From the Ground Up: How is COVID-19 Driving Community Leadership in Urban Canada?

Join Abhilash Kantamneni from Local Insights, Leigh Stickle from Aryze Developments, Mansib Rahman from Radish, Christy Morin from Arts on the Ave, and CUI’s Kate Graham, as they explore examples of community innovation and leadership throughout the past year. 

COVID Signpost 365

This event marked the launch of COVID365, a seminal report that shares new findings drawn from the opinions of 180,000 Canadians about how COVID-19 hit Canada’s largest cities, and how people felt throughout a year unlike any other. Read the report here

5 Key

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

1. Coming together while staying apart.

CUI’s new COVID 365 Signpost report provides an insight into the ways the pandemic has impacted the lives of Canadians in the last year. Kate Graham, Senior Fellow of Municipal Leadership at CUI, discusses the data made available by Advanis, quantifying the COVID experience to navigate how the impacts have unequally affected the population, and where these inequalities continue to deepen. But at a time when people needed to stay apart, communities have come together—and the one-year mark is an important opportunity to commemorate and learn from those important examples of connection and mutual aid.

2. The importance of eliminating the “other”.

Christy Morin, Founder and Executive Director of Arts on the Ave, suggests the pandemic has presented opportunities for community connection—to eliminate the concept of the “other” and reinvigorate our shared commitment to our neighbours and community. She gives several examples of local initiatives in Edmonton that she has been involved with, such as the It Takes a Village project, delivering loaves of bread to families in need, and the Families Helping Families initiative, matching families in need with volunteer families to buy and deliver groceries twice a month.

3. Home is a habit and belonging is a practice.

According to Abhilash Kantamneni, Principal of Local Insights, it is important to take this massive outpouring of community intent to connect to people’s sense of belonging and hope—testing the hypothesis that “home is a habit and belonging is a practice.” Through the pandemic, he made participatory online maps to help community members develop a greater sense of responsibility, belonging, and home: for example, by mapping local restaurants offering takeout, or the households in Guelph that had put up Christmas light decorations for their city and community. Going forward, Abhi urges everyone to “listen actively, stay goofy, embrace failure.”

4. Hyperlocal solutions to food delivery.

According to Mansib Rahman, CEO of Radish, intermediary platforms such as UberEats and Doordash have changed the way restaurants are run, in that consumers no longer order directly from them, but from the platforms instead, diminishing the sense of connection between the restaurant and the customer. Radish seeks to intervene—by creating a hyperlocal space for all three parties—restaurants, drivers and consumers—using a coop model where profits are split between drivers, restaurants and consumers.

5. Building community through a physical lens

Leigh Stickle of Aryze Developments discusses his work creating transitional tiny homes using shipping containers for people living on the street in Victoria through the pandemic. The project, “Hey Neighbour,” was crowdfunded over three months. Says Stickle, “we need frameworks that allow people to participate and not feel as helpless [to the great need] in our cities.”

Additional Resources

No Second Chances podcast, Kate Graham:

COVID 365 Signpost report here:

“Hey Neighbour” Initiative:

Maps created by Abhilash Kantamneni :

Othering and Belong Institute at UC Berkeley:

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 [00:00:19] Hi, everybody, it’s Mary Rowe from the Canadian Urban Institute on a- on a pretty somber day, I guess, this is a day of acknowledgment and remembrance of the people that have actually died or contracted COVID in a serious way and will live with the effects of it and all the families across the country that will continue to grieve the loss of a loved one or the particular experience they’ve had providing care or the pressures they may have experienced or the dislocation they may have had from their community or from their employment and their livelihood. This is a year like no other, and we wanted to market and see if we could strike the right balance between a kind of somber recognition of this, that at the same time acknowledge that we’ve learned a lot and that we’re a year in and that there are all sorts of ways in which we can take this extraordinarily tragic experience and convert it into some kind of lasting change and meaningful kinds of ways that we live our lives, create community, earn our livings and- and celebrate our sort of shared lives together as people who live in cities. Toronto is where the Canadian Urban Institute has historically been based, but it now has partners and staff and volunteers across the country. So it’s increasingly becoming true to its name: the Canadian Urban Institute. Toronto is the traditional territory of a number of First Nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Annishnabec, the Chippewa, the Wendat peoples, the Haudenosaunee and it’s covered by several treaties as people know, the Williams Treaty and the Treaty 13. We have, at CUI, been on a journey with all of you and appreciating all of us, working together collaboratively to look at the exclusionary legacy of city building. It’s a colonial pattern of development that has- continues to be manifested in the way that we construct and plan and design cities. And how do we deal with that legacy? How do we redress it? How do we do things differently? And here we also are at a time when climate change and all the kinds of environmental constraints and pressures that have been placed on us manifest in this extraordinary global pandemic. So I wouldn’t say that tackling urbanism is for the faint of heart. I think it’s for people that get the benefits and appreciate the possibilities that- that shared life is making possible for us, but also appreciating that a problem in a city is work that still needs doing. That this is a great, great endeavor to create livable, resilient and just urban communities. And that’s part of why we’re so appreciative of having people come on as they have today and to CityTalk, into this session, and all the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of folks that have volunteered with CUI, supported CUI, funded CUI since CUI is a charity and just thrown their cognitive surplus and capacity and energy and commitment to share and for us to create the kind of connective tissue learning platform so that we can hear all the important things that are happening. Good, bad, ugly, what’s working, what’s not and what’s next. So and we’re very appreciative to have with us this gang, Christy, Abhi, Mansib and Leigh, coast-to-coast pretty much, although I think Atlanta Canada is going to start emailing me saying, how come we’re not on! Listen, Atlantic Canada, just let us know you want to be on, we’ll put you on, we know you’re there. We use the chat function here for people to identify and sign in which lots of people are doing. The other thing I’m going to suggest, if you can, through the broadcast, we’re trying to highlight what the lessons are and we’re interested to hear from you what your lesson is. And that can be a highly personal lesson. Don’t write us a PhD thesis on the chat. But just as the session, as the hour goes on, just share with us what you think the one lesson is that you’re taking away from this experience, recognizing we’re only a year in and probably five years from now, you’ll come back and say, oh, well, actually, there were these lessons. I was reflecting in my own experience. I was in New Orleans for five or six years after Katrina and a year after we would have been- I would have been hard pressed to really come up with the valuable lessons, they took a while to manifest, you know, you think you know, and then they change. But for now, moment in time, March 11, 2021. Just write a little sentence there about what you think the lesson is for you. And in terms of your community or in terms of your own life, that’s fine. You decide the scale you want to respond on and just keep in mind that we videotape these, meaning that you can- you can rewatch them and you can send them to your friends. They get posted and so does the chat. We’ve had all sorts of extraordinary exchanges, information, resources shared in this chat. And so we really appreciate that. Those of you that just work it, use the chat, exchange and learn from each other. We also put the bios of each of the participants for CityTalk up there so that we don’t take as much time reading them out. And I’m going to just start with Kate Graham, who is our senior fellow at CUI and has been the shepherdess. Can I say that? I don’t know whether it’s a gender neutral term, that- shepherd of marking every hundred days and what could we watch, what we’re observing, what were the patterns, what could we start to spot? I think that all of the work that we’ve been doing at CUI over the last year with so many of you is about watching, paying attention, looking around us to see what we can actually see. And the platforms that we created, CityWatch, CityShare and CityTalk are all about paying attention. So Kate has been our “paying attentioner” for these hundred days. And here we are at 365. And she’s going to take us through the sort of highlights of the report, pose a few questions, which we’ll all engage it. And then I’m going to come to each of the four and ask them a little bit about what they’ve been up to as they’ve been coming to terms with what they were seeing. So over to you, Kate. Nice always to have you on the CityTalk platform.


