Cities in the Time of COVID-19: How Will Public Engagement and Participation Processes Change?

Featuring Jane Farrow, Principal, Dept. of Words & Deeds; Nicole Swerhun, Principal, Swerhun Inc; Zahra Ebrahim, Executive Advisor, Doblin; and Amanda Gibbs, Public Engagement Lead, City of Vancouver

5 Key

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. Time to do away with “the numbers game”

Government accountability and evaluation metrics tend to latch onto the quantity of engagement and less about the quality of the interaction and outcomes. It is time to “go deeper with fewer people,” as one panelist noted. Move away from consultation, toward co-development. It will be necessary to rethink who the vendors are to undertake public consultation: the real experts are those with longstanding, trusted relationships in community, i.e. non-profit and service providers. The ideal engagement specialists come from the grassroots of a community.

2. Bridging the digital divide

The engagement profession has attempted to make up for the inequities in access to online outreach by going out into community and meeting in person at libraries and community centres. Now, in the immediate and short-term – possibly the long-term – that stop-gap measure is not an option. So, the digital divide needs to be solved, once and for all.

3. Take a page from Jury duty!

Hyper-local engagement is critical if co-development is to be realized. One panelist proposed the idea of establishing a “community consultation service” – much like the jury duty process, where residents are randomly called upon and expected to serve and represent their community.

4. There is no digital silver bullet

We have to reassess what engagement is in the first place. What is a meeting, really? Maybe it’s time to go back to the old “analogue” outreach tools, such as bulletin boards, mail-outs and the telephone. The COVID-pause is providing an opportunity to rethink everything we do when we engage with the community – specifically reaching equity-seeking groups. “It is time to listen in a different way,” one panelist said.

5. A door closes, and another one

Engaging youth has been a persistent challenge. With the new reliance on the digital, there is an opportunity to bring youth, who have previously been elusive, into the conversation.

There are other community members who face barriers to traditional engagement forums, such as single parents, shift workers, the street community and people with mental and physical challenges. Online engagement holds some promise to broadening the outreach.

Additional Reading
& Resources

Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit, Viking Adult

No More Throw Away-People, Edgar S. Kahn, Essential Books

The Resilience Dividend: Being Strong in a World Where Things Go Wrong, Judith Rodin, Public Affairs.

How to run a civic lottery, MASS LBP

Full Panel

Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to with “transcription” in the subject line.  

MARY ROWE: [00:00:55] Hi, everybody, it’s Mary Rowe with the second instalment of CUI City Talk. Very pleased to have another gathering today. And we’re learning as we go with these sessions and we have another group today that are willing to step in with us and experiment on how we can create different kinds and ways of communicating with one another.

MARY ROWE: [00:01:16] And of course, their topic is exactly that: civic engagement and public engagement and how we’re actually going to imagine ourselves in the shorter term and in the immediate term, finding ways to enliven our democracy and so have access to the kinds of opportunities, input on development decisions and all sorts of things that are obviously need to be talked about and discussed and negotiated. [And what are the right mechanisms to do that? I just want to acknowledge that we are we participate on these across the country. And so I’m going to offer land acknowledgement here for Toronto. But everyone is participating with their own context. But here we’re speaking to Toronto, which is people knows the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Annishnabec, the Chippewa, the Haudenasaunee and the Wendat peoples and are now home here in Toronto to many diverse First Nations. We acknowledge that we are also subject to Treaty 13 signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit and the Williams Treaty signed with multiple Annishnabec Nations And we are anticipating having more participation from indigenous communities who are extraordinarily challenged by this. And we’re in the works trying to plan those sessions and make sure that we have as many topics that are relevant to the First Nations communities covered in these sessions and then focus on that and these forums. Just a caveat that I offered at the last one. You know,  like we’ve been really careful to make sure that we are not supplanting emergency services and we recognize that there are many, many, many thousands and thousands of Canadians across the country who are dealing with emergency situations. They are facing life and death decisions and all sorts of challenge and that these conversations are happening in parallel. But we want to be cognizant of that, that there’s much suffering and challenge that people are facing. We are trying to make sure these discussions are practical, that they’re focusing on specifics, that they’re dealing with these three timeframes, immediate, medium term and then longer term. And we are focusing on what’s working, what’s not and what’s next. We’re trying to steal ourselves to not engage in sort of superfluous prognosticating or big, big generalizations. We’re really trying to ground ourselves in what people are actually seeing. Observing is happening in the fields. Everyone here on this session and on every session,  we have is participating as individual. They may work for a public sector agency. They may have clients in the public sector or in the private sector. But everybody here is participating as an individual.

MARY ROWE: [00:03:51] And we also acknowledge that we are not fully representative.

MARY ROWE: [00:03:55] We’ve got four slots. We’re never going to get everybody represented. And we’ve had some major calling out about us not being as diverse as we need to be. And we’re taking that very seriously and trying to find a way to make sure that we cover the whole country as best we can and that we make sure that we’re representing a diversity of communities. If you have input to us about how you’d like us to be putting these sessions together, and if you’ve got suggestions about ones that you’d like to see happen, you can e-mail us at  And you can also tweet at us and do various things to just express to us suggestions on how we can make these sessions better. We also continue to need volunteers to help populate city watch and city share  It’s extraordinary all the partners that we have across the country, organizational partners and then many, many, many individuals who take an hour a day and watch or track for us and then input onto those platforms. So we’re keen to have as many volunteers that want to step in. We’d love to have you. We’re using a Twitter hashtag, as I suggested, which is hashtag city talk. You can carry on and communicate that way.

MARY ROWE: [00:05:10] We’re as I said, we’re learning on these things. And last time we realized the chat function is extraordinarily important. And so not all the panelists are looking at the chat. Sometimes it’s more difficult to do that. But we have staff and colleagues who were tracking the chat. And you can, by all means send a comment or a question to us and we will feed it in. You also last time what we found is people are having their own conversations on chat, which we’re really rich, kind of a parallel channel, which was great. And one of the participants who was watching keenly said to me, why don’t you keep that chat open for 30 minutes afterward? So we took her up on that and we’re doing that. So this chat will stay live for half an hour after the formal session stops. You can feel free to use that. And as I said, you can also use Twitter and other. Media, but stay on that chat. And I don’t know whether any of us can join you, but people you will all have a chance to chat with each other on that. And we’re recording this session, as you can see. Someone said this morning that to remember both in the chat and in terms of the conversation, we’re going to have that something that go. It’s not like Las Vegas, folks. If you put something up on that chat, it stays in that chat. So think carefully before you post something, because it’s up there for posterity. We are taking the content here and we are going to continue to harvest the best ideas, repurpose them, put them into some blogs, see if we can get some good audio files coming out of it. So the idea is that not just the groups that are on the call now, but others will continue to look at this as a resource.

MARY ROWE: [00:06:38] And we all know that we are learning on the fly and it’s important for us to document what we’re seeing now. We’re learning now and that may change in two or three weeks or in coded time, two or three days

MARY ROWE: [00:06:49] So joining us today, as you can see, are four lovely folks engaged in public participation, civic engagement. There are many, many, many terms for this practice. And these four have been at it for a while. Not that they’re all but they’ve been at it for a while and we’re very, very happy to have them. So in Vancouver, a Vancouver based public participation civic engagement practitioner, Amanda Gibbs, and then three in Toronto, we broke our rule here by having three folks from the GTA, but they have worked in a variety of circumstances across the country. Nicole Swerhun, Jane Farrow, Zahra Ebrahim and their bios and links to these folks has been put into the chat function. So let’s have a chat. Ladies, candid conversation on what you see happening. What do you think is working right now? What do you anticipate is going to be changing in the next several months and then longer term? But let’s start just with the right now, if we could.

MARY ROWE: [00:07:47] Tell us what you’re seeing and observing in terms of the practice that you may be engaged in directly or the church observing with groups that you work with. I’m going to start with you, Amanda. Good morning to you. And tell us how it’s looking out there and what your perspective is.

AMANDA GIBBS [00:08:02] Thanks, Mary. And I will just say, as your Vancouver participant, I’ll just do a quick land acknowledgement that I’m really privileged to work, live and play on the traditional and unceded territories of the Musqueum, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh and very happy to be able to do that. I currently work as a public engagement professional with City of Vancouver. I’ve been seconded to the City’s city-wide planning department.  We’re in the actually in the midst of trying to plan for the future of Vancouver. So in many ways we’re trying to plan for this precise complexity that has emerged. A couple of the things that I would just like to highlight I have incredible colleagues across the country in municipal P-2. Practitioners share ideas and resources all the time. We have a P-2 listserv. But one of the things is really emerging is that what we’re seeing is that the divides already within the engagement frame are just deepening. So when we see access, you know, as a result of lack of access, as a result of]resources, language, cultural currency, that is simply just deepening right now. And so what we’re seeing is now where residents of Vancouver may have had access to the Internet through their libraries and community centres – that has completely ended. So we have a lot of people who have been cut off where we might have gone out to those folks with in-person engagement. The other thing I’d like to mention [24.8s] is that further to that, I see a lot of folks looking at the [00:09:30]digital silver bullet. [0.8s] What is the digital engagement tool that is going to, you know, end all tools? And I think we need to be much more creative about that. And in fact, a lot of my colleagues are looking at analog to the previous point. How do we look at bulletin boards? How do we look at providing maybe digital capacity to our  networks that don’t have it? How do we look at, you know, maybe going back to mailout? We have to start thinking about how we are not just, you know, deepening again, doubling down on those digital divides. And then finally, I think the muscles that we’re going to need as engagement practitioners are not more technical skills than community development skills. In the recovery effort, we need to figure out how we support community. We’re not we don’t need to take from community. We need to figure out how to be capacity builders and thoughtful, a thoughtful platform and support for the communities that are struggling.

MARY ROWE [00:10:23] Thanks, Amanda.  This business about a city plan –  I think you told me that you’re working on a 50 year plan for Vancouver. Right?

AMANDA GIBBS [00:10:29] It’s a long range plan. And It’s a long range plan. The city has put a stop on all engagement, as many municipalities across Canada have. And our focus right now is supporting our emergency services. But what’s interesting is that our emergency services folks are learning so much from community and what’s needed. So it may end up being a recovery plan versus – you know, and in fact, be able to talk about when a post pandemic future might look like in Vancouver.

MARY ROWE  -Yeah, there’s this whole thing about people’s existing work being repurposed. You know, you thought you were doing this, but actually now you’re doing that. Yeah. And in the context of COVID. Ok, Jane Farrow, let’s go to you next.

