fred Kent shares lessons on placemaking

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How can we build better public places in our cities? In this video, Fred Kent and Kathy Madden, founders of Project for Public Spaces (PPS) in New York City, share the organization's internationally recognized approach to placemaking, using the "lighter, quicker, cheaper" method to demonstrate what is possible with a little creativity and vision.

Since the organization's inception in 1975, PPS has been testing simple, short-term, and low-cost approaches to enlivening public spaces. Their work has had remarkable impacts on the shaping of neighborhoods and cities: many of these solutions are documented in the 2007 book:The Great Neighborhood Book: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Placemaking.

This talk was organized by the Montréal Urban Ecology Centre as part their Urban Ecology Days program in May and June, 2015, and hosted by the Communauté Métropolitaine de Montréal. It was presented in tandem with the launch of the Centre's Guide sur l'urbanisme participatif: Aménager des villes avec et pour les citoyens, which is available for purchase or as a PDF here.

PPS founder Fred Kent shares lessons on placemaking from J.W. McConnell Family Foundation on Vimeo.