Kate Graham [00:06:11] All right. Well, thank you very much Mary, and good morning or good afternoon, everyone, depending on where you are. I don’t know about you, but it feels to me like this has been 10 years and then sometimes it feels like COVID has been one month. But the fact remains that today marks the three hundred and sixty fifth date, the one year mark since the World Health Organization declared COVID a global pandemic. And as Mary said at the Urban Institute, we have been trying to very thoughtfully and carefully stop periodically through this experience and read the signs, take a look at what we are learning. There are things we know and things that we don’t know, but important markers for where we need to head as a country and the things that we should be most concerned about. So I am pleased to be here on behalf of the team that’s put together a report called COVID 365, that was released by CUI this morning. And I’m going to walk you through some of the highlights of that report today, hopefully as the launching point for the discussion that we have had. So you saw it here also, 365 days is too long for me to not be better at Zoom yet, but we’re working on it. So you saw in the title slide and you know, we’re seeing these in the headlines. We’re hearing these numbers so concerningly. The loss of life over the last year has without question been catastrophic. Here in Canada as of yesterday’s numbers, twenty two thousand three hundred and thirty five lives lost to covid. Almost 900000 Canadians have been sick. But the lives of the 35 or 36 million Canadians, for all of us, there has been an impact. And in addition to the the tragedy of this experience, I think one of the most important things for us to reflect on is what these numbers tell us about the current state of our country and our world. So this has not been an experience where it’s just random luck of the draw in terms of who has been sick and who has passed away. You know, more than 15000 of the deaths in Canada have been older adults above the age of 80, many of whom living in long term care. We know that the effects have disproportionately been borne by racialized communities, by women, by people living in poverty. And it’s because we live in a country where these inequalities existed long before COVID, where people who worked in jobs, where they had higher risks have had a worse experience over the last year, where people who have less access to health care, to- to income stability have also borne a disproportionate amount of the effect of this virus. And so, in addition today, as we mark this national day of observance to mourning the loss of life, I think it’s also really important that we thoughtfully think about what are the concerning and deeply troubling things that we’re learning about our country that we need to be addressing going forward. So we’ve been producing these reports at CUI throughout this experience at the 100 day mark, the 200 day mark, the 300 day mark, and then today at the 365, and the punch line has been much the same as an organization interested in cities. The data has been clear from day one that this, like past pandemics, has been an urban crisis. Our 20 largest cities represent 42 percent of our population, but far more than that, 62 percent of our cases and 64 percent of our deaths. But as the reports, if you take a look at it, highlights the experience of what that’s looked like has been a little bit different in each city. So in the day 100 reports, cities like Montreal, Quebec City were off the charts and by a long shot, the most concerning outbreaks and experiences with COVID. And over the last hundred days, or the last 65 days, we’ve seen cities like Edmonton join that list. So it’s been a very uneven experience, but one where we know cities across the country as a whole have been really hard hit by the COVID pandemic and the related crises. So in the reports, we draw on a, I think, a pretty impressive data set put together by a company called Advanis, where they have surveyed a hundred and eighty thousand Canadians over the last year. And they decided to do this and make the data available free of charge on their website. And one of the things I’m most appreciative of is early on in the pandemic, they also decided to collect information like what city people are coming from, what racial or ethnic group they identify with to help us better, better understand what the impacts have been. And so we draw on that data set throughout our series and in the report today. So what is the COVID experience look like? The- if- you know, there are lots of ways of measuring this, but when Canadians are asked about their general mood and this has been intensifying over the course of the pandemic, generally speaking and not surprisingly, people are feeling a pretty healthy or pretty strong sense of despair. You know, the feeling that I don’t know when this is end- this is going to end and what that will mean for my kids or my job or my school or my pocketbook or my business. You know, those feelings are very, very strong. But when you look at the other feelings that are presented, there are some differences that I think are important across cities. So a feeling of anger. You know, there are a lot of people who feel like this is happening to them. People are overreacting, that they’re maybe feeling angry towards government to a level that we should be paying attention to. You know, those feelings are also present in cities across the country, but in higher levels in some cities than others. We also know that this- the COVID crisis has led to a very significant economic impact and this is once again been uneven. There was really interesting data released comparing the labor force numbers in February of 2012 to February of 2021. We just celebrated International Women’s Day this week. And so I think it’s worth noting that those numbers showed just how gendered the economic impact has been. You know, half a million Canadian women have had to leave their jobs. 100000 have permanently left the labor force, which is more than 10 times higher than men. And this has been especially hard for women with young children, 12 times more young mothers than young fathers have left the workforce. So the economic impact has been severe, but consistent with the message throughout this data, what we’re seeing is that some of those existing inequalities are deepening, and that’s certainly true along gender lines. So when asked about people’s outlook on their own personal financial stability, and I think this is a really interesting indicator because it points to for some people, it’s about income. For some people it may be about their business or about other factors. What we see is, generally speaking, people are feeling quite uncertain. That’s the large number, you know, some variation between cities. But generally speaking, people are feeling quite uncertain about what this will all mean for them in the long term in terms of their- their financial position. And when asked about household finances, we see that these effects not only are uneven across cities and across gender lines, but are also uneven across racial and ethnic groups. So for Canadians, for Filipinos, for Black Canadians, Indigenous people, the level of hardship, at least in this indicator, is twice as high as White Canadians. So we see that communities that are already experiencing some barriers have borne a disproportionate financial effect of this and are feeling more worried about how this will impact their- their personal family finances over the long term. One more data point that I just want to highlight from the report. And again, you can find lots more of these graphs in in the report online. But is the impact that all of this experience is having on our mental health. And the message that jumps off the slide here is that the longer this goes on, not surprisingly, but very concerningly, the more significant the impact is that people are reporting on on their mental health. I worry about how long this goes and at what point we may see these lines become even closer to one another. But these are the kinds of effects that will linger long beyond whenever COVID is done, whatever that means, and things that we need to be paying attention to because they influence many, many other parts of our society. So that all sounds very concerning and it should. And this is a day where we are acknowledging loss of life and the hardship. But I- one of the things that we tried to really emphasize in this report is that even in spite of all of this and this hard moment, a number of remarkable things have happened over the last year. So at a time when people needed to stay apart, what we have seen over and over and over again is communities coming together. And I bet every single person on this call could point to specific examples where you have seen this to be true. Sometimes it is small things, neighbors coming together to pick up groceries for one another. Sometimes it is transformative, very fast policy change that’s taken- that’s happened across the country at a totally unprecedented pace. We have seen communities come together in our time of need, and today that is what we would like to celebrate. So the report, as Mary said, that we’ve shared, includes the reflections of more than 100 people who have been a part of this ongoing discussion hosted by CUI over the last year about what we have learned. And I hope I see that a few of you are sharing in the chat what you’ve learned this year. This is a day where, you know, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves. We’ve learned about our- our country and our cities. And it’s a day to reflect on those things. So we have shared some of these with you. These are all available online. And we’d encourage you to also share some of those observations and lessons that you’ve taken away from this year. The final thing I will note is that there- even though today is a, you know, as Mary said, it’s a somber day. We want to make sure today to be thanking the people who have stepped up. As I said, I bet every single person on this call. You, yes you, can probably think of something that you have done that was extraordinary this year. Some- maybe you had to adapt. Maybe you had kids learning beside you while you were working. Maybe you made the time to reach out to someone who needed it. Maybe you have made pretty transformative changes in your work life. Or if you are a health care worker, you’ve taken on lots of risk. A spoiler alert. The people who are- you’re going to hear from today on this call, we invited them because they are a group of people who have done some extraordinary things. And so today we- we want to reflect on where we’ve been this year, but also take a moment to say thank you to each of the many, many people who have stepped up this year to bring communities together and get us through this. This report at the end of the day, is a way of- from CUI saluting you and saying thank you for how you’ve shown the resilience of urban Canada. So with that, I will stop and just say I really appreciate the chance for us to get together and talk today. And I am so looking forward to hearing from the inspiring speakers that we have, because each of them are great examples of exactly what we’re talking about, people rising to the occasion, leading from where they are and helping us get through what’s been a very difficult 365 days.