JANE FARROW [00:11:10] Hey. So I’m thinking it just one can’t help but go in the direction of, well, something is breaking. Some doors are closing. There’s always going to be some doors that are opening. So absolutely here you, Amanda, that we have you know, we can’t double down on the digital divide. At the same time, I think we’re seeing an opportunity to create venues and avenues for people to come together, to engage to co-learn, to share that expertise that did not exist before. The first group that comes to mind is youth. These are people that are very comfortable on a digital platform. They’re the hardest to get to any kind of public meeting. We know this. We can be inventive and there’s ways to reach out and engage. But the more that we can up the  numbers of younger people, which I would consider really anyone under 40 practically, to engage, is a positive, is a net gain for us. So, you know, it’s a case of disaster hitting, this forces an opportunity. It’s not of our choosing. [00:12:17]But I I’m using the opportunity to think through what is the meeting we want as opposed to what is the meeting that is an engagement form instead of been forced upon us. And there really is this this moment [10.9s] where we should be listening really closely, being creative, but also not falling into this, as you say, the silver bullet. It’s not just a matter of [00:12:38]getting more jiggy with [0.8s] the technology. There’s no substitute for the fundamentals of transparency, inclusion face to face. This will never replace face to face. We’re in a time where we have to be inventive and create opportunities and platforms.  But there will never be a replacement for a small discussion group, a walk-shop. So I’m really hoping, of course, this is temporary, that we can use the opportunity and leverage, and I can say that this is a book that people are familiar with. Rebecca Solnit. [00:13:14] She really blazed the trail of talking about what happens in disasters. Mary Rowe, I know you’re all about this kind of thinking. Given your background in New Orleans and stuff. So that’s all I’ll say for now. An opportunity is here, but you never want to forget the fundamentals of transparency, inclusion and co-learning.

MARY ROWE  [00:13:35]  And what that’s going to look like going forward. OK. Zahra.

ZARHA EBRAHIM [00:13:35] [00:13:38] Thanks for having me, Mary, and it’s so nice to see everyone’s faces today. You know, I want to pick up on a few a few points, starting with  Amanda. What you were talking about, about going analogue. I think what’s really interesting and, in my experience, doing service redesign with vulnerable populations are typically underrepresented populations specifically within the federal government. [00:14:02]One of the things I continually notice is that we just take the sort of crappy offline processes and put them online one by one. [6.3s] So we do have a talk and then we have a discussion. And it’s you know, what I noticed, and I did this a lot of work on old age security and translating that program from offline to online. And the challenge was the fundamental rethink, the moment to rethink. And I think we’re in that moment right now. And the big part of the offline process [00:14:30]that I don’t want to take online is the numbers game. [3.2s] Right. I think this is the opportunity to get out of the numbers game when it comes to consultation and to think about deep qualitative work with folks who are underrepresented in building more intimate spaces. So to get back to the analog point, I think phone calls, I think, you know, I’ve done tons of research using text messages with folks who live in remote communities and don’t have access to data continually. And so, you know, Jane and Nicole and I have been working on a project together where we’ve been experimenting and proposing and thinking about these kinds of things. And it’s been a heavy lift to get us there. And [00:15:07]so I think looking at going deep with fewer people rather [2.6s] than broad with many, this is really the moment for that. And using what we learned from those smaller groups of people in those intimate conversations to extrapolate sort of bigger conversations we want to have with sort of civil society at large. Then the other thing I just want to pick up on is the community development piece. I think this is I’ve been doing some research with our Chief Planner’s office here in Toronto and the Wellesley Institute, my colleague Copi Hope, and we’ve been looking at public consultation with equity seeking groups and the sort of nascent kind of department of obvious insight that we’ve had is we need to rethink who the vendors are for public consultation. [6.6s And I say that, you know, all of us, you know, being cognizant of all of us on this call, doing that kind of work. But I think one of the things one of the things that we heard was that community development organizations are often brought in for an honoraria to engage their populations and are stretched and leveraged by vendors to engage their community without, you know, really being sort of supported and funded to do this kind of work. And in California, there’s a really great example of how they did their transit planning, where their RFP actually has a list for community vendors to pitch on consultation projects. Given that community organizations and community development organizations right now are really on the front lines getting insights about what people need. I think that this is really that moment to start to think about who our vendors are, who has frontline access, who’s having nuanced conversations about real needs and to support them. We don’t need to call consultation because that’s not what it is. But to surface insights in the conversations are happening on the front lines and use those for policy infrastructure development projects.

MARY ROWE [00:17:03] Right. I mean, I want to come back Zahra, we’re going to come back to a number of things people are saying, but I want to understand what you meant about intimate conversations like intimate consultation.

ZARHA EBRAHIM [00:17:12] So. So this sort of borrows from human centered design and ethnography. Like the best parts, leaving the bad parts of ethnography and taking the good parts where instead of asking people, hey, what do you think about this service? This transit service in your community? Instead, tell me about your life. It’s like,  let’s spend an hour. Tell me about what your day to day life has been like during COVID. And from that, if you were to talk to someone who’s struggling in this time, they might just they might talk about transit, they may talk about food access and they may talk about housing, but they’ll talk about it in a way and I think they didn’t think were relevant that are hugely relevant and nuanced.

MARY ROWE [00:17:49] Right. And of course, there’s that whole question of the dynamics when you get people into groups. OK, Nicole, let’s go to you.

NICOLE SWERHUN[00:17:56] I think it’s going to be first of all, thanks a lot for having me. I’m also delighted to have this discussion. I think it’s going to be a big “yes and” discussion between now and one. I don’t disagree with anything anybody said as yet. And at the same time, I’d also like to flag that there are some things that we can do using some of the technology options. We have to reach broader numbers of people.  So I absolutely would find myself repeatedly saying sort of your intention has to come first and the mechanism needs to come second. And the intention is what the most important thing is. Things like revealing good information, things like demonstrating the connection between the decisions that are going to be made and the feedback that’s received. Those are the fundamentals that are even more important now than ever. And then there are various tactics and tools that we can use  to make that happen. But I never want to get away from those fundamentals. And I do think there are some engaging technologies that can take five thousand people on a sidewalk, whereas before we might have taken 20 people on a sidewalk and having run projects that are province wide on province wide assets or like you’re doing now, Canada wide. There are certainly people joining us now that otherwise, you know, in person wouldn’t have had the opportunity. So I just wanted to flag that, but I wanted to back up a little bit. And because I know when we were preparing for today, you said, you know, what are you seeing? And I just want to come to actually the COVID 19 situation like head on and say what I see is a lot of communities trusting in what governments are saying. I see them listening to her late or not, they aren’t. They are. I see them. Listening to what the public health officials that are saying at whatever level of government and are relying on government for good information. So I see a lot of trust from communities. There’s always exceptions, but in the broadest of strokes, we see a ton of trust in communities. Communities have in governments. What I think is very important for us to think about right now is how to make that a reciprocal relationship. Right now, it’s a one way. Governments are telling people information is very, very important and helpful. And communities are responding in large part. But how do we think about this in an ongoing way? So that because I just want to throw in the two basic assumptions. You’re right. Of course, we know that all public engagement is based on one, the assumption people have the capacity to understand the condition of their own lives and two, that they can work together to improve those conditions. And so far, what we’ve got in our COVID experience is a very… we receive and “do” based  on direction from governments. But we’re going to need to think about what this means over the longer term and how can governments engage communities in a go forward basis so that we’re taking the benefit. We understand the lives we’re living and how can  that help inform how then governments respond. So we have this risk, this reciprocity between and trust building that helps address some of the cynicism that we know has been there for quite some time between governments and communities and communities and governments. I think I’d like to start thinking about how we apply some of this discussion to that.

MARY ROWE [00:21:16] And it’s not just governments, right? I mean, consultation is happening with private sector proponents and people in power. So, you know thanks, gang. I wrote about this a little bit last week with Spacing, where I said,  I used a term that Eric Klingenberg had coined when he was talking about heat wave in Chicago in the 90s and he said that the heat wave had been a particle accelerator. Everything that was broken in Chicago got completely exposed in three days when a whole bunch of people died and because of heat. And I feel like there were all sorts of challenges that we were having already in terms of how the public is engaged or not or how participation has worked, or not, excluded or not. And now we have this extraordinary ambush of stuff. And is this our chance? You know? So I’m so interested in a whole bunch of threads. Let’s talk a little bit about the point that Amanda first put up about the digital. You know, there is no silver bullet here. That, and I’d like to do something on that. And then I’d like to talk a bit more about what happens if we get out of this numbers game and we start,  I don’t know –  how we motivate that to make it more nuanced, more selective, how we get feedback? But Amanda, do you want to jump back in on what you’re seeing.

AMANDA GIBB [00:22:32] Sure, Mary. And I think, you know, I also wanted to build on some of the points that Zahra was making. But I think that, you know, what I’m hearing in municipalities or governments around the world – they’re actually looking at getting digital capacity to communities who don’t have it. We’re talking about human security, security and getting people set up, making sure that people have access to the Internet is going to be one of those base cases. It’s going to be like if you’re going to be able to connect into information, we need to make sure that people have access and phones. The other pieces that I know in our municipality, we’re really trying as hard as we can to think through this sort of reciprocity issue and the transactional, often transactional, nature of engagement. And one of the ways we’re doing that is we’re granting to community organizations.  City of Toronto did some great work and they did a public benefit strategy two years ago. And I think that’s something to really look at. How do we honour and support not for profit to have those relationships,  who have those connections?  You know, why would we be trying to duplicate that somehow replicate when there are these incredible leaders within the community who have that work? And so how do you resource in a meaningful way that works within public sector guidelines? So, you know, whether it’s procurement, whether it’s granting whether it’s some contracts that are meaningful. I think that’s something. And without the strings attached, it’s like we’re working with some of our local host Nations, different organizations, a grant so that they can hire staff to be part of all sorts of initiatives. So that’s one piece that I would suggest.

MARY ROWE [00:24:09] Amanda, what are you thinking about the statutory requirements I’d be interested in. We’ve got people here who work in different jurisdictions. What’s going to happen to the statutory requirements for consultation?

AMANDA GIBBS [00:24:18] Do you know what? Everybody is working really hard on that right now.  I think there’s no answers, but I think those are the kind of pieces. We’re currently,  our city is working on a regulation redesign, trying to make our own quite challenging requirements visible to the public and to applicants. But I think we’re working on that. And, you know, that’s something that we can report back on to you and say, here’s what we’re hearing from the field. I’d be curious to hear what other municipalities are doing around just that.

MARY ROWE [00:24:47] What are you hearing guys?

Jane Farrow Well, there’s certainly the challenge that municipalities are facing around timing, right? It’s not like they have solutions figured out right now. I’m sure they’re working on it. But the first and primary concern is what’s the right time to go out and have a conversation like this in the midst of, as you’re saying, Mary, life and death decisions and real crisis unfolding. So it’s not really the right time to kind of go out and say, what do you think about a swing set versus a water play set.

MARY ROWE [00:25:16] But some folks but some organizations seem to be doing it. I mean, a transportation authority, which shall remain nameless, seems to be going out with something which seems puzzling to me.

JANE FARROW [00:25:26] Well, I mean, there are people that are available, though, that’s the thing.  There’s people who are online and so on. There’s people out there, evaluating those pros and cons. It could come across as pretty tone deaf to go out at this time. But on the other hand, there seems to be an appetite. But that’s primary for a lot of people is like, what’s the time? So everything’s on a pretty  hard pause right now that I’m working on. But you know when will be that time will be the first decision that’s hard for municipalities  and organizations to make.

