CityStudio Vancouver


CityStudio Vancouver was co-founded by Janet Moore and Duane Elverum as a way to accelerate sustainability in higher learning and provide students with direct opportunities to work on the most challenging urban sustainability problems that Vancouver is facing. The idea was initially presented during a Vancouver Design Nerd Jam, and then posted on the Talk Green To Us in the fall of 2010. The project has received invaluable guidance and support from Sauder’s d-School Professor Moura Quayle, the Talk Green to Us team, hundreds of our students, and City of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnston. “
As a participant in the first cohort of the CityStudio Program, I thought I’d post my first reflection on the course.  We are working on Direct Implementation of the Vancouver Greenest City Initiative Goals under the themes of EAT, WORK, and PLAY in the Mount Pleasant Community.  I’m excited to engage in this new type of program.  Each day is a new challenge as I navigate an alternative mode of learning, and direct involvement with sustainability implementation in Vancouver.

City Studio Reflection
September 15, 2011

CityStudio is asking something of me that I’ve never been asked in a course before. I feel like it’s asking me to dig deeper into the knowledge presented to get something personally transformative out of it. In that way, it’s like I’m a part of this planned organic process, of which I never expected to connect with in this way. My initial reflection was different, but something clicked this week that made comments by Dale Bracewell and my overall view of the Greenest City Initiative slightly more tangible.
I’m a part of this broad and idealistic initiative being undertaken by the City of Vancouver. The targets we are looking at are ambitious; 150,000 trees planted by 2020 for example. If we are looking at things from an implementations end, there are major gaps between what is desired by the city and what may actually be possible. It’s the concept of limits.  How much can we really achieve of these plans? What is realistic? Towards the end of class when we were coming up with project ideas I felt like we had come up with some good basic concepts, but Duane’s question as to whether they were too safe garnered an immediate response of ‘yes!’ from me.
Yes! We need to develop ideas that are unique and innovative, with a healthy dose of spunk and ingenuity.  So how does one tap into the visionary within oneself to pose the type of questions to myself that will develop  ideas which focus less on what is realistic and more on what is slightly more …audacious.

It was Wednesday evening that I happened to be at a local municipal political event and saw all of this come to light. Candidates were ranting about bike lines and being more ‘realistic’ with everything from property taxes to ‘building prosperity.’ I thought back to Dale sharing his experience of presenting downtown businesses with the idea of a few less parking spaces for the construction of additional greenspace in the downtown core.  It becomes a typical political problem to deal with  a lack of understanding of the intent of both parties for new initiatives I won’t call it NIMBYISM as that term is used far too often to discount people’s concerns before listening to them and having a dialogue…. Furthermore,  those  angry about losing parking stalls, and then the element of political adversity in implementing visionary ideas started to make a bit more sense. Maybe in order to be more effective in community development and my work in building a green economy, I have to learn how to ask the right questions. Similarly, maybe in order for the Greenest City plans to ever come to fruition, we as the people implementing them have to learn to pose the right questions to stakeholders and people that we may partner with. In fact, that is what the city might have to do for all of Vancouver. If we can all ask the right questions and make room for more questions instead of demanding immediate answers, the visionary ideas might work. 

This is where it gets political, and therefore exciting :) . In politics you ask trigger questions like: Do you want your property taxes to go up? Do you like traffic? Do you want to be fairly represented in government?  The problem with these political questions is that the answer is already engrained. ‘No I don’t want my taxes to go up” ‘No I don’t like traffic’ etc… With the visionary element to the Greenest City Initiative, Vancouver’s questions must allow the public to ask more questions of themselves, the city, and their community. With those types of meaningful questions, maybe we can find some more common ground and new ideas. Maybe then the Greenest City Initiative Goals will begin to look like the future.


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