Mary Rowe [00:17:30] Thanks, Kate. Thanks for all that you’ve done and for your household in the middle of all this, Kate delivered a baby just saying, and has a husband who’s been is- continues to be a city councilor so that household has been all in on this. And I see that he’s actually in the audience today. Thanks, Jesse. So we appreciate all that you’ve been able to contribute in between adjusting to your changing life, personal life. And it is, as you suggest, a moment for us to kind of pause and just see if we can take stock. And that’s I know if I- if I were to take a question that I think is fielded to me regularly, the most regularly, it would be- are- are these changes that we’ve made that we’ve had to make, are they going to stick? Or are we just going to kind of swing back to the way it was and so I’m interested generally as we talk to our colleagues here, are things going to ever go back to the way they were? And the one sort of startling point that you underscored there, not only the racial piece, which is just staggering. And these are conditions I, you know, my little phrase, the particle accelerator, things that preexisted for COVID, have just been made much, much more worse, much, much more visible. And so are we going to be able to take the steps we need to take to make these changes so that we are more resilient, so that we have a fairer allocation of resources so that communities can recover themselves. And if we continue to do what we’ve always done, we’re going to get what we’ve always got. And so I think with that spirit of can we push against the momentum that tends to swing the pendulum back to where it was? Can we keep pushing forward? So, Christy, let’s hear from you if we can. You’re in sunny Edmonton. I hope it’s sunny today. You’re always happy to have sun when you get it in Edmonton, I know. And Edmonton is a city that’s struggling with its downtown. It’s struggling with the future of the economy. You’ve got all sorts of, as we suggested, preexisting things. We had a great week in Edmonton in December. Just so everybody knows, you can have a great week in December, particularly if it’s virtual. It’s not quite as cold trying to hear and learn all the things that you’ve been percolating there and as part of the CUI local program, coming soon to a community near you and Christy we’re keen to hear the interventions that you just spotted and how you stepped in. So describe for us the world you saw and how you engaged in it.


Christy Morin [00:19:56] Thanks so much, Mary. Hi, everybody. Hi to all the other listeners. I am- I was when it all hit, I didn’t think like, you know, you heard what’s happening in Italy. We heard what was happening around the world. And it was like, is it going to hit Edmonton the same way as it hits- hitting everybody else? And what happened? What the biggest piece for me was. We run an arts organization, Arts on the Ave, that was the Carrot Community Arts Coffeehouse, which is a social enterprise, got started getting phone calls, Mary. And so what was happening was people started calling, saying, can you help the kids? And when schools closed, all the food- all the food projects that were feeding the kids morning and afternoons and then snacks to go home stopped immediately. So all of our kids in our inner city core schools needed food. And that just hit me straight through the heart saying, how do we do this? And so we started calling- we started a project called It Takes a Village. We started calling local bakeries. We started calling local grocery stores. And we like literally out in vans driving out to get 30 dozen loaves of bread to bring into the community. Just- just start feeding the people. The food- food security need has always been really huge in our neighborhoods. And all of a sudden it just became that much more and that much more pronounced. We had actual signs on the roadways saying, if you need food, call- call the Carrot. You know, look for the helpers. We’re one of those. Call us. And we’ve started networking and started connecting people and Edmonton is a great city of people that want to help. And our team just stepped up and started bringing in food. I remember my husband and I sitting just grabbing folk because we were so tired. We had a 30 dozen loaves of bread in our food truck. And in our van, a guy comes by that was- just had- just used some kind of- some kind of- some kind of substance and said, hey, man, can you give- give me something? And- and my husband looked at me and said, sure, what do you need? And he said, Bread. Like, when have you ever heard a guy ask for bread? So he popped up the back of the van and gave him loaves of bread. So we started then connecting Families to Families. We were like, how do we do this? And then how do we keep the spirits of our community that don’t have Internet? That was the other big thing in our core communities, our neighbors. I live in Eastwood Alberta Avenue District. They don’t have Internet. They rely on the libraries, they rely on other hubs. And so it was how do we start sending messages out? So we started getting artists to just infiltrate the community with lanterns to bring hope, messaging on sidewalks, anything to start saying we’re here together, we’re in it together and you’re not alone. And it just started a whole movement of getting to know your neighbors. And I think we always knew that we were isolated in these communities, you know, and to- to see how we could do things and just start like, we were busier than ever when everyone else was saying, you know, our people are just taking a break. We were- we were bringing our volunteers together. We have seven hundred unique volunteers to start helping out and bringing food and bringing support to our communities.


Mary Rowe [00:23:02] There’s you know, I don’t want to overly extract lessons all the time, but but just hearing you, there are some sort of themes that I hear, like people suddenly realizing, oh, I have this capacity or I have this component that I could expand. I could do it a little differently. We heard these great stories about librarians. You probably heard them to Christy, librarians took their routers and put them to the windows. So you know what I mean? So people can get the signal outside? All the ways in which the one I’m going to go to next is Mansib, about how restaurants were the quickest to pivot in terms of figuring out how it’s- I don’t know, maybe food is a theme. Maybe it’s because I’m a little hungry at the moment, but you know what I mean? Like, it’s the great unifier, as you suggest. And we all seem to have that instinct that we can either- we all want to consume food in the can, we share food and these informal ways. I think this to me is one of the struggles we’ve had a lot of improvization and a lot of we’re going to do DIY it. And I sometimes worry that when we go to some other more organized time, that stuff will somehow- the rules will creep back, you know what I mean? Do you ever think about that? Are you thinking at all about what the future application of your piece is going to look like?


Christy Morin [00:24:18] Absolutely. Yeah, for sure. I, I think this organic movement of taking away and trying to eliminate the other is something that we need to make really pronounced in our society, because we are so siloed and we’re all in our little spots and we see people come and go, but we always go that’s that person. And even the Families Helping Families program, I’ve had people saying, oh, I’ll give you two thousand dollars to go buy groceries for those families, Christy. I’m like, no, no, no. It’s your commitment to go grocery shopping and get the list from that family in need. And you go grocery shopping and you get to see them. You get to become friends with these wonderful people. And taking down that other. I found, Mary, like that is something if we can accomplish it even to a small marginal piece we’ll have- well, we’re on the right trajectory. And I think that’s something that people are like, well, it’s not going to happen, Christy, because people don’t want to see those folks. And when I hear that, it just absolutely breaks my heart because it just tells us where we are.


Mary Rowe [00:25:19] Mm hmm. Although, as you suggest, various forms of social infrastructure can enable that and make it a little less scary, a little easier to do. And we used to- we used to have neighborhoods where there were places like that where you would meet the other. And over time, neighborhoods have become more segregated, more monocultural. So how do we now reinvent those new forms of connection so that you encounter the other. That’s part of urban life, because you never know what your interaction is going to be with the other, and that’s going to lead to something, something fantastic, right. That’s why parks and stuff. OK, well, thank you. Really interesting to hear from you. And as I said, we don’t want to overdraw conclusions, but I do think there are little patterns of- little signals that Kate would say that we can start to watch for and think, let’s not lose that. Mansib, let’s talk about the other side of food and what you were watching. You come from the restaurant industry. Tell us a little about your background and and tell us how you started to observe something that was needed to be done.