MARY ROWE [00:25:59] Anybody else know about changes to statutory requirements that other municipalities are exploring? Nicole or Zahra?

[00:26:06] I know that different municipalities have different capacity to go to work, period, just to keep the day to day functioning, going. And in some cases, it’s 30 or 40 percent of staff depending on the department. And so we’re hearing that there are some places where staff are well equipped to work from home. There are other places and servers are accessible with the capacity required. And there are other places where that is absolutely not the case. So I would say it’s premature to think about a change to a regulatory requirement at this stage. What I expect is that there will be an effort to demonstrate how you can use untraditional tools to meet that regulatory requirement. And I expect that to be the case all the way till the end of the year and that some of the ways that we’ll respond will become permanent as opposed to a supplement. So we will always have a much stronger combination of online and face to face engagement. I think from here on in. But we will be better at it is my expectation. We cannot get away from all the people that we miss and regularly miss, as Amanda and Zahra flagged very appropriately. The level of effort there just needs to go even further up. And I would say the baseline is already extremely low, but we know exactly why. And we know exactly what needs to be done. So it’s that’s just a question of well, but I think on the regulatory comment specifically, I think I don’t think we even have staff in place yet to make those calls.

ZARHA EBRAHIM  I just… have one piece. It’s a bit of a tangent, but I think it’s important to mention, which is its municipalities and public sector institutions that are continuing to go out to consult. I think they’re doing it in concert with vendors who are worried about their livelihood, which is part of where this conversation, this conversation together began, where I think I mentioned in a few of us mentioned that, you know, there’s a lot of consultation practitioners who are worried about how they’re going to earn money. So as opportunities continue to sort of be live, they’re continuing to deliver on that, I think everyone’s doing their best. And even if they’re delivering on what is a low baseline, they’re also trying to eat. And so I think there was a there’s something I just I just want to acknowledge that, you know, I think there’s a lot of people on this call who are worried about how their livelihoods are going to look and those they support and represent and how they’re going to continue to support them. If this work dries up in the interim. And so some of that ongoing consultation is as a result, I think. I want to be charitable this time. I want to be generous.  And I think that’s part of the motivation.

MARY ROWE [00:28:49] I know what you mean. I mean, I see that, you know, there are ongoing initiatives. I think sidewalk labs, someone just put on a chat, that they are asking for feedback on their plan. And some people are saying, wait a sec. What the hell? You know, can we just talk  philosophically for a second? Like, consultation, the dilemma with consultation, I think, for lots of folks is it sounds one way:  I’ve got an idea or an initiative or a thing I’m going to put together.  I’m going to consult with you to see whether you like it or if you can improve it or whether it’s a problem for you versus Nicole, remember, you and I were young and Sally LePard was trying to advocate for community based planning and making the point that we need to have collaborative process. And when we put up City Share that was for the very reason that one of the questioners who said, what about citizen science? Are we highlighting this because we knew that smart ideas are going to get improvised in communities now and as like this and you put up Zahra and others across the country who are responding in unique ways to their unique circumstances, they see an opportunity and they do something to do it? And we’ve got over 400 of these examples on the website and they’re going to continue. And that’s everything from – from that undergraduate kid who is an engineering student who put up something with a bunch of friends and got a bunch of experts to help them. So can we, do you think we could morph this? Is there a [00:30:12]moment here where we’re going to be able to somehow take consultation into a new frame that it’s actually co-development or something and not so much somebody with power coming out, getting input from people who don’t have power?

AMANDA GIBBS [00:30:29] I was just going to say there’s a lot of deep ruts that are, you know, well, well run around just those things. But what I’m seeing is that there is a little bit [10.0s] of elasticity right now and that my colleagues are all looking at how to collaborate in the first order support the recovery effort and figure out how we’re going to be in service in the near term. And I think they are I think a lot of folks are looking to community for leadership, maybe in ways that might not have been obvious to them in the past. So I think we do have a moment and I think it’s, you know, it’s one to certainly pay attention to.

ZARHA EBRAHIM I just want to jump in and say that there’s a piece around…. I mean, Jane and I were talking about this last night, like, if this is not the moment for reckoning, what is and we’re seeing this across aisles, and this is not just consultation. [00:31:20]This is the moment where we have the opportunity to rethink everything we do and specifically look at what’s happening to equity seeking groups at this moment and listening in a different way. The thing [10.7s] I just want to throw into the conversation is, you know, in the context of the conversation on digital tools, there’s a health equity practitioner out of McMaster, Julia Abelson who has this framework for health equity consultations. And it’s, you know, defining and delineating what you’re doing between representation, capacity building instrumental, which is like decision making and power sharing. And if we can distinguish what we’re going out to do, are we going to build capacity and literacy together collectively or unearth capacity? Are we going out to figure out how to share power on decisions? Are we going out to collectively make a decision? I think that will then help us re-tailor some of these processes right now where it’s just consultation. We’re going out to talk to the public. But what is the goals and what are the explicit goals and what are the tacit goals? And I think that we should be part of the reckoning of this moment is getting more nuanced and defined about what we’re going to discuss and engage or whatever with the public about so that we can then tailor and explore new tools for those  different outcomes.

JANE FARROW [00:32:42] I think that also on a very pragmatic level, there is a lot to be said about the fact that when you’re hosting things online and banking them and putting them so people can access and stream them at their convenience. That alone is going to make a difference. The most difficult people to get to in consultation are parents with kids for obvious reasons. And you can even put out the hot meal or bus tickets or the childcare is still incredibly difficult. And that is a group that is hugely impacted by the design of cities, transportation, all of it. And so that alone, just pragmatically speaking, the fact that you can stage consultations that roll out over several weeks, you can post information, discussion guides and videos and so on that people can access and interact with on their own time. You can then have an online version of it so that live you want to interact with people, and you can you could summarize. I mean, again, pragmatic, but this was one tech and this one tool – slido its called  which will probably many people are familiar. This [00:33:45]concept of even upvoting as you’re doing a chat –  like as we’re seeing the chat scroll along here, which is fast and ongoing. There’s some really cool stuff there. You know, just being able to put a like. [10.4s] So when you’re moderating a panel in public, you’re just kind of relying on reading the room. I think that’s kind of the sort of stuff that people want to do. I mean, I think we’re all facilitators here. You know, the classic move is “Let’s take three questions at the same time, we’ll have a little, you know, rapid the Lightning Round. But we all know what we’re trying to do is get three questions in the hopes that you’ll get one that’s really kind of feels more on point and not just going to get more attention from the panelists. So just there are tools up there for sure that are going to make things better and more awesome.

MARY ROWE [00:34:29] Can I go back to the sort of imminent  situation we’re in now for a minute?

What about decisions that are being made and taken? I mean, there are you know, there are things that that municipalities may have actually been very close to completing or there may be things that are actually instrumental to how we’re actually going to recover. So the recovery processes that cities are going to start embarking on. Thoughts on that about how… you guys have got a whole big bag of tools here. And is there do we need to sort it out? I mean, I know that we don’t want to resort to specific tactics. So what’s your sense of how we can navigate the emergency things that are going on now?

NICOLE SWERHUN [00:35:10] I wanted to jump in and it’s nice to see some friendly faces on the chat here from communities and from governments and nonprofits, everybody in there. I want to flag that. And I don’t mean to speak in the broadest of strokes only, Mary, because I know you want to get specific, but the point that we make better decisions when we understand the consequences of those decisions. So we go to make a move and we learn and then people say, wow, this did this, this and this, that was good for me. And this, this and this that was terrible. Or maybe actually there was nothing really very good about that. It was really tough. Why don’t we try thinking about this or that? And I guess what I would come back to is if I’m in government these days when I’m thinking about is trying to reestablish connections not on a project by project basis, but on how do we serve generally. And figuring out how to tweak the imagination of those who have the time and luxury to pay attention to say help me understand how the actions that we’re taking as a public as public actors are impacting you. What’s going well and what’s not going as well? And its super basic. What are some of the ideas that you have on how we could think about doing it better? And so you just have to make that is the thing that’s that that we are very good at is siloing some of these important conversations. And even when it comes to annual budgeting in this municipality, you know, we have a budget conversation writ large that’s quite separate from all of the other budget conversations we have all year long. And so when I see Andre Côté up there and Mary Pickering kind of chatting on how this works, this is this has to be rooted in an effort for and I think municipally is the most relevant level. But we can also think about it at other levels of what are the moves I’m making? What are the consequences on you and what are some of the opportunities that we could explore together to try and make life collectively better?  Because, I mean, very quickly, the CUI 20 years ago went to Bosnia, because that was part of our work to do a peacebuilding building project that was based on community engagement. What we’re ultimately doing here is trying to find a way that we can all peacefully live together. So we need the ongoing mechanisms that can do that. Sorry to jump over.

MARY ROWE. No, that’s good. You guys are part of the system that delivers on the social contract. Right. And if consultation is shitty, people don’t, then it ripples into all sorts of effects. So this is the moment, I guess, to see whether how this is going to get transformed. Right. [14.9s]

ZARHA EBRAHIM [00:37:56] Just a really quick point. I love that point, Nicole, around – how are we talking to neighborhoods and communities consistently about everything versus just a project by project basis? And I want to do a shout out. I’m sorry for those of you not in the GTA.  to the St. James Town Community Quarter, which is a great example of an organization that is hugely taxed because they do an annual spring gathering where they surface insights from the community through one to one conversations and very intimate gatherings and conversations with community members to surface themes to dialog, once or twice a year with their entire community and neighborhood. And they make sure to find those hard to reach folks. And they need more support to do that from municipalities. And they are getting it to a certain degree, I don’t mean to imply that they’re not. But there’s tons of community organizations that are doing exactly what you’re talking about.

MARY ROWE [00:38:53]  Is this the model? You know, I know we saw early on these neighborhood pods starting to surface, Facebook, caremongering,  they’re basically very small units that engage. Nicole, it’s what I think it’s what you’re talking about is that people have a chance to talk more broadly about what are the various components of their lives and how to get how do we harvest that, how do we enable that input and then how do we harvest it to have that inform broader decision making? Do we have a good process like this anywhere?

NICOLE SWERHUN [00:39:25] I’ve got one. We’ve got a democratic process through jury duty. We can easily implement on a neighborhood level. Every10 years you’re required to sit on a community association. You [13.7s] don’t have to be a landowner or the property owner to do it. It’s everybody that lives there. And you take a role and you rotate. And those bodies feed into our elected officials something that’s institutionalized, that’s grounded in smaller geographies, which is very similar in some ways to the planning office ideas that I know Cindy and Paul Bedford for sure and others have raised over the years. And that you’re saying now. I mean, there’s infrastructure at the local level where we’ve institutionalized its connection to our elected officials.

AMANDA GIBBS [00:40:15] I’m going to just flag something – and I don’t want to be the wet blanket, but I think the design. And I absolutely agree, that model, it has so much value and we’ve used it in different contexts. One of the things that folks like Jim Deer in the US. He’s worked in Seattle and Portland and helped to create these neighborhood councils is what they found is that in fact, the folks with the most access and the most resources have found those places to then have their access to power. And I think we have to get really [00:40:45]good at this. I think there are those models are beautiful, but the design of them has to be incredible. I would look at Empowerment Congress in L.A., one of the largest districts in the L.A. is something called Empowerment Congress. And what they did differently was they did huge call to young people, to community folks. They gave them a direct channel and decision making access to decision  makers and the decision makers had to listen to them. I think when we sort of supercharge community groups without getting clear about governance and who’s there, I think we risk, again, deepening that. And I’m going to make one more micro point, and that is this is also a moment where government can either veer towards radical transparency and open government or closing the door. And I think we may not be able to include everyone in the decisions we’re making right now. It just may not work in this current context, but I think an antidote to that is committing to radical transparency like saying showing under the hood in every instance. And that’s not easy. That, again, is a  moment.

MARY ROWE [00:41:51] So, Amanda, I understand the command control need when you’re in a pandemic and you need a strong central authority that’s making those key decisions, militaristic kind of hierarchical thing. I get it. But what about, you know, in Toronto six decades ago, we had community based planning offices. We devolved a whole bunch of stuff. We had a history of this. And decisions were actually taken at the local level, empowered at the local level. And is it not possible that we could imagine that we’re going to want to move back to a decentralized approach so that people have access and now through the civic jury system that Nicole dreamt up, can we not do both? Can I can we not hear you [00:42:31]about radical transparency in the [1.4s] case of situations where you can’t have everybody in? But what about all that granular stuff that could be navigated locally?

AMANDA GIBBS [00:42:39] I totally agree. I think it’s just being very aware of who participates and how to design those processes.  Are you aware of the Empowerment Congress? I mean, there’s some really cool models out there. So I think that I think it’s in the design to ensure that it’s not just forgive me, more things white people like and have access to. It has to be something that is expansive. That is it is designed for inclusion. And then the other pieces, ya, those neighborhood models are going to become more important now. Neighborhood resilience. Neighborhood knowledge. I’d also point you to the front porch project in Seattle. For years they’ve been trying to figure out how to, you know, and it’s got its flaws, but they’ve been really trying to figure out how to how to support local knowledge and to really pay local folks for their navigation of community knowledge.

MARY ROWE [00:43:30] You know, we’re going to make sure that we put up on the chat all these models that people are proposing. The Empowerment Project, you need to hold that book up again, Jane, people are asking for the Solnit book  – just hold it up to your screen and hold it long enough that people can actually see it.  Thanks. Let’s just now talk a little bit about what kind of advice are you able to filter back to your clients and to your close colleagues about how they’re going to pursue consultation in the next four or five months?

JANE FARROW [00:44:12] I’ll make a quick point. One of the key values in the sort of engagement work that I tried to do is and this is what’s going to be, I think, quite challenging in a digital context is to kind of narrow social distance. You know, we’re in the middle of don’t have a public meeting. I mean, how much more of a crazy challenge is that our business is bringing people together, convening conversations. So we’re finding these ways to host them, do them digitally, Zoom Zoom, etc. But at the core, I see [00:44:41]the work that I do when I’m doing my work really well is narrowing social distance and enhancing a kind of civic literacy and an understanding for other people’s perspectives. I guess we can do that online, [11.2s] but there’s no I mean it’ll be really hard. So I do a lot of walks. One of the things that happens is someone, you know, the head planner or the local neighborhood planner is walking side by side. You know, maybe one of the skateboarder kids, who come with their parents. Cool, fun. He has a chance. Go away. Why can’t you just put a couple of things, a couple of pieces in the park and the kid is never going to speak in a in a giant town hall. But now, you know, you’re sort of encouraging that connection. Go, hey, you know, you brought your skateboard. Hey, Greg. You know, did you notice this or the person who’s been really oppositional to things going on and they’re actually seeking information and just purely like I need more data. Why would you cut down that tree? The city official feels kind of under attack when they’re up on a podium… it’s a terrible context. The division only is exacerbated. So in these other kinds of configurations that are more face to face, the opportunity for people to understand. Oh, I see. Or get their question answered and ask that in direct and grant each other the humanity that we need. And that is critical for our cities. That’s where I really think of big picture is the opportunity that engagement present to bring each other together to appreciate, from various sides of the table the challenges and the opportunities to colearn.  That’s what I referred to when I say co-learn in civic literacy. And that’s what I really have the eye on, trying to keep building in.  So maybe this is going to be about community mapping and storytelling. Maybe it’s a really focused on, you know, creating community events that bring people together that, you know, have a learning component of, you know, how does infrastructure work? How do we get water up and down so that people can understand that the complexity of cities more.  I mean, the risk that you hear everyone talking about now is that NIMBYism is going to be on the rise, especially as it relates to density, because oh, apparently these are the petri dishes for vermin and disease. So we’re going to bring people together even more potentially. And I feel that that’s the great challenge.

MARY ROWE [00:47:01]Are you thinking about how you’re going to straddle the hyper-local? Because there’s there are risks where the stakeholder groups that traditionally show up or the rate payers and the well-resourced folks and the NIMBY thing takes hold. But if you if you bring it out a bit to more neighborhoods to appreciate that it’s not just what you and your hyper-local have, but what about across this district. Is there a [00:47:21]mechanism to get more collective empathy? [1.5s] I guess.

JANE FARROW perhaps. But you’ll always have to  privilege, if not prioritized the local because it’s local impact and so on. But yes, broadening it out to bigger city interests, making places at the table for people to listen and learn from each other. And but again, I keep going back to I think there are people who will engage in these processes now that didn’t before. What about the millennials that might actually stand the chance of getting a house now? You know, we would like that. We see that renters like people who don’t usually come to meetings. I bet you they’re better able to kind of become come to the table, given the flexibility that we can build into these processes. But I think other people have thoughts on this, too

MARY ROWE Interesting. So flexible, diversity, adaptive, all of these concepts that we know are important to urbanism. We have to really drill right down to this discussion of engagement. Other people that want to weigh in on this one?

 AG I’m really worried. I’m really worried about losing that chain. That moment of where you bring people across difference and you build that empathy, we were actually designing a process that we’ve had to postpone, potentially cancel. We were kind of creating a big tent opportunity to have people who are have different types of housing tenure or different experiences in the city speaking across difference. And I don’t know how you duplicate that. I don’t know how you get there. I know that Public Agenda in the states, if anyone knows the public is their URL. They’ve actually piloted some small scale, I think to Zahra’s point, some SMS dialogs. It might be good to look at that.  The National Issues Forum in the States, but it doesn’t it never gets a moment of bringing people together and I’m really worried about that.

MARY ROWE Can we go back to your analogue idea that you offered earlier, what about bulletin boards? You know, I was in New Orleans for the five years after Katrina and I was thinking about this morning that webinars are the new public meeting. In New Orleans, you went to – Nicole you were there, too, there were five or six public meetings a night. And we were completely dependent on coffee shop bulletin boards. That’s how we learned. And people hand-made signs and put them on the roadways. So what other analog techniques can we… you know, the old story. Let’s go back to doing it the old way. Other thoughts about it. Zahra, you mentioned telephone calls …

NICOLE SWERHUN Canada Post!  You can easily, and what we’re working on at the moment is a tear off. So, you can notify sixty five thousand seventy five thousand people about a project. Everybody has an option for a tear off. And in turning that tear off, we have thought it does force somebody to walk to a mailbox. We got that. But until we as long as we have Canada Post, we’re still thinking, OK, well, we can at least ask and expect somebody to walk to the mailbox. And then you can also get your materials in a hard copy mailed back to you. So this is really going to be critical on a bunch of projects where people can’t get to the library, as Amanda said, and people have one computer at home, not five or one per person or whatever. And so we think that that’s going to be a pretty that should be a pretty straight up process and should help us stay connected to many more people in the incentive to do that mail out now with that tear off is that much higher because you don’t have the face to face offer. So I think we’re going to see more of that.

ZARHA EBRAHIM I think what’s really exciting right now that I’m finding is that at the very least, in Toronto, our municipality is so open to proactive outreach. So I’ve been speaking to Two on One Toronto, a huge shout out to them because I mean, they’re United Way agency. There’s two one ones across the country. The thing I’ve been so inspired by is with proactive outreach to say, like, what do you need help with? They’re just saying, yes, please. And so if you’re interested in all those people out there who are interested in evolving municipal practices, this is the moment where you don’t have to wait for an RFP to drop.  Go and ask and don’t get in the way. But ask  Be the hand on the back. A couple points just in terms of tips and tactics. One of my favorite quotes –  I won’t say the person because he’s not totally lucid, but he says he’s a designer who sort of rants about fascism all the time. But the thing he does say to all designers is that “labour without counsel is not design”. And I think it’s a really interesting analog for what we’re talking about here, where this is our opportunity as practitioners to say “no”.  Or to give good council when we’re being asked to do things that are irresponsible and reckless and maybe even tone deaf. So I just think that this is the moment. If we’re going to have a reckoning, it’s going to have to be practitioners who have that sort of frontline access to municipalities and in public institutions to “Ask why, say no”. That’s a huge part of this. And then the last thing I’ll just say is that I think one of the things that’s come up in this research I’m doing with the city and Wellesley Institute has been, again, surprisingly, that the quality of the facilitator really matters. And so I think there’s this huge threat to public consultation right now, worried about their livelihood, everyone is worried about what it’s going to look like. But the thing that I don’t think will change, whether it’s me picking up the phone and calling someone, you know, in my neighborhood or hosting a meeting of 100 people, that that compassionate lateral thinking kind of capacity is never going to be useless in this space. And so I just think about, you know, instead of just trying to figure out how to bring your stuff online, think about how to sort of bring that kind of quality facilitation to different scales, because that’s not going to go away. The need for that’s not gonna go away.

MARY ROWE [00:53:09] I wanted to go round once with just a quick 30 seconds from each of you. But I guess one of the fundamental questions that I see, Susan Chin from New York has raised is how do we make sure that actually top officials at the top are actually listening to what it is that we’re generating here from the bottom? So as I go around just 30 seconds from each of you about how do you think we can ensure that the decision makers are listening to us?  Amanda, first.

AMANDA GIBBS  I think this again is that moment. I think that the decision makers are worried about their communities. They are worried about their staff. They are on the fly. They’re looking for support, good ideas. And I think to Zahra’s point,  I think those helping hands are welcome right now. I know that in our city there’s a real interest in,,, well, we’ve put everything on hold, but we’re really looking towards listening to the innovation that’s out there. So I think there is a listening ear right now that maybe isn’t always there. Just speaking about Vancouver. But, you know, in cities across Canada,

MARY ROWE   It is kind of a moment where all hands have to be on deck.  Zahra, thirty seconds.

ZARHA EBRAHIM[00:54:15] You know, I want to do a shout out to all the practitioners that have reached out to me this week. People who would typically be competitive, making out with me, but with some of my peers and community and who said this is the time for solidarity. And people who would can conventionally typically be in competition for some of these opportunities need to come together and shape together and make asks together. So I think this sort of coalition building and solidarity across practitioners is really important. Let’s have really great debates. But let’s take a unified and productive voice to institutional leaders who have a lot going on right now and just need to know what we want, So I think if you get together, I want to do a shout out to Liz from Lora who reached out this week and the process gals. And like, there’s just so many great folks. I’m not even naming all the awesome people that I just I’ve been hugely impressed by the solidarity.