Mansib Rahman [00:26:21] Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, we started our project Radish, actually right before the pandemic. So we started at the end of 2019. It was an idea that we’ve actually had for a couple of years. And basically what was happening was in the restaurant industry, you had kind of really big players like Uber and Doordash and Skip that were coming in right, and they were kind of really changing the way that restaurants were being run and being operated. And they’re not the only ones, you have other technology platforms in restaurants such as OpenTable or TripAdvisor, but the ones that everyone kind of know are the delivery platforms. And, you know, we all talk about, you know, everyone talks about the fees right now. They talk about how they take 30 percent. But, you know, it’s- it’s outrageous, et cetera. But the problem really goes deeper than that. The problem is that since these platforms have come in, consumers are getting actually used to just ordering through these platforms rather than having the relation directly with the restaurant. And back in the day, I’m not that old, but I mean, even when I was younger, right, you go to a restaurant and you have a relation with your waiter or waitress and you frequent the same restaurants. And more and more we hear, I hear people from my generation being like, yeah, let’s- let’s- let’s order from UberEats tonight, right, rather than just order from our- our- favorite restaurant. Right. And it got to a point where even ourselves, you know, we were doing a delivery for a very long time with various restaurants. And it was always like kind of a break even or profitable business. It got to a point that was no longer possible because consumers no longer order directly from the platforms. And not only that, but you wouldn’t be able to hire drivers anymore because drivers were kind of the first place to go to look for a delivery job would be the platforms. Right. Rather than going and trying to go on Kijiji or whatever and trying to find the jobs. Right. So we wanted to create an alternative platform that would be owned by the restaurants and not just the restaurants, but also the drivers and consumers. Because the challenge with this industry, right, is everyone’s kind of looking out for their own interests. Naturally, it’s very normal, right? As a restaurant, you want to pay as less as possible. As a driver, you want to take home as much as possible and have as much stability as possible. And as a consumer, you want to pay as less as possible. So right- so we wanted to create a platform that all three groups would kind of own. And so, yeah, we started that really at the start of the pandemic. And that was started right before and the goal was really to kind of make it a hyperlocal thing, when we really think of what Main Street- thinking about, you know, we have a restaurant on a major street and we wanted to go to like a two or three restaurants around us and encourage them to kind of participate and like mutualize the delivery services through that. You know, have a driver that we know by name and that our consumer- the customers would know as well. And what happened with the pandemic is all of a sudden, you know, everyone kind of needed that service and we needed it to kind of shift. And it kind of makes me think about what’s, you were talking about a bit earlier which is that or that Christy was talking about, which is that, you know, there’s a lot of kind of, I guess, like ad hoc solutions that are coming up with now. But all of a sudden we have to make something that was kind of going to be sustainable and last beyond the pandemic right. Because the problem is not- the pandemic accelerates the thing, but it’s much larger than that. And so we decide to create- we formally create a cooperative. We decided to work with the city to get financing and work with different mega boroughs, to offer the services to restaurants, and that you know- we’ve had a lot of support from the community. But most of all, we’ve had support from the members. So the restaurants themselves contribute when they- they fund the project where they’re the investors of the project. And that’s also interesting because again, when you have a platform like Uber and Doordash, despite the fact that they kind of depend on everyone to become very, very large. At the end of the day, they’re really going to benefit a few people, because of outflux of capital and growth towards like a few firms or individuals. So now we’re able to actually provide restaurant owners with that and not just them, but also drivers and- and consumers. And yes, I mean, basically, our focus has been scaling runs. So like we’re in around twenty five or 30 restaurants in Montreal right now. We’ve had a lot of interest elsewhere in Canada. And we’re- we’re trying to see how to go about that, because the other thing to kind of keep in mind is we don’t want to kind of become and we don’t want to impose solutions on communities, right, the solution has to come from the community. So far our drivers and consumers and restaurants are building it up but we don’t want to take Radish and- for example, we went to Saguenay- invited us to come present our project there. And their restaurant had totally different concerns because over there, the restaurants all knew the consumers directly. Right. So they have to take- take in that kind of market share. And they’re like, well we don’t want another brand to kind of come in and just be like a Trivago and kind of become interface. Right. And also, Radish is not representing our community. We would prefer maybe a more Francophone name, et cetera. And so now we’re trying to see, like, how do we- how do we kind of make this model replicable elsewhere? And the challenge is always, of course, balancing the kind of decentralized and centralized nature. One of the strengths of Uber is that- one of the strengths of Uber is that again, wherever you go in the world, you can pull out the app and make an order. Whereas if you have like a different thing in every city, you know all of a sudden, like the kind of consumers you’d get from tourism or like from travelers, you know, it could probably be harder to get that, like Uber has advantages there. Or, you know, you don’t want to have to encourage your local communities and we spend like twenty thousand dollars on the legal stuff. Right. Because of cooperative laws for this kind of project, we’re really not established. You don’t want to kind of have to have every community kind of spend that much time and resources to get that done. So, yeah, I’d say like in summary, that’s- that’s really been our focus, is taking a solution that’s from the community. Those kind of issues from the community to deal with the community problem and trying to make a formula that we can kind of provide to others and help them inspire them to create their own projects.


Mary Rowe [00:32:34] Yeah, wonderful. I have this little allergy to scale or replication because I’m just hard, hard and hard. A localized. But but both you and Christy are talking about an approach that other communities, if they knew about it, would say, oh, we can do it our way. Just like Abi Slater, one of our Super CityTalkers, is suggesting a- you don’t want to call it “Radish” everywhere, she’s suggested call it “Legume”, but you know, could- I think you- you touched on something that lots of people started to observe in their communities when they realized that this was how they’re going to keep their local restaurant going. They’re going to find a take out- a relationship. And as you say, that intermediary, suddenly the delivery person that, as you suggest, is on a platform that’s actually taking capital out of the community and benefiting some VC investors in California just starts to irk you, doesn’t it? It just starts to bug you. And then the restaurant is being disadvantaged. And so maybe both of you are getting at this piece about how do we as human beings, consumers, how do we exercise our own agency and how we spend our money and where it goes. And we got involved to put this Bring Back Main Street campaign together just to get people to start being thoughtful about where- what do you rely on your local neighborhood to provide for you? And if it isn’t providing and how does it now need to change to provide it for you? So just closing those gaps and I want a new word. I’ll put it out to the chat. Let’s have a new word, not scale, not replicate. Something that talks about how these- Christy and Mansib’s approaches can blossom. I don’t know. So that it’s not the same, but that we- we all- that people learn from one another. And then, as you say, Mansib, it’ll look like something different if it’s in Anchorage or- or Kamloops or something, I’m going to go now to Leigh, who’s got a similar kind of challenge, I would think, because he’s got a really hyper local, very strongly embedded approach, which is fantastic. And we all need to hear about it Leigh and hear about how you got to it. And then we’ll think about how to- over in the chatbox people coming up with ideas. Variant, haha. OK. Yeah, there’s a Variant need. A positive! We need a positive Variant. Leigh, over to you in terms of what you’ve been putting together over at Aryze. Over to you.


Leigh Stickle [00:34:55] Yeah. Thanks, Mary. First of all, thank you for having me. I’d like to say that it’s early in the pandemic.


Mary Rowe [00:35:00] Stop for a sec. Just stop. Terrific.


Leigh Stickle [00:35:03] Oh, yeah.


Mary Rowe [00:35:04] Is it only me or other people hearing an echo when Leigh speaks? OK, what do we want to do about that. Jamie? Any idea why Leigh is echoing? I’ll let Jamie figure it out for a second. I’m going to go over to Abhi. So, Leigh, put yourself on mute otherwise we’re going to drive people crazy. And Abhi, I’m going to come to you next while we figure out what happens. I did a thing yesterday, a celebration of Tim Jones’ extraordinary career. I don’t know how many of you were on it. And the beautiful musical guest could not get the audio to work. Three times, kept trying. So let’s see if Jamie can troubleshoot with Leigh. Abhi, over to you. Perfect example. You’re a guy paying attention to what you’re seeing and you’re creating a tool. Talk about that experience and then I bet there’ll be other people that are going to come forward and talk about on the chat about how they’ve tried to adapt it. So over to you, Abhi, for- from lovely Guelph.


Abhilash Kantamneni [00:35:56] Thank you. You know, even before the pandemic started, I think one of the defining characteristics of modern urban life is uprootedness. A lot of us move around. You know, I came here from a different country four years ago. People moved from a different city, a different neighborhood. And a lot of us, I think, sometimes find it difficult to find a sense of belonging and a cohesion with the place we call home. And these have just been, like Mary says, accelerated because of COVID. Right. In part because our regular routines have been disrupted and this sense of displacement has gotten just more profound and more pronounced through these lockdowns. So when the- when COVID first started, like a year ago, what I picked up on really was that through this sense of displacement, there was an outpouring of obligation. So it’s not just outpouring of values, outpouring of intent, but an outpouring of duty and obligation, responsibility that many people felt towards a greater circle than just themselves. So my- my project over the last year has really focused on how do we take this natural, organic, massive outpouring of intent, duty and obligation and use that to connect to people’s sense of belonging, a sense of place and a place to call home. I first began by making a website to help volunteers connect with people who are looking to make masks, shopping for seniors in grocery stores and etc. And that was kind of an ad hoc thing, like some folks on the call already talked about. What I did not want to happen is for this outpouring to just dissipate over time due to lack of interest. So where I’ve taken that is that I’ve been using that as an opportunity to almost test and verify my- my- my- my own hypothesis, which is that home, your sense of home is a habit and belonging is an act of practice. You can get better at belonging to places- I call four places my hometown. And the way you do that and this is something that has come out over my projects of the year of late, I challenge people in my community to walk around their town and take pictures of little libraries and send it to me so I can make a map. I saw the folks and go out and spend time with their community. And what happens is, you know, we have to- we have a physical space that we belong to. I live in Guelph in my apartment, and we have a social space that we belong to, have friends with whom I share memories, values and so on. What we need in order to build a sense of cohesion is for us to kind of merge those two things together. And the way you do that is that you can’t get up one morning and just go on like a like a Shakespearean rant and say, you know, friends, countrymen, lend me your years. I belong to the world, but it has to come as Habit-forming. It starts small and you build on on those habits. And so I made a map of all the houses and households and growth that were doing Christmas light decorations in their words for their community or for their city. I’ve made, you know, maps of restaurants that were offering takeout and stuff like that, and oftentimes when you talk to them, yes, there’s like, you know, our friend Mansib talked about the need to, you know, help connect businesses with the local neighbors. But a lot of them feel like a deep sense of doing this for their city and for their country and by connecting people’s need to belong to a place and giving them little habits, going out into the community, looking at their neighbors like- like- like you were talking Christy, about talking to their neighbors, understanding what their needs were and responding to them organically. I have found over the year that, myself included, a lot more people have a greater sense of responsibility and a greater feeling of belonging and a greater sense of home. And then we can talk about giving back and we can talk about volunteering and those paradigms have come and gone. But I think what we need to focus on in order to sort of crystallize this an- uh- crystallize is perhaps not quite the right word but to keep this a more long term thing is to talk about belonging and how we can nurture that and cultivate that through our individual practices and through city building and place making itself.


Mary Rowe [00:40:37] You guys are all so bloody poetic and thoughtful. My God, I can see the chatbox exploding and we have people to do- students and interns that help us with takeaways. And you’ve just handed them these beautiful sentences, Christy and Mansib and Abhi, so far, it’s all up to you now, Leigh. But I just want to just reinforce this notion of home as a habit, belonging is a practice. Oh, my gosh. I’m going to think about that. And also the three of you, again, this theme of making a connection and what’s the- what is the architecture that needs to be in place to assist us to make these connections? I, I wonder if we just have to make it as easy as possible for people to recognize that they have a role to play in belonging and in- I think some- I don’t know. I think lots of people don’t really get that. They just don’t have the- there aren’t the mechanisms in place that require that of them the responsibility you just suggested, Abhi, right.


Abhilash Kantamneni [00:41:34] Can I squeeze in a quick anecdote, Mary?


Mary Rowe [00:41:36] Sure.


Abhilash Kantamneni [00:41:37] You know, when I was young, growing up in India, middle-class, urban India, we had rolling blackouts every day. You know, we didn’t have power for six hours a day. And I had a teacher who told me that the most patriotic thing you could do is to turn the lights off and leave the room and pick up the trash when you saw it. I know patriotism has a different relationship in India than Canada and so on. But what she was getting at was really that to reflexively and habitually develop this habit of thinking of your obligation, even while you’re doing tasks that are little. So as you develop these habits of thinking, I’m turning the light off for my country, I’m picking the trash up for my city. Those habits will inculcate in you a sense of obligation for the place that you call home.


Mary Rowe [00:42:21] And also that you can make a contribution, because I do think there’s a certain element of helplessness that people experience. My version of that Abhi, is that I feel we should all remove the passwords on our wireless. So that everybody can use our wireless. That’s my version. OK Leigh, with great trepidation and with fingers crossed, I’m going to mute myself and you’re going to unmute and tell us your story.


Leigh Stickle [00:42:47] I am unmuted, how am I sounding?


Mary Rowe [00:42:51] You sound hot, is what I think- that’s what they call it in the business, you’re hot, but I think people can hear you. We’re going to stick it out, go for it.


Leigh Stickle [00:42:58] OK, thank you very much. Yeah, thanks for having me, to both Mary and Kate. Early on in the pandemic and sort of May or June of last year. These CityTalk series were a bit of a lifeline for me actually, and something that Mary said in one of those early episodes was the word subsidiarity and the way that relates to pushing things to the local. And I think that is sort of an undercurrent and everything that’s been said so far today. So to sort of bring that to our story specifically here in Victoria. So I’d like to start off just by introducing Aryze, which is the company that I work for here. It is a home builder. It’s a real estate developer, started out as a custom home builder several years ago. And as time has gone by, sort of morphed into something that’s much more community focused, that’s much more sort of thoughtful. I know it’s an overused word, but it’s basically a group of people from diverse backgrounds that brings something different to the table and tries to not shy away from our relationship with the community. We know that we don’t operate in a void. We know that everything we do is taking place in a place that’s made up of people. It’s made up of relationships, made up of the places but those physical places are only there because of work and care and love that’s taken place before us. So it was from this starting point that we approached our project Hey Neighbour, which is a transitional tiny home community, it’s 30 Seacans shipping containers that we’re filling out to be homes for people who have been living on the street throughout this winter, through the pandemic. And basically, it’s a reaction to a need, a great need, here in Victoria, which was apparent from the early days of the pandemic, there was a massive increase in people living on the street. It’s always been a problem that’s always been present in Victoria and I- I was born and raised here. So it’s not- it’s not strange for us at all. But I do think that COVID has forced people who maybe would have maybe just turned a blind eye, may be seen as something that was beyond beyond any hope of solving. Now, those same people that are sort of looking at it as something that we need to solve. So as we approach the problem in the only way we really knew how, which was to build homes. And that’s what we’re going about doing. And in this process and these homes were paid for and everything crowdfunded. So we need to raise 500000 dollars to build 30 homes. We did it in just over three months. And throughout this process, I think that the most interesting, most interesting aspects is the learning experience that we’ve had in seeing people’s relationship to the city. I think that what Mary just hit upon, the feeling of helplessness, we all felt helpless during COVID obviously. Whatever small semblance of control we had had over our larger community, our larger sort of surroundings, our lives has mostly evaporated and everything’s kind of shrunk down to be very small. And I think that this project that we’ve had with Hey Neighbour has given people an outlet for that helplessness and they’ve had now, a pathway. They’ve had a prescripted thing that they can do. They can go click this link and donate some money and you actually see this concrete difference being made in your hometown. And I think that the broader conversation around that is that feeling of helplessness is not just because of COVID. It’s something that’s been a pandemic of sorts in our cities for a very long time. And I think that that’s what we really are trying to address, is we need to ask ourselves, why do our cities make us feel helpless? Why do we feel like we can’t make a difference on a day to day basis? We need to create frameworks that are local and that allow people to participate and see meaningful change happen in real time, as it were. And it’s just been a fascinating experience to learn about ourselves and about others and about the way that people see each other.


Mary Rowe [00:47:33] It’s great. Thanks, Leigh. I’m going to suggest you mute again because you’re- as I said, you-.


Leigh Stickle [00:47:39] Oh sorry, Mary. I can’t- I can’t hear you.


Mary Rowe [00:47:42] You can’t hear me? Can other people hear me? OK, um, there’s something about the audio connection there. He’s muted himself anyway, and, you know, we always publish transcripts from this, so we’ll make sure that- oh, now he is unmuted. I’ll leave it to Jamie to kind of- there we go. And we always publish transcripts. So if you had trouble hearing Leigh, because he was- he was just a little dominant in your audio register, we’ll make sure you get to hear, read what he said. What I so appreciated about this is that Leigh is making this part of his work. And others here, Abhi, I know you’re probably familiar with this term cognitive surplus, which I’m kind of in love with, which is this idea that technology now gives us ostensibly extra bandwidth in our brains so that we have time to do something off the corner of our desks or in the evening or, and I think this together, everybody recognizing that we have some way to engage and either part of our day job and it morphs. I think, of municipal workers, we’ve done lots of work with municipalities. Kate used to work for one, the city of London, and we now have relationships with various municipal governments and their staffs across the country. And we’re aware that the municipal worker is the chief improviser when it’s come to responding to COVID. They had to suddenly figure out how to get portable washrooms into parks or how could they create streets that were no longer have as much traffic, or could they figure out how they could actually create a safe space for people that would normally shelter in a particular environment and couldn’t get access to it? Or how were they going to address safe supply for people that were living in certain kinds of circumstances and accustomed to certain kinds of assistance? And all of that has had to be made on the fly remarkably quickly without anybody spending 10 seconds saying, hmm, is that my job? You know, it’s kind of the version, Christy, of, well, I don’t know that person. You know, we’ve somehow had to just roll our sleeves up and get into it. So as we imagine a year from now, the next 12 months, I want to just go quickly round each of you and ask you, what do you think the focus is going to be for you in terms of what are you going to double down on or who else do you think needs to join you in doubling down? Kate, I’m going to go to you first, doubling down COVID 700 and I can’t do the math- to get us to year two.