MARY ROWE [00:55:07] Zahra, is that what you mean by vendors? People are asking what you mean by vendor?

ZARHA EBRAHIM People who actually play this intermediary function, people who bid on contracts with the city or public institutions to facilitate public consultation or civic engagement activities

MARY ROWE [00:55:24] I mean, it is interesting. With each one of these events that we do, we are aware that there is a constituency of folks that gather on these particular discussions. And that’s why we want to keep the chat open. And that’s why we want to think going forward, how do we have these kinds of peer to peer conversations? That’s really the business that CUI is in.

ZARHA EBRAHIM Last piece – I would just be like and I don’t want to say that all of us are doing it right. I’m just saying that  one day we can get together and reckon ourselves, with some of the  problematic nature of some of our work, but we need to have one voice.

JANE FARROW [00:55:56] Ya, vending.  I just can’t stop  thinking about hot dog wagons. It’s hard to say consultants, isn’t it? OK. So I think that the onus, if I can say that we need to hold ourselves,  our feet to the fire as the consultants, vendors, that we need to really be clear what it is people are being asked to have input on that, that, you know, what’s up for influencing is what makes it relevant to people. What makes it relevant to politicians? If you just want to go and go, hey, what do you think? And let’s have a blue sky. It’s a complete waste of time. It’s disingenuous. It’s not helpful. So our job as consultants to make sure that we have real clear ask and task, what is up for influence,  people, can their input can, in fact be used because that is the basic muscle set that will keep people coming back, but that will want to make politicians want to read your summaries. That is relevant. So the future is possible. Let’s hope we can rejig it and it is broken. But let’s make it compelling and interesting. And I’m going to really blow your mind here: FUN! Because guess what?  They’re giving you their time, they’re giving you their heart, they’re giving you their mind. The least we can do is make it interesting and God forbid, just a little bit fun at times. They deserve it. People are giving you everything that we could ever want. So let’s treat them with respect.

NICOLE SWERHUN  I think I’ll be brief. When you ask how do you make sure people are decision makers? Listen. It’s the same reason that I would listen. Because there’s a consequence on me, either a benefit or a drawback, period. So in my mind, when we are aware of the world around us, which all of us are, and when consultations are connecting with lots of people, we become extremely we get a lot of insight from those people on what consequences are things that you would never even think about. And so,  ultimately we’re in a democracy where people are eventually going to need to vote. So to draw a line between a few different pieces here, there is an incredibly important connection between what happens in the community among people who vote. What happens with our elected officials and what happens with the institutions that they direct and the staff that are in those institutions that support those elected officials and then support the community. So what we need is a good two way information flow so that people in positions of power who make decisions over public policy understand the benefits that that can be gained and the drawbacks of certain moves. And then if they make a move and you can’t be so risk averse that we do nothing, that you have the humility, if you make a move, you leave the door open for feedback and you’re like, oh, god, that was wrong.  Everybody can say, no, no, look, I have my open channel back and I know you tried it and it didn’t work. So now you need to adjust in this way or that way. And I think that this this is the most compelling reason that people would listen, because there’s a consequence, a direct consequence to either a benefit or a drawback. And I can’t reinforce that enough and if I’m going to do a product placement thing, Daniel Yankelovich, 1991, Coming to Public Judgment. I’ve got it right here…. This guy, you know, it’s he’s written a lot of books and he talks about the quality of a public opinion, but also about that same quality relates to decision makers. Decision makers do not make good decisions if they don’t understand the consequences of what they’re doing. They know that. So that’s I’ll leave it at that.

MARY ROWE OK, so listen, the stakes probably couldn’t be higher than what we’re facing right now.

And you’ve been such an engaging group to try to help illuminate a conversation about how what’s the role of the intermediary like you and how all of us can be engaging in informing really good decision making going forward. I will agree with all of you that my experience. Hello sweetheart (cat enters the scene).  I will agree that nobody is saying to us, Oh, we’ve got this. Absolutely nobody has this. So we have a window where the wisdom of crowds is going to win out, we hope. And then people who are in roles, who can facilitate this kind of engagement. It’s so incumbent on us to do it smartly and appropriately so. I want to thank all of you for joining us. I’m just going to make the point to our listeners that this is just this is the end of this chat. But now the real work begins. The chat will stay open for 30 minutes. Lots of resources that have been suggested here that we will post on. If they’re not on the chat already, we’re going to post them subsequently. A recording of this will get posted and we’ll write some blogs about it. Again, give us suggestions as to what you’d like us to be covering and what the follow up should be. I’m just going to finish with this call for transparency that Amanda emphasized. If the decision can’t be engaged upon, let’s make sure we’re being transparent. And then are we really, as Jane and the others have said, are we engaging in stuff  where we can really have an impact?

MARY ROWE Tomorrow you’ll receive in the morning an email with the sessions for next week, there will be three one on Monday on regional local economic development, one on Wednesday on community wealth. And on Friday. Those are panels at noon ish. And then on Friday, we’re going to start a one on one conversation with people that have very strong things to say. Mayors will start two weeks from now, and this Friday, a week from tomorrow, will be Jay Pitter.  So thank you very much for joining us.

Full Audience
Chatroom Transcript

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12:05:57          From Lisa Cavicchia: please chat here!

12:06:07          From Danielle Wiess to All panelists: Are we all on mute as attendees?

12:06:13          From Canadian Urban Institute: #citytalk

12:06:16          From Sue Hallatt, CUI Staff to All panelists: YES!

12:06:21          From Anna Procopio to All panelists: Hi everyone, thanks for setting this up.

12:06:23          From Canadian Urban Institute: yes, Danielle, you are muted

12:06:27          From Abigail Slater to All panelists: Great idea!

12:07:29          From Neil Chadda to All panelists: Hello

12:08:10          From Michael Redhead Champagne to All panelists: oh Toronto lol

12:08:33          From Canadian Urban Institute: Hi, All. If you have questions or comments, please chat with panelists AND attendees. Thank you!

12:11:08          From Carolyn DeLoyde to All panelists: I have a question about statutory requirements like adequate notice for development applications?

12:11:32          From Michael Redhead Champagne to All panelists: yes, what about basic things like bathrooms? From a design perspective people can’t live well enough to engage in community proccesses if they dont even have a spot to go to the bathroom — especially right now during covid-19

12:11:41          From ajeev bhatia: Planners need to develop community development skills – I love that Amanda! Would be nice to tease that out a bit more – it can be nuanced and often conflated.

12:14:06          From Mary Pickering to All panelists: Give us that book title again please!

12:14:14          From Michal Kuzniar to All panelists: Can we get the title and author of the book in chat?

12:14:14          From Dawn Green to All panelists: What is the name of the book Jane mentioned/

12:14:16          From Dawn Green to All panelists: ?

12:14:20          From Steve Krysak to All panelists: Could you share that book title again?

12:15:02          From Mary Rowe: Paradise Built in Hell Rebecca Solnit

12:15:34          From Abigail Slater to All panelists: That’s an interesting observation Zahra…but I also agree with Amanda that community development skills vs technology are essential.

12:15:40          From Elizabeth Jassem to All panelists: Much earlier/before Covid-19 – we started working with planners in Toronto/NY and giving them more “meat” to learn… there’re still far too slow in response.

12:16:03          From Steve Krysak to All panelists: Thank you Mary!

12:16:41          From Andrea Winkler to All panelists: Agree! We need to get out of the numbers game. Do you have ideas of what to replace this with when reporting out to clients/government? Really good point.

12:16:42          From Candice Leung: With the strategy of going deep with fewer people, how does one identify those key stakeholders?

12:17:00          From Paul Dowsett to All panelists: Agree with Zahra – it’s time to get off the numbers game. Let’s expand the bottom line from just economic /numbers to include the very real, but less simple to quantify, social and environmental costs.

12:17:11          From Naomi Devine: I’d love to hear more about going deeper with fewer people – objectives, techniques, outcomes/outputs. Wonderful.

12:17:14          From Jason Diceman: Over 10 years, most public consultation I have witnessed does not effectively measure representation. There have always been lots of divides and barriers. We need to have metrics for equity to know where we need to make more efforts and where we already are succeeding, as we go.

12:17:29          From Michael Redhead Champagne to All panelists: THANKYOU for mentioning changing vendor processes to include supporting the economic health of community members and groups. Cities especially have a role in setting that standard across their jurisdictions

12:18:59          From Jay Claggett to All panelists: APA to the south are exploring this…pilot

12:19:12          From Adrian Cammaert to All panelists: looking at the practical side of things, I’m hoping to gain an appreciation of how municipalities are meeting their public consultation requirements amid COVID.

12:20:11          From Canadian Urban Institute: Folks, just another reminder: all attendees would enjoy seeing your comments, so please change your chat settings if you can. Try not to limit your interactions to panelists only.

12:20:15          From Mark Richardson to All panelists: Thoughts on using Geo-Mobile tracking/tagging technology to engage people in Public-Consultations (eg. People who’s phones regularly pass-thru specific transit-Stations / neighbourhoods) to get away from the “Letters sent within 150 M of the subject site” default that many Cities have..?

12:20:26          From Mary Pickering to All panelists: Yes Nicole – first mindset (intent), then skillset (capacity) and finally, toolset – carefully selected to fit intent.

12:20:30          From Aqsa Malik: What is considered relevant – validating the experiences of the public is important and may not often be done. As Planners it’s essential that we recognize that. So yes dig deeper even when using traditional modes of public consultation.

12:20:46          From Mark Richardson: RE-POST: Thoughts on using Geo-Mobile tracking/tagging technology to engage people in Public-Consultations (eg. People who’s phones regularly pass-thru specific transit-Stations / neighbourhoods) to get away from the “Letters sent within 150 M of the subject site” default that many Cities have..?

12:20:47          From Lanrick Bennett to All panelists: One the of the more disturbing things I’ve noticed over the years (having two kids that I bring to as many community meetings and consultations as possible) is the fact that your local representative makes or breaks community engagement. if they choose to limit voice or challenges to their existence of power, Wednesday evenings at 5.30, with no food or water and forget about livestreaming in the basement of church continues There needs to be a reversal in the power dynamic of how information and actions are push forward within our communities.

12:21:09          From Andrea Winkler: Re- post: Agree! We need to get out of the numbers game. Do you have ideas of what to replace this with when reporting out to clients/government? Really good point.

12:21:13          From Paul Dowsett: Retext to include all attendees: Agree with Zahra – it’s time to get off the numbers game. Let’s expand the bottom line from just economic /numbers to include the very real, but less simple to quantify, social and environmental costs.

12:21:21          From Kahlin Holmes: How to change your settings so both panelists and attendees see your comments/questions: above the input field is a drop down menu next to “To:” from there you can select “All Panelists and attendees”

12:21:32          From Dianne Himbeault: Given that this emergency had pushed a reliance on tech, do we need to shift thinking that tech is a fundamental utility like water, and that digital literacy is as important as reading and writing and requires additional investment esp. in marginalized communities

12:21:38          From Carolyn DeLoyde: Yes – I have a question about how to meet statutory requirements like adequate public notice for development applications?

12:22:32          From Aqsa Malik: @Dianne Him… I would say yes. You lose access to fundamental information if you don’t have internet access. City departments are not televising updates to their services. This happens through their internet access

12:23:03          From Abigail Slater to All panelists: Infrastructure initiatives must include broad band access across the country.

12:23:14          From Abigail Slater to All panelists: Yes we don’t even have clean water yet.

12:23:37          From Yurij Pelech: Topical session so thanks for coordinating. FYI and perusal, CNU had a session the other day entitled Virtual Public Engagement: Developing a More Inclusive Approach to Charrettes which was rather informative. Cheers.

12:24:29          From Elizabeth Jassem to All panelists: Hi Nicole, as you know YC SSC started our dialog with strong commitment not to be only be as a responder to governmental info.. AND.. barriers are still coming down too slow.

12:24:37          From Ayaa Mohamad to All panelists: RE: The number game point. This is something that is becoming increasingly difficult in the non-profit sector where funders are still expecting quotas and objectives to be met

12:25:08          From Russ Mitchell to All panelists: Great book – No More Throw Away People, for thinking about reciprocity as a norm

12:25:11          From Hena Kabir: Adding to Carolyn’s question above, how do we meet statutory public meeting requirements through virtual platforms

12:25:30          From Michal Kuzniar to All panelists: Access to information also speaks to the affordability of telecommunication offered by our largest providers. Secondly, Toronto General Hospital is collecting old cell phones to help communicate with patients who do not have a phone or a way to get their results.

12:25:55          From Jay Claggett: American Planning Association is piloting this approach to move public meetings forward

12:26:55          From Naomi Devine: The assumption that people are available is an interesting one – as many are dealing with very serious threats to their health and/or the health of their loved ones.

12:27:01          From Kevin Devitt: further to Amanda’s point, there is also an opportunity for NGOs and other groups to expand on “citizen-science” initiatives that support environmental epidemiology research

12:27:44          From Isaac de Ceuster: I have experienced the same Naomi, people have other things on their mind…

12:27:53          From Liz McHardy to All panelists: time will tell! certainly there will be a mix of face to face and digital moving forward

12:28:00          From Donna Hinde to All panelists: Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing issued a document March 2020 Providing Flexibility for Municipalities to Hold Local Meetings During Emergencies

12:28:04          From Charles Montgomery to All panelists: We are dealing with parallel issues of urgency. I see cities like Vancouver making crucial decisions on issues such as rezoning, while pausing engagement processes. How can we keep decision making moving forward on some of these other crucial issues, since they also have equity repercussions?

12:28:04          From Naomi Devine: Yeah – exactly, Isaac

12:28:32          From Lorne Cappe: Interested in what the panel thinks of Waterfront Toronto looking for feedback through online surveys regarding WT’s response to SWL’s plan.

12:28:35          From Molly Steeves: I agree with Naomi – and this is an important point. How do we engage when people are focused on providing for their basic needs right now?

12:28:42          From Geoff Kettel to All panelists: But transportation construction work impacts on residents and it is continuing so it is right to continue with consultation but using virtual methods

12:29:05          From Grant D to All panelists: What is your understanding about post-COVD recovery planning that is happening at the city level and supporting institutions (ie., FCM). Are cities dedicating small teams to think abut the new “normal”?

12:29:12          From Alan McNair to All panelists: Can Zahra clarify what she means by “Vendors”?

12:29:16          From Sarah Davies: Naomi, very true. The assumption is that we’re all at home and thus available. In reality we’re all dealing with different levels of capacity for anything other than being concerned for one’s health and the health of their families.

12:29:26          From Charles Montgomery to All panelists: Yes, we know that in traditional in person engagement, the older, wealthier homeowners are the most likely to show up. How do we stop that from being the case with online and remote engagement?

12:29:29          From Abigail Slater to All panelists: Yes to Sarah D

12:29:42          From Marina Sloutsky to All panelists: I think that whatever people give feedback on has to be deeply tied into how they are feeling right now. It’s impossible to ask for one piece and not, at the same time, also hear about their current struggles. We have to make space for that if we want to go there.

12:30:22          From Liz McHardy to All panelists: shout out to Sally Leppard!!! YES!!!!!!

12:30:24          From Abigail Slater to All panelists: Is the collaborative process almost be definition exclusionary during these times?

12:30:27          From Abigail Slater to All panelists: or even other times.

12:30:50          From Andres Assmus to All panelists: What is the example from Mary for community engagement?

12:30:51          From Lara Muldoon: What if the capacities of these consultants could be shifted in the support of serving the very real needs of communities and citizens in this time?

12:30:51          From Abigail Slater to All panelists: *by

12:31:08          From Chris Chan: We can fiddle with the PC process all we want. The bottom line is that people will only show up in person or on-line to PC’s if they at all care, thinking it will impact their property values, have a bone to pick with local government or their neighbour(s), or have the time. Its more of a cultural shift than a process shift.

12:31:09          From Mojan Jianfar: Something that brings me hope in these times is people’s amazing creativity and ability to come together in such meaningful ways to have deep conversations and build community. I think there’s something to learn from these virtual community-led movements of participation, from daily interactions to cultural experiences. It’s bringing together people that may not have otherwise participated.

12:31:41          From Marion Cabral: There is going to be a lot of reliance on tech and using online platforms for consultation. However, what ideas are out there for rural areas that may not have stable, reliable or consistent access to the internet?

12:31:59          From ajeev bhatia: great point mojan (hi!)!

12:32:06          From Andre Cote: One of my big concerns right now: as govts are making some of the most consequential decisions in our lifetime at record speed, there is no time/space/capacity to engage Cdns in broad, inclusive and representative ways – and the small circles of biz or policy elite with access to decision-makers being most heard. Any thoughts on this? Or how govts can do “crisis consultation” to make sure the perspectives and needs are being heard, and that trust can be maintained?

12:32:11          From Tanjot Bal: I think there is an opportunity for online consultation during the current pandemic, however we should be careful with making decisions (especially with development applications) due to issues such as limited internet connections & limited technological resources.

12:32:16          From Mary Pickering: How about creating a new word to replace “consultation” to support/signal the idea the co-creation and community leadership is critical in these processes. Also commitment to take community-led ideas seriously within government process – that means governments willing to share power – and risk.

12:32:18          From Russ Mitchell to All panelists: Perhaps this Is a time when we help communities to breath, and resist the temptation of bringing our own agendas, but make our primary goal as agencies to support residents engage and collaborate internally … and learn from them

12:32:38          From Candice Leung: who was that health equity researcher?

12:32:40          From Liz McHardy to All panelists: I don’t think consultation is the right word to use at all

12:32:59          From Elizabeth Jassem to All panelists: Great point Amanda!! This is absolutely CITIZENS moment to lead collective work.

12:33:11          From Jane Tsai: Yes, could you please share the name of researcher behind health equity consultations?

12:33:17          From Abigail Slater to All panelists: And to what degree does the PC change or modify plans?

12:33:21          From Zahra Ebrahim: Julia Abelson

12:33:27          From Candice Leung: thx!

12:33:35          From Zahra Ebrahim: Representation, Capacity Building, Instrumental, Power Sharing

12:33:36          From Michelle Bested to All panelists: Can you say the four priorities again Zahra?

12:33:41          From Cynthia Wilkey: In the 70’s Toronto had community planning offices that were located in communities. The planners got involved in a broad range of local issues. They were a huge resource for communities and developed relationships with many groups who otherwise would not have access to city policy practice. Budget cutbacks and cost saving closed those offices. Is this an opportunity to think about bringing this back to provide not just one-off or periodic consultation, but rather continuous conversations about community needs.

12:34:20          From Jesi Carson: Julia Abelson is a partner in the Participedia project. We’re building a collection of Covid-19 response wiki entries here:

12:34:43          From Elizabeth Jassem to All panelists: Great points Zahra. Representation, Capacity Building, Instrumental, Power Sharing

12:34:48          From Laurel Davies Snyder: I think that something to consider is that COVID is highlighting existing gaps, inequities, and assumptions that existing with public engagement (e.g. lack of understanding of the purpose of the activity, using tools that exclude).

12:34:51          From Michal Kuzniar to All panelists:

12:35:21          From Jason Diceman: is great tool for group participation beyond chat and up votes

12:35:43          From Adrian Nandez to All panelists: Hello to all! Zahra, I liked you had the “equity seekers” in mind. Do you know of initiatives looking to make a dent on food/energy security?

12:37:42          From Mary Pickering: How about a durable local resourcing arrangement with an ongoing financial support structure embedded – like Community Improvement Associations parallel to local Business Improvement Associations. Part of their role could be to build local leadership capacity, and to serve in the way that Zahra said, to support local community development capacity in a more robust way – valuing community relations and normalizing the investing in social infrastructure – especially given its critical role in building resilience to incidents like COVID-19.

12:37:57          From Sarah Davies: I also worry that the existing gaps aren’t only being widened in the short-term from this, but it’s going to have a generational impact as recovery will be easier for those who start from a more privileged place. It isn’t only a conversation about the right now, but also the long-term, generational issues.

12:38:12          From Dave Dilks: Thanks to Mary, Nicole and all the panelists for doing this today. We are all trying to navigate this unprecedented situation right now. And it’s great to hear colleagues chatting about where we are and are looking to go with engagement in uncharted waters.

12:38:19          From Carolyn DeLoyde: Community energy planning can be part of the municipal responses to the climate emergency that many municipalities have recently declared. What are your thoughts about the climate emergency during COVID times?

12:38:53          From Aqsa Malik: There as information disconnect – Planners know it’s important, those who have time/resources/knowledge/understanding of Planning matters know it’s important. But there’s an entire demographic that isn’t involved. They may not see it as relevant or impacting them. There’s a gap of understanding.

So we can reach out as much as we can for input but there’s need to be a recognition of the value not only from the Planner/NGO/etc. perspective but from the public

12:39:29          From Susan Chin: How do we get govt officials/top down to realize that value of listening to the community/bottom up?

12:40:39          From Susan Lloyd Swail: Community based planning groups need base funding to become part of local decision making. Too often local committee

12:40:40          From Abigail Slater: Yes to Sarah D aboveIs the collaborative process almost be definition exclusionary during these times?
or even other times.

12:40:42          From Jason Diceman: We need to see championing from organization / government leadership to take open ended engagement seriously. But I don’t see it from the elected officials.

12:40:45          From Jennifer Cutbill to All panelists: Nicole: brilliant!

12:40:51          From Dianne Himbeault: The challenge will also be that community consultation does not devolve into NIMBY and a highjacking of the process

12:41:52          From Mary Pickering: Right on Nicole – great idea. Building the leadership from the ground up – help us change the make-up of our political leadership – so greatly needed – agree that the design has to be very democratic – lottery like – maybe like jury duty.