Kate Graham [00:50:04] Well, the big story for me has been pretty rude and tragic awakening about inequality in our society, we all sort of know this, but I think this year it’s become painfully apparent. And so I hope this is a year and I’m committed to making sure this is true for me included, is to think about the spaces in places where each of us have influence and where those inequalities exist and doing everything that we possibly can to level that playing field, whether it’s in your workplace or in the team that you’re in or within your classroom or in a, you know, a sort of club that you’re part of, whatever. These inequities exist all around us. And I think all of us have a lot more power than we think we do to address them. And so I don’t want to leave the onus on others who may not experience privilege that I have to have to rip those barriers down. I want to be a more deliberate, conscious part of building a more equal Canada and more equal cities across the country.


Mary Rowe [00:51:00] So let me just ask you a very specific question. Rules. There are rules that are impeding municipalities across this country. What would you do if you had to change one?


Kate Graham [00:51:14] Is it because you already know what my answer is?


Mary Rowe [00:51:16] You heard it here first, Kate Graham.


Kate Graham [00:51:19] So I think our- our form of federalism has for a long time prioritized federal and provincial governments. And the scale of government that I think affects the quality of life the most is at the local level. We see huge variation in diversity in cities across the country. And I would like to see cities have more power to do things that improve the well-being of or the livelihood of everyone in their community appreciating that that means something quite different in each city. So more power for cities.


Mary Rowe [00:51:48] Power for cities! Thank you. That- a couple of thumbs up. I just want to mention that Leigh is a graduate of Concordia. Could you hear that little Concordia stream going in his narrative? I can hear it. Mansib, what it- Mansib, what about you? Do you have do you have something you’re going to double down on and focus on? And is there a rule that you’d like to see changed maybe?


Mansib Rahman [00:52:06] Yeah, absolutely. I think for me or at least our team and our communities, it’ll be the repatriation of our platforms, our tools, our data, right, a lot of the ownership of the infrastructure that is really vital for us to kind of, you know, even make a living right, is in the hands of people or institutions that are, you know, forget the city right, right they’re not even in the country or maybe not even the continent. So I think that’s- you know, that has made it very difficult for a lot of us here to kind of adopt because, again, when we’d need certain considerations of like how we do business locally, the platforms or the tools or the data governance or whatever that we’re kind of used to. You know I was unable to adapt because it’s kind of global. So I’d say like, something we’re interested in diving into is that. In regards to rules, I’d say for us specifically, I’d say rules around, you know, alternative forms of governance, right, like the cooperative rules here. Nowhere great. For the longest time, we’ve seen like a lot of big co ops coming in the history of Canada recently. That’s been a lot of challenges because the rules haven’t been adapted. Right. We’ve seen that with, you know for example, mountain equipment co op where because the rules were not- the laws were not kind of looked at as often when they kind of closed down, what happened was not something that we would expect, the members of their state or in our case, where we weren’t even able to open a club for nine months because of various reasons like, you know, just simple things like you’re not able to create. You have to physically meet in person to create a co op, right. All the founders- and so we got a derogation to become the first co-op, at least in Quebec. So to be able to constitute over a Zoom. Right. So that’s something that took several weeks.


Mary Rowe [00:54:01] Crazy though eh?


Mansib Rahman [00:54:03] Yeah. And it’s across the board right, there’s everything from like securities, laws or things like, you know, data, et cetera, that need to kind of be looked at. So I’d say that’s- you know it’d be important from our perspective.


Mary Rowe [00:54:14] The connection you’re making with Kate is that if we pulled these things down to the local, if we had more authority at the local level, if we had more capacity to make these decisions at the local level, you would not have these layers and layers of layers of resistance. So and new forms of ownership. Who owns what? You know, do we have to own things singly? Can we own things commonly? What does that look like as we- we have this moment, don’t we, to really reimagine that. So your initiative is a perfect example, but applicable to a whole bunch of other domains, not just getting food delivery sorted out. So appreciate that. Leigh, if you had one thing, one rule you’d like to change, one thing you’re going to double down on, what would it be?


Leigh Stickle [00:54:56] Well, I think that as home builders, one rule we’d like to change would be if we identified a need for housing in a given area, then we can build it by rights. And if the need is really there, then-  then it should be just as simple as saying, hey, we need it, someone who’s going to build it, should be done. But that’s obviously a pipe dream-.


Mary Rowe [00:55:18] I was going to say Leigh, if you could tackle that and deal with all the kinds of complicated things. But again, if you if you made that as local as you can, so the local municipality is in a role to be able to actually enable those decisions. Victoria has lots of struggle around this. We know the mayor is trying, trying, trying to get as diverse as she can. Right.


Leigh Stickle [00:55:37] Definitely. We’ve been very lucky to have been really progressive and proactive leadership over the last few years. And we’ve had an amazing collaboration with multiple levels of government. And for the Hey Neighbour project, we definitely couldn’t be doing without that cooperation and support. But again, as you say, maybe that kind of cooperation and support will cease to-


Mary Rowe [00:55:55] No, no, Leigh, stay on the positive. Maybe this is the moment for subsidiarity to win. Abhi, I’m coming over to you, Abhi. What’s the one thing you’re going to double down on? What do you think? Is there a rule you want to see changed? Go for it.


Abhilash Kantamneni [00:56:09] Oh, I’m just going to double down on my old goofiness like, you know, I don’t think of myself- I don’t think of myself as an urbanist. I’m just a guy who makes goofy maps and I love my city and I have very modest- modest goals like that. And I don’t know about a rule, but I think one operating philosophy that I think cities could change is to not focus so much on one, you know, large project, but how do you unlock everyday habits of people and allow for more activity so that people can develop that habit of hoping. If you all have that need, everyone who’s moved to a different city knows that they want to belong. Everyone wants to call their city their home. And what municipalities, I think, and other areas of government need to do is to just allow people to be not focused on one big building, where community building happens but it happens on street corners. It happens in restaurants. It happens everywhere. To get into the mindset of continuous progress and incremental progress, little by little focusing on everyone and letting people do what they’re already good at, what they already want to do. I think would be a phenomenal change. And I would encourage everyone to just activate your goofiness and pay active attention to your community, listen to what’s going on and look within and find your own goofy talent and apply it to help people find their home.


Mary Rowe [00:57:30] Act on your goofiness. Thanks for giving us permission on that, Abhi. I’m going to come to you last, Christy and I- and I’m struck by the- where we started, which was acknowledging our ancestral traditions in the territories in which we all reside and how, as I listened to Abhi, who’s a newcomer and I think of how urban Canada has been constructed from the ground up by newcomers, but it also has a huge, huge challenge around reconciliation with Indigenous people that long predate us and these communities. So this is not an easy task, but it’s a question of seeing the other, isn’t it, Christy? And how do we create a new kind of contr- social contract with all of the others of which we are? What’s your one thing you’re going to focus on?


Christy Morin [00:58:13] That was beautiful, Mary. And I- I love the goofiness, Abhi. I think that is where we need to start is who we are as real people. And I think that’s- that’s for me, like being able to- I call it a ta-da, like being able to try something and if it doesn’t work, you’re going ta-da, we tried it, right. And that’s OK. And it worked or didn’t work or its some of it worked or we’re going to never do that again. Right. So I think that to me is creating more ta-das and allowing yourself the ability to be goofy and fun and love each other. I mean love is a decision, right. It’s a verb. It’s not about just sitting to like- if you’re just sitting in a relationship and never, never doing anything, it’s not going to grow. And that’s the same thing with our urban- our urban life. It’s the same thing like the nodes, the back alleys. I mean, our city with- they really change quickly to patios on the streets. It would have taken me as a coffee house forever to have got a patio on the street. All of a sudden it was done like that. Or bathrooms, like we have been debating bathrooms, outdoor bathrooms forever. And all of a sudden we spoke to the right- the right guy. And he was like, yeah, we got money, we got a bathroom. We had people watching the washrooms that was properly used and it was great. But now we’re sort of going back now as everyone’s like, well, do we do this or not? It’s like, of course we do. Everyone needs a bathroom. Like, that’s- that’s just our normal practices. We need to let someone be able to go to the washroom with dignity. So I think those are things that we just need to find ways to have fun, live life to it, and I guess in an abundance way. Right. As opposed to that scarcity and not being afraid. Right. Fear stops us. And I think we just keep powering through and love and and confidence that we’re doing it together and allowing ourselves to have a ta-da moment if we need to.


Mary Rowe [00:59:57] Or a few ta-da moments.


Christy Morin [00:59:59] Yeah, several maybe.


Mary Rowe [01:00:00] Yeah. I mean, we’re as Kate said, she showed that #inittogether. I mean we are- everyone has experienced COVID differently, depending on your circumstance, depending on where you live, depending on what your means were. But now we are in some kind of a collective reexamination. Can we emerge from this in a new kind of way? So I just want to thank Christy and Abhi and Mansib and Leigh for coming on sharing us your- with us, your experiences. And Kate, as always, for the insights you’ve belie- you’ve brought to us. And for Gary Offenberger, who’s at Advanis, who has been our great and kind partner, providing this remarkable data, you know, one hundred eighty thousand Canadians responding, again part of that engagement. How do we hear where people are actually at, meet people where they’re at and engaged to get it together. I also just want to say just last minute on CityTalk, thanks for all the people that have tuned in to CityTalk over the last year. We kind of dreamt this up. We’re really appreciating how engaged people have been. CUI is a charity, this has been made possible by partners and funders and supporters and CityTalkers and and also just remarkable staff and volunteers. CUI is a big collective effort of people that are remunerated, of people that aren’t cognitive surplus people and people who are adjusting their day job. So I just want to acknowledge all of them who have been part of this and who continue to be committed to that. And we are going to think at CUI about what our next trajectory is and what are the rules that we think need to change and how do we double down on what really matters. And on the 22nd of March, we’re going to be back with Jay Pitter for a fantastic launch of her Engaging Black People in Power publication. It’s a really important resource that’s highlighting engagement practice and policy approaches for addressing as spacialized anti-Blackness in cities, that’s some real work folks that we all have to do, and there are a number of people that are coming into that engagement. You’ll see it announced shortly by us on the website. And we encourage you all to come. It includes acknowledging Mitch Silver, who’s the commissioner of planning- parks, excuse me, in New York City, and then a number of other advocates, Anthony Taylor, a Memorial to Darryl Gaston, who was an activist in Raleigh, who sadly died. And- and also a fabulous playlist. It’s even got a playlist. Look, we’re getting good on this. We’re getting a playlist from Sam Carter-Shamai. So that’s on the 22nd of March. And then we’ll have continued programing because as I’ve said, and I always quote Jane Jacobs, “A problem in a city is work that still needs doing.” So let’s get busy. Thanks, everybody, for joining us on this COVID 365 CityTalk. And I hope you’ll continue to share with our colleagues and our friends why this moment matters and what we’re learning. Thanks, everybody.


Full Audience
Chatroom Transcript

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From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at