12:42:01          From Aqsa Malik: @Amanda Gibbs – Decision Makers had to listen but were they required to act ?

12:42:16          From Jason Diceman:

12:42:30          From Dana Anderson: Thank you to the panel for some great perspectives – interested to understand how privacy rights and culture enter into the discussion on opening up to more digitial engagement and potential barriers

12:42:46          From Chris Chan: I think we need to make planning more localized again in Toronto, in particular. Per Cynthia Wilkey’s comment. Just like local policing, have planning authorities build a community relationship.

12:42:50          From Ayaa Mohamad to All panelists: we need to be careful that these models are accessible and actually empowering to the residents being served. Consider financial barriers, language barriers, avoiding jargon, cultural barriers, etc.

12:42:56          From Aqsa Malik: Thanks for sharing that link @JAson !

12:43:03          From Mark Guslits: no question. just an observation as to how important and productive this conversation has been in terms of community develooment moving forward. thanks for this.

12:43:22          From Tom Piekarski: Just to pick up on what Aqsa said – I am overwhelmingly NOT having conversations with folks who have a renewed trust in government , a renewed understanding of policy/planning process etc. More often than not I see optimism on the part of the folks who have, for better or worse, a vested interest in this stuff or who are overwhelmingly urbanist in some degree or other.

12:43:38          From Kelsey Taylor: It’s important to think about renters (and others who may not be living in a community for 10 years)

12:43:39          From Carolyn DeLoyde: How about looking once again at Sherry Arnstein’s ladder of public participation?

12:44:06          From Susan Lloyd Swail: Who participates is key…accessible and inclusive. Too often political appointees.

12:44:34          From Abigail Slater: The ability to save our chat is gone…will you be sending it out?

12:44:51          From Jennifer Cutbill: Solnit: A Paradise Built in Hell –

12:45:03          From Canadian Urban Institute: Yes, Abigail – not to worry!

12:45:05          From Jeff Lang-Weir to All panelists: Chris Chan: I think we need to do the opposite. Planning decisions have broad impacts that go far beyond their local area boundaries. As things stand, for most planning projects, we listen almost exclusively to local voices and very little to wider neighbourhoods.

12:45:13          From Sierra Buehler: Is it appropriate to go to consultation if heath care workers will likely not be able to participate?

12:45:48          From Jeff Lang-Weir: Chris Chan: I think we need to do the opposite. Planning decisions have broad impacts that go far beyond their local area boundaries. As things stand, for most planning projects, we listen almost exclusively to local voices and very little to wider neighbourhoods.

12:46:07          From Lisa Mactaggart: As the parent of a student currently taking grade 10 civics, I see a real opportunity to instill a habit of community engagement as well as a captive sample. Each semester there is a cohort of 15-16 year olds from all parts of the province taking a required credit.

12:46:11          From Jeff Lang-Weir: I think we need to widen who we listen to, not shrink it.

12:46:30          From Nicole Swerhun: Yes we do.

12:46:37          From Sarah Davies: Absolutely.

12:46:42          From Liz McHardy to All panelists: one hundred percent agree

12:46:56          From Abigail Slater: @Sierra I was wondering the same thing

12:47:08          From Dianne Himbeault: Yes Jeff Lang Weir, the wider perspective can dilute the NIMBY

12:47:19          From Neil Bailey to All panelists: Mass LBP has good info on civic lotteries:

12:47:19          From Liz McHardy to All panelists: start with listening and build the process from there

12:47:50          From Samantha Diiorio: @Lisa yes grade 10 civics is a great opportunity and should be a full course instead of half term

12:47:56          From Emina Dervisevic to All panelists: Lisa Mactagg, as a parent of a Grade 10 student, I completely agree with you! There is a definite need for bringing community engagement into the high school curriculum.

12:48:04          From Michal Kuzniar to All panelists: Grade 10 Civics should be more than a 0.5 credit

12:48:13          From Abigail Slater: The effect of NIMBY on ratepayers Associations is extremely high…have experienced often first hand.

12:48:41          From Giuseppe Tolfo: I think that drastically re-think the student body politics might be necessary. There’s something fundamentally wrong with being taught immediate democracy through study body presidents models that quickly become popularity contests.

12:48:58          From Chris Chan: Jeff. There are city-wide and neighbourhood-wide PC processes. Agreed on some things going beyond local boundaries, however a consultation on a local playground does not need the whole city to be involved.

12:49:01          From Giuseppe Tolfo: student body president models*

12:49:02          From Nicole Swerhun: Important challenge will be negotiating / finding common ground among different points of view when we don’t have face-to-face discussions. I haven’t yet seen a great online tool for this.

12:49:38          From Paul Dowsett: What’s interesting about what Jane just said – co-learning civics – looking at this as one approaching 60 is that with each generation we get the opportunity to re-teach /re-learn civics as new learners can ask ‘why is it like that?’

12:49:55          From Cynthia Wilkey: There is a challenge with the standard digital consultation where we cannot know what other members of the community are thinking. This webinar format allows us to make comments and share with other participants. That is an important kind of learning and sharing from people in the community. I might only learn about a negative impact of an idea I have from that kind of interaction. This chat function is an awkward example of how at least some of that benefit can happen, but how can we make community digital engagement a place for interactive, iterative, respectful learning from one another?

12:50:18          From Josh Morgan: I see an opportunity to proceed with the public consultation process via a combination of both a ‘live’ digital platform (ie., Zoom, Microsoft Team, etc.), while concurrently seeking written feedback from stakeholders via email, or by Canada Post. In my view municipalities are able to advertise the public process both digitally and via mail, and within those outreaches, provide clear direction regarding options and timelines to provide feedback.

12:50:22          From Jeff Lang-Weir: Chris Chan, can you point to an example of a consultation on a city playground that engaged the whole city?

12:50:23          From Liz McHardy to All panelists: this is going to take time for us all to figure out. we all must work together to figure this out. #solidarity

12:50:45          From Chris Drew to All panelists: great idea Nicole rear tear off

12:50:54          From Abigail Slater: How ironic to rebuild the value of Canada Post…

12:50:54          From Aqsa Malik: @Lisa Mactaggart definitely agree! While I knew about that as a suburbanite there were issues I faced (Accessing resources etc.) I wasn’t aware of the processes of having my voice heard or even heard, or how to translate that into a constructive thing, and had little knowledge of Planning. Students are taught the larger civic perspective but not the local. It can be a prime opportunity to go to committee meetings etc. and become involved at a younger age

12:51:10          From Dawn Green to All panelists: Canada Post works well in urban areas but many rural residents only get their mail once every few months because all of their bills are sent to them and paid online

12:51:12          From Liz McHardy to All panelists: @abigail -its pretty cool!

12:51:12          From Abigail Slater: Especially as the US grapples with mail in voting

12:51:13          From Candice Leung: General comment: Mary’s a great moderator!

12:51:16          From Liza Stiff to All panelists: Thanks for these thoughts. Our pre-COVID engagements were large rooms with small facilitated groups around the table providing real input and with many voices and perspectives. It feels like we’re a long way off from having similar conversations any time soon.

12:51:17          From Chris Drew: great idea Nicole rear tear off

12:51:17          From Jennifer Cutbill: Yes @Jane! Would be amazing if we could couple Civic Jury + Empowerment Congress + Civics 101. Heres how your community / city works (like Kate Asher’s the Anatomy of a City) but geared towards understanding and effectively engaging their individual and collective agency. We need both the rhizome and the midden – i.e. the in-the-moment field building but also the deeper dive enduring repository that can be the seed bank for collaborative development.

12:51:28          From Chris Drew: re tear off*

12:51:30          From Jennifer Cutbill: Agree @Mary <two thumbs up>

12:51:57          From Carolyn DeLoyde: Yes this is great! Where are the bios of the group? I do not see it on the chat.

12:52:05          From Chris Drew: speaking of consultation, Metrolinx is posting a virtual Eg Crosstown LRT deck at 7pm tonight:

12:52:21          From Abigail Slater: Yes re Mary!

12:52:34          From Chris Drew:

12:52:49          From Luisa Sotomayor: Any strategies on how to build meaningful engagement and dialogue around LULUs (Locally Unwanted Land-Uses?) I’m thinking about new homeless shelters and services that need to be delivered but face tons of NIMBYism…

12:52:50          From Sue Hallatt, CUI Staff: We have their bios posted at

12:53:00          From Canadian Urban Institute: Caroly, if you go to the top of the chat, we have included the panelists linkedin and websites there.

12:53:01          From Anand Balram to All panelists: Working remotely, sending mail outs isn’t always possible. What are some more engaging digital methods that can engage vulnerable and less represented groups a voice in the process?

12:53:08          From Carolyn DeLoyde: thanks so much! this is a wonderful session!

12:53:26          From Emma Nelson to All panelists: Would love to know who said that quote as a fellow “non-lucid” person:-)

12:53:31          From Lisa Ditschun to All panelists: (note that if you joined late, whatever was in the chat prior to you joining won’t show up)

12:53:43          From Dave Hardy to All panelists: Be careful. The suggested P2 models seem to be serving white, educated, people who assume that their voices can have meaning. A third of Toronto residents are non-English, South Asian, with no employment or precarious employment with hospitals that haven’t received funding in 50 years, living in rented accommodation. They are just trying to survive. They never see City planners and have huge impediments to participating. We need to engage deeper because they are left out.

12:53:53          From Lisa Ditschun: (note that if you joined late, whatever was in the chat prior to you joining won’t show up)

12:54:02          From Jennifer Cutbill: CityHive doing great job of combining Civics 101 + Social Innovation Community of Practice building. AND their core demographic is under 40. If you don’t know them, highly recommend you check them out.

12:54:04          From Gillian Shadlock: What about more creative community building e.i. engaging families in isolation to do planning activities such as drawing their neighbourhood (

12:54:08          From Sarah Davies: If we’re working to get people onto digital town hall meetings, the norm needs to be to not have cameras on for people as they speak. I worry that people who will participate are those who aren’t embarrassed by their living conditions. People can have internet access but if they’re ashamed of others seeing their living conditions they aren’t going to participate. I think of kids who intentionally don’t have friends over so that they aren’t made fun of for their homes. Now they either have to have that seen or not participate in class.

12:54:11          From Adrienne Pacini: Love the mail-out idea — I’ve been meaning to try out the ‘design probes’ method; mailing out a little toolkit, worksheet, exercise, something for people to ‘make’ and then mail it back. Thanks everyone for the great ideas.

12:54:12          From Sue Hallatt, CUI Staff: JANE FARROW CONTACT

12:54:31          From Sue Hallatt, CUI Staff: Zahra Ebrahim CONTACT via Twitter @zahraeb

12:54:36          From Amy Calder: reach out to decision-makers directly (Councillors, Mayors, etc.) and invite them to attend

12:54:59          From Sue Hallatt, CUI Staff: [11:18 AM] Sue Hallatt


Swerhun Inc.Swerhun Facilitation is a public consultation firm based in Toronto, Canada. We design and deliver consultation and engagement processes for governments and public agencies. We specialize in making…

12:55:29          From Sue Hallatt, CUI Staff: [11:20 AM] Sue Hallatt


12:55:50          From Pamela Robinson: @GillianShadlock – Shawn Micallef wrote about Toronto local options in the Star (disclosure: a project I helped lead is in there)

12:55:51          From Liz McHardy to All panelists: It is a time for solidarity!!!!