12:00:43 From Canadian Urban Institute to Mary W Rowe(Direct Message) : Over to you!
12:01:17 From Canadian Urban Institute : Welcome! Folks, please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:01:32 From Canadian Urban Institute : Attendees: where are you tuning in from today?
12:01:44 From JULIA VANDERLAANDEVRIES to All panelists : Hamilton, Ontario
12:01:48 From Stephen Corr to All panelists : Hi from Markham On
12:02:01 From Xerxes Au : Vancouver!
12:02:17 From Darrell Muth to All panelists : Darrell Muth Edmonton
12:02:24 From Taylor Lecky : Victoria, BC 🙂
12:02:29 From Wesley Andreas : Edmonton!
12:02:33 From Gay Stephenson : Tuning in from Vancouver!
12:02:34 From Abigail Slater : Looking forward to today. Tkaronto.
12:02:35 From KIERON HUNT : Halifax
12:02:35 From Diane Davies : Edmonton
12:02:36 From Bin Lau to All panelists : Edmonton city hall!
12:02:45 From Lee Helmer to All panelists : rural ontario
12:02:46 From Bin Lau : Edmonton city hall!
12:03:17 From Abigail Slater : These sessions have been so enlightening and meaningful and have really given me different perspective on urban building and planning.
12:03:24 From Ralf Nielsen : Port Moody, BC. The unceded traditional territories of the Kwikwetlem, Musqueam, Squamish, Stó:lō and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.
12:03:47 From Ralph Cipolla : ralph cipolla from Orillia Ontario stay safe everyone
12:03:52 From Abigail Slater : Beautiful?
12:04:03 From Qudsia Saadat : Hello from Montreal!
12:04:14 From Katherine Peck : Halifax
12:04:28 From Jayne Engle : Bonjour from unceded territories of Mohawk and other Indigenous peoples, also known as Montreal.
12:04:36 From Walter Rogers : Walter Rogers from London Ontario
12:04:39 From Juan Garrido : Toronto
12:04:39 From Ruth Jeang : Hello from Edmonton!
12:04:56 From Abigail Slater : Changing the primacy of the car and the importance of accessible public space.
12:05:05 From Abigail Slater : For all communities.
12:05:20 From Kendall Christiansen to All panelists : Brooklyn (NY), Lenape territory…
12:05:57 From Canadian Urban Institute : Kate Graham, Senior Fellow, Municipal Leadership, CUI @KateMarieGraham Leigh Stickle, Development Coordinator, Aryze Developments @lstick07 Mansib Rahman, CEO, Radish @gaessaki @RadishCoop Abhilash Kantamneni, Principal, Local Insights @akantamn Christy Morin, Executive Director, Arts on the Ave @artsontheave
12:06:24 From Jesse Helmer : Jesse Helmer in London.
12:06:47 From Walter Rogers : Lesson learned: How Governments can cooperate at all levels for planning and how to discuss or review our personal and community priorities
12:06:48 From Abigail Slater to All panelists : Highly recommend Kate’s podcast!!’ No second chances.
12:07:03 From Susan Fletcher : Hello from Toronto. Both the advantages of virtual activities and the need for in person ones. Plus we are more tech savvy than a year ago
12:07:36 From Abigail Slater to All panelists : Lesson: when there is a will there is a way. Expedited rules for outdoor cafes/lanes/etc.
12:07:47 From Lisa Hoffman : You’re doing great!
12:07:57 From Canadian Urban Institute : Read the COVID 365 Signpost report here:
12:08:05 From Sameera Ali to All panelists : Sameera Ali from Milton
12:08:32 From Abigail Slater to All panelists : Unconscionable
12:09:03 From Abigail Slater : Highly recommend Kate’s podcast!!’ No second chances.
12:09:15 From Abigail Slater : Lesson: when there is a will there is a way. Expedited rules for outdoor cafes/lanes/etc.
12:10:00 From Abigail Slater : Another lesson: we cannot be smug about our own country with regard to the US. So
Much work to be done.
12:10:55 From David Crenna : CUI data collection efforts in such a disciplined way has been very valuable for the long-term learning process. Thank you, CUI
12:11:30 From Ralph Cipolla : for me it showed how important your family and neighbors are to us …and the importance of the info we got from the CUI keep up the great work
12:13:08 From Sameera Ali to All panelists : Double the rate of job loss for racialized women as well
12:13:18 From allison ashcroft : pretty similar in all the big cities, but I think if you compared the big cities to small and midsize, there would be quite a bit greater of a difference, and evidenced in the flight to places like victoria and large cities like Halifax that have more space and rural areas within their borders
12:14:40 From Sameera Ali : Double the rate of job loss for racialized women as well
12:15:13 From Gay Stephenson : Lessons Learned… the importance of leadership in a crisis and the ability to be compassionate and communicate clearly. The importance of paid sick days! Who has them and who doesn’t. Caring for one another. Meeting one another where we are at… acceptance not judgement. Working to understand one another.
12:16:31 From Abigail Slater to All panelists : Even hospitals do not pay sick days for part time hourly workers. How is this possible?
12:16:59 From Lisa Hoffman : What we’ve learned – government can come to bare to address a crisis in full scale. Makes me think about a covid-19 approach to the climate crisis.
12:17:24 From Sameera Ali : Thank you to you Kate
12:18:23 From allison ashcroft : yah she did!! congrats Kate, so great to see your face again and hear your voice 🙂
12:18:42 From Walter Rogers to All panelists : Thanks Kate for your comments and leadership across Canada, Ontario and for London
12:18:59 From Abigail Slater to All panelists : Dead on Mary.
12:19:37 From Abigail Slater : That is the question. Will we all settle back to the “comfort” of the past?
12:21:20 From Lee Helmer : mary – can you hit mute
12:22:30 From Diane Dyson : Les Misérables in Edmonton.
12:23:03 From Mary W Rowe to Lee Helmer and all panelists : 🙂 not me apparently
12:25:53 From allison ashcroft : i live downtown victoria and when shelters and libraries closed, unhoused neighbours were struggling and abandoned beyond belif in the earliest days before outreach workers were up and running with mobile programs and PPE understanding. i set up a water stand outside my house because people couldn’t fill up water bottles. It was so used and then in talking to people access to phones/connection with loved ones and ministries etc became the next obvious hole. so we set up a landline with chair. both were only used for a few weeks, but they filled a massive void and injustice in the earliest days of this.
12:25:53 From Spencer Hein to All panelists : Really is an incredible initiative!
12:26:51 From Abigail Slater : @allison how wonderful and creative.
12:29:33 From Abigail Slater : The relationship piece Mansib is speaking of is so important.
12:29:52 From Xerxes Au : Yeah, as someone who worked in a restaurant in 2016 I remember seeing this transition as it was happening. Can’t imagine what it’s like now
12:32:03 From Abigail Slater : Legume?
12:33:30 From Abigail Slater : Me too Mary!! Scale is not a panacea to all.
12:34:26 From Abigail Slater : All these models (VC in particular) need to be upended. Generative models not extractive.
12:34:51 From Andrew Simpson to All panelists : variant!! hmm
12:35:04 From Andrew Simpson : variant!
12:35:08 From Susan Fletcher to All panelists : Admire and Adapt
12:35:15 From Xerxes Au : calibrate?
12:35:18 From Juan Garrido : Community organizer adrienne maree brown talks about change being “fractal” – replicable and scalable.
12:35:35 From Dana Kripki to All panelists : yes, echo
12:35:37 From Abigail Slater : GEnerative. Big echo.
12:36:12 From Stephanie Beausoleil to All panelists : community Collaborative regeration 🌳 🌳 ♾
12:38:33 From allison ashcroft : I adore you Abhi.
12:39:31 From allison ashcroft : love “sense of home as a habit and belonging a practice”.
12:39:42 From Olusola Olufemi to All panelists : Definitely COVID has changed the definition and the sense of ‘Home’.
12:39:53 From Samira Farahani to All panelists : wow. fantastic Abhi
12:40:18 From allison ashcroft : the videos of driveby Christmas light lineups was huge this year.
12:40:45 From Kate Graham : Abhi’s *beautiful* safe trick or treating map is my fav <3
12:41:14 From Olusola Olufemi : Definitely COVID has changed the definition and the sense of ‘Home’.
12:41:15 From Stephanie Beausoleil to All panelists : so beautiful
12:42:01 From Stephanie Beausoleil to All panelists : prepare the garden for sowing
12:42:10 From Abigail Slater : “Architecture”- spoken like a planner!! 😀😀
12:42:46 From Faryal Diwan : I relate to that!
12:45:28 From Lisa Cavicchia :
12:46:11 From Abhi : When COVID-19 started, I made a specific and explicit commitment to volunteer my time and use my goofy hobbies (like making maps) to support small businesses and small communities everywhere, starting with Guelph – a place I’ve grown to call home since 2016. Here are some of the maps I’ve made:
12:46:18 From Diane Dyson : I can hear Leigh with my volume turned down.
12:47:25 From Jimmy Johnson to All panelists : Good day
12:48:28 From allison ashcroft : it’s also created more division within our cities too tho. 5min cities/nhoods sounds great, but now that people are living in smaller physical circles, i hear from friends in wealthier nhoods of their connection to neighbours and family and enjoyment of nhood parks, etc.. In my nhood we are also building strong community, but very differently, we have encampments rather than block parties, we have storefronts with addiction research and delivery of safe supply, and we are soon to have this tiny container home village. We love our nhood, but i think in tying together christy and abhi and leigh’s presentation, we need to be very very intentional about building resilience and equitable wellbeing in all nhoods and awareness and responsibility to injustice and marginalization also needs to be owned by everyone in all nhoods. we cannot turn our backs on the nhoods who are taking on more burden and receiving less investment in parks, etc. . we cannot become more insular at the nhood level.
12:48:38 From Chirine Constantini to All panelists : we can hear you
12:49:14 From allison ashcroft : To be clear, North Park is very welcoming of the tiny container home village and have enjoyed our collaboration with Aryze.
12:50:37 From Daias Jose to All panelists : Lesson learned: Don’t lose hope in humanity just yet. Huge thanks to our today’s speakers for their major contributions to the communities.
12:51:19 From Abigail Slater : RIGHT ON KATE!!!!
12:51:28 From allison ashcroft : looking ahead, for ALL complex problems and all the existing and foreseeable crises that surround them, we need a complete commitment to transformative change from those with power, privilege and positionality.
12:52:00 From Daias Jose : Lesson learned: Don’t lose hope in humanity just yet. Huge thanks to our today’s speakers for their major contributions to the communities.
12:52:33 From Sameera Ali to All panelists : yes!! agree Kate!
12:52:35 From Abigail Slater to All panelists : Power to the people
12:53:06 From allison ashcroft : yes!!! shift power and resources to municipalities. but then in turn, cities need to shift that power and resources to its community partners too. full transformation. this year has been working harder with more funding, but not sustainable and not transformed for lasting impact and change.
12:54:09 From Raj Dhaliwal to All panelists : Hello from Calgary! …Lesson Learned: the Pandemic put long occurring stresses in systems that shape our lives into the limelight, but global conversations still remain focused on stabilizing a shock and preparing for the next, while stresses remain ignored as we “recover”. We need to shift privileges into processes and empower community participation in institutional and political decision making.
12:58:09 From allison ashcroft : how develop a sense of responsibility for injustice. we may not be to blame for every injustice, but we all have a responsibility to call it out and address it.
12:58:33 From Canadian Urban Institute : Read the COVID 365 Signpost report here: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our sessions at Keep the conversation going #CityTalk #InItTogether #COVID365 @canurb
12:59:10 From Abhi : Give ourselves permission to fail!
12:59:34 From Raj Dhaliwal : Hello from Calgary! …Lesson Learned: the Pandemic put long occurring stresses in systems that shape our lives into the limelight, but global conversations still remain focused on stabilizing a shock and preparing for the next, while stresses remain ignored as we “recover”. We need to shift privileges into processes and empower community participation in institutional and political decision making.
12:59:56 From Sameera Ali to All panelists : Same for our downtown in Milton, in a week we were able to allow that
13:00:08 From Sameera Ali : Same for our downtown in Milton, in a week we were able to allow that
13:00:12 From Abhi : Before I started making maps – I tried to do a virtual “Guelph’s got talent” competition, with limited success! I gave myself permission to fail, and tried the next goofy thing! 🙂
13:00:37 From allison ashcroft : attendees may appreciate the works of the Othering and Belong Institute at UC Berkeley and particularly the framework offered of Targeted Universalism as means to pursue equity and racial justice
13:00:42 From Geraldine Cahill : Interesting element for the scale question; I believe we do want to scale the impact we have – this energizes us in these conversations for example. Scaling the lessons, the elements that can support uptake in other areas. But we also need to celebrate and support communities to thrive with all their beautiful uniqueness.
13:00:46 From Liz Dennis : Wow – I didn’t expect this conversation to be so energizing and uplifting. Thank you CUI and panelists for so many concrete examples of hope and abundance.
13:01:00 From John Burton : Keep goofing on Christy!
13:01:11 From Rebecca Keetch : Amazing conversation! Thank you so much for hosting this!
13:01:20 From Dana Kripki to All panelists : great discussion, thank you!
13:01:23 From John Burton : You are great, and making a big difference!
13:01:29 From Abhi : Have a nice day to all the +107 (fellow) goofballs participating in this chat 🙂
13:01:34 From Faryal Diwan : Mary Rowe is one of the best facilitators I’ve ever experienced!
13:01:40 From Taylor Lecky : ^ +1
13:01:41 From Abigail Slater to All panelists : You have gotten me through thus far! Thank you.
13:01:46 From Geraldine Cahill : 100% agree Faryal
13:02:13 From allison ashcroft : Mary i met you on this day in Toronto and we acknowledged that the world was about to change in a serious way. love that we’re still talking. thanks all.
13:02:44 From Canadian Urban Institute : Engaging Black People and Power:
13:02:48 From Lisa Cavicchia : Met you too on this day Allison!
13:02:50 From Faryal Diwan : Thank you!
13:02:51 From Geraldine Cahill : WOOOT! Thanks all
13:02:55 From Vivien Keiling to All panelists : Thank You
13:02:55 From Melissa Higgs to All panelists : Thank you!
13:02:58 From Abhi : Say goofy, friends!