12:55:51          From Jennifer Cutbill: ‘Consultants’

12:56:26          From Olga Semenovych: @Zahra! Great point re: role of practitioners. We need a shared ethical standard for our practice

12:56:51          From Ross Cotton: Thank you all for this important discussion today.

12:56:58          From Canadian Urban Institute to All panelists: Panelists: I will turn you into attendees at the end so you can participate in the chat if you choose. You may not want to leave the meeting right away but you won’t be seen and heard.

12:57:12          From Isaac de Ceuster: This has been great, thanks a lot!

12:57:15          From Nicole Swerhun: Great thanks. Happy to stay.

12:57:19          From Christopher Sidlar: In the post-COVID world, there will need to be a recognition that the engagement of the at-risk and vulnerable groups. How can we ensure that people find it safe and comfortable to still attend these consultation events in a world focused on physical distancing?

12:57:24          From Jennifer Cutbill: Is there a CUI (or other) Slack group (or some other CoP platform) for sharing and collaboratively building our collective capacity?

12:57:38          From Janet Webber: +1 Jennifer ^^

12:57:40          From Melissa Ricci: Great discussion! Thank you.

12:57:51          From Bronwyn Colford: Thank you for a really interesting discussion today!

12:57:56          From Naomi Devine: +1 Jennifer! I’d love a Slack group

12:57:58          From Zahra Ebrahim: HERE HERE to fun

12:58:03          From Naomi Devine: Fun fun fun

12:58:05          From Shafaq Choudry to All panelists: Fantastic!! Thank you

12:58:09          From Sarah Bradley to All panelists: Thank you for your leadership, positive (and realistic) outlook, and wealth of inspiration!

12:58:09          From Jaydev Bhatt: Thanks for the great points everyone!

12:58:11          From Abigail Slater to All panelists: What is that insignia on the wall that both Zahra and Jane have?

12:58:11          From Marion Cabral: Great discussion!

12:58:20          From Chi Nguyen to All panelists: fun means that kids have a space and place too… love this.

12:58:26          From Hena Kabir: Fun and Creative

12:58:27          From Beate Bowron: very good discussion. Beate Bowron

12:58:32          From Liz McHardy to All panelists: I wish there was a heart emoji. I love this convo

12:58:35          From Geraldine Cahill to All panelists: Great discussion! So much to read back in the chat!

12:58:37          From Lucy Duso to All panelists: You’re all so CLEVER. I have taken a million notes. Thank you so very much. Grazie mille.

12:58:58          From Michael Redhead Champagne to All panelists: I feel like many residents in inner cities don’t trust consultants because consultants tend to move at a slow pace and in community everything feels so urgent. When you’re not as urgent as me, I lose faith in the consultant/process

12:59:09          From Aqsa Malik: Thank you for organizing this ! Learned things from the discussion as well as panel !

12:59:14          From Emma Nelson to All panelists: Brilliant minds! Thanks for having this. Brought up lots of ideas and made things a bit brighter.

12:59:32          From Sue Hallatt, CUI Staff: The insignia on the back wall is a poster they both made when they went to the march on Washington. I’ll ask jane to read it out!

12:59:38          From Gillian Shadlock: @PamelaRobinson Thank you! This is great.

12:59:40          From Abigail Slater to All panelists: Thank you!!!!

13:00:00          From Jennifer Cutbill: @Naomi @Janet (hi Janet!) happy to create one…but don’t want to do it muck a muck. We need diversity but, as Judith Rodin reminds us, we also need integration. Great to get team CUI’s help doing a bit of a poll to better understand the ecosystem first. I’m happy to help however I can. (

13:00:02          From Nadine to All panelists: Thank you for this discussion and the great points raised. Looking forward to future webinar!

13:00:03          From Alyssa Cerbu: Thank you for organizing this!

13:00:16          From Charles Montgomery to All panelists: HOLD THAT BOOK STILL, CAN’T READ THE TITLE!

13:00:16          From Mirella Palermo to All panelists: Yes, great discussion, fabulous ideas and resources!

13:00:19          From Jennifer Cutbill: (ps. I do not have shares in amazon)

13:00:20          From Paul Dowsett: @Nicole – try things, iterate, learn, reiterate – don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good !

13:00:23          From Charles Montgomery to All panelists: PLEASE.: )

13:00:24          From Zahra Ebrahim to Abigail Slater and all panelists: Good eye, Abigail!

13:00:24          From Jennifer Cutbill: Thanks all for all of this!

13:00:25          From Keisha St. Louis-McBurnie: This was a great way to spend the lunch hour, thanks all!

13:00:32          From Christine Furtado to All panelists: Thank you all for your insights! Jane it has been a few years since we last worked on a City of TO Public Meeting. I really appreciate the fact that things should be fun! If there are opportunities to continue this conversation, I would be happy to participate. (

13:00:33          From Rhiannon Moore: Thank you!!

13:00:36          From Isaac de Ceuster: Any new webinars coming up?

13:00:38          From Daniel Fusca: Thank you, all!

13:00:42          From Aneesha Birk: Where are Nicole and Jane from?

13:00:44          From Jao Dantes: Hello cat! This was great, thank you!

13:00:44          From Abigail Slater: awwwwww

13:00:48          From Dawn Green to All panelists: Bahahhaha. Thanks for the cat!

13:00:53          From Tom Piekarski: Thank you folks. This was great.

13:00:54          From Ayaa Mohamad to All panelists: Thank you all!

13:00:57          From James McCallan: Thank you; looking forward to the next discussion!

13:01:01          From Emina Dervisevic to All panelists: Great session; thank you so much.

13:01:01          From Chiyi Tam: Thank you all!

13:01:02          From Candice Leung: thank you all!

13:01:03          From Catherine Nasmith to All panelists: Bravo everyone!

13:01:07          From Nicole Swerhun: Work at Swerhun Inc. Scarborough baby.

13:01:08          From Charles Montgomery to All panelists: THANK YOU ALL!

13:01:10          From Mary Pickering: Thank you Mary, Jane, Amanda, Nicole and Zahra – for all your insights and all you do!

13:01:12          From OLusola OLufemi to All panelists: Thank you!!!

13:01:14          From Alexander Furneaux to All panelists: Thanks for the great discussion!

13:01:15          From Karen Landman: Thank you for a great discussion!

13:01:16          From Chris Robinson: Thank you! Excellent discussion

13:01:17          From Dawn Green to All panelists: Really great. Thanks

13:01:18          From Jonathan: Thanks Everyone!

13:01:18          From Allan Kean: Thank you all!

13:01:25          From Michael Redhead Champagne to All panelists: thanks!!

13:01:30          From Liz McHardy to All panelists: Thanks all!

13:01:30          From Abigail Slater: Amazing job Mary!

13:01:31          From Sarah Hay: Thank you all so much! I feel hopeful.

13:01:32          From Natalie Brown: Thanks everyone! Looking forward to sharing my notes with the Park People crowd (Hi Zahra and Jane!)

13:01:33          From Andréa Callà to All panelists: Excellent session/discussion – thank you all!

13:01:34          From Dino Lombardi: Great discussions! Thanks.

13:01:37          From Mojan Jianfar: Thank you Mary and CUI for organizing, and the panelists and to this the amazing chat group!

13:01:38          From Sean Carter: Thank You for the great discussion!

13:01:47          From Sarah Davies: This was wonderful! Thank you so much.

13:01:49          From Naomi Devine: Thank you! Great discussion.

13:01:49          From PATRICIA RUNZER to All panelists: Thank you

13:01:50          From Katie O’Callaghan: Amazing dialogue – thanks for doing this!!!

13:01:52          From Denisse Cerda to All panelists: Muchísimas gracias!!! Saludos desde Chile! thank you so much!

13:01:54          From Janet Bobechko to All panelists: Excellent discussion. Thank you!

13:01:56          From Alexander Furneaux: Thanks for the great discussion!

13:02:00          From Neil Bailey to All panelists: Really appreciate this discussion! Thank you.

13:02:02          From Andrea Winkler: Really great discussion, thanks everyone. Lots to look into!

13:02:04          From Sue Hallatt, CUI Staff: More sessions coming up: Go to to sign up for our weekly mailchimpy things

13:02:04          From Janet Webber: This was wonderful! Thank you!!

13:02:07          From Leah Birnbaum to All panelists: Thanks all – very inspiring and hopeful!

13:02:13          From Morgan Vespa to All panelists: Great panel! Helpful insights. Thank you

13:02:13          From Elizabeth Jassem to All panelists: Thank you for such positive discussion .

13:02:13          From Charna Kozole to All panelists: Thank you sharing your knowledge & wisdom with a group that move mountains together

13:02:15          From Shahinaz Eshesh to All panelists: Thank you very much, this was a great discussion. I am looking forward to real change in public consultation going forward in municipalities rethinking the format and the method that we engage.

13:02:17          From Gillian Shadlock: Thank you!!!

13:02:17          From Haley Anderson: Thanks!

13:02:19          From Lorne Cappe: Thanks everyone!

13:02:33          From Molly Steeves: Thank you all for the great resources

13:02:35          From Filip Filipovic to All panelists: thank you!

13:02:38          From Chris Drew: is there a link where that shows those future webinars?

13:02:49          From Cynthia Wilkey to All panelists: Thank you all for a really thoughtful and informative presentation!!! Important to focus on reconnecting with communities more effectively at such a difficult time of physical separation.

13:02:52          From Lisa Cavicchia: If anyone wants to continue chatting, please go ahead

13:02:54          From Amy Calder: thanks for the great discussion, a bit of a whirlwind!

13:03:03          From Sue Hallatt, CUI Staff: go to we’ll post everything there

13:03:04          From Mary Rowe: Thanks Everyone!

13:03:20          From Chris Drew: thanks

13:03:21          From Mary Rowe: Such a rich conversation (s) !

13:03:29          From Abigail Slater: I do wonder how to make ratepayer associations more inclusive and open.

13:03:33          From Lisa Mactaggart: thank you for this session.

13:03:42          From Geoff Kettel: Thanks Meet you on jury duty

13:05:57          From Naomi Devine: Thanks, Sue Hallatt!

13:06:16          From Sue Hallatt, CUI Staff to All panelists: Hi Naomi!!!!

13:07:32          From Jennifer Cutbill to All panelists: If still recording: would it be possible to get a link / reference for the Health Equity framework Zahara mentioned?

13:07:43          From Jennifer Cutbill to All panelists: Thank you again!

13:13:52          From Canadian Urban Institute: For anyone still active in here, we just want to say thank you for attending. We will close the chat in two minutes.

13:14:30          From Kelly Greenfield to All panelists: Very insightful, lots to think about, thanks all!