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2013 Winnipeg Arts Council and Matthew Carreau.


4.0 CASE STUDIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1.1 THE URBAN IDEA CENTRE OF WINNIPEG: A HISTORY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 1.2 THE NEED FOR URBAN IDEA IN WINNIPEG TODAY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 1.3 CONSTELLATION OF URBAN INITIATIVES IN WINNIPEG . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

2.0 ANALYSIS 2.1 INSIGHTS & LESSONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 2.2 SWOT ANALYSIS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 2.3 POLICY REVIEW . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

3.0 FRAMEWORK 3.1 FOUR PRINCIPLES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 3.2 EIGHT STRATEGIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

5.0 RECOMMENDATIONS 5.1 PURPOSE & OBJECTIVES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 5.2 GOVERNANCE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 5.3 SCENARIO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34


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1.0 CONTEXT INTRODUCTION This white paper has been commissioned by the Winnipeg Arts Council (WAC) to provide a body of research, analysis and recommendations that will help WAC explore options and make informed decisions about the future of Urban Idea. The Urban Idea Centre of Winnipeg was established in 1989 with a mandate to encourage and facilitate the exchange of ideas and opinions relating to the city, its quality of urban life and its future possibilities. Over the course of a decade, the Urban Idea Centre became an important forum for sharing ideas and debate about urban issues in Winnipeg. The Centre was a gathering place for some of Winnipeg’s brightest movers-and-shakers in the fields of architecture, city planning, community development, business, politics and the arts. The Centre helped frame the issues and shape the debates that have given rise to the city we live in today. The legacy established by the Urban Idea Centre can still be felt in the many organizations, initiatives and works that its former members have gone on to create and continue to nurture. Today, Winnipeg boasts an astounding array of urban-focused initiatives, formal and informal associations of people doing research, advocacy and front line work on a whole range of urban issues. In the 25 years since the Urban Idea Centre was first proposed, a new community 1


of urban visionaries has emerged: a new generation of passionate, creative and engaged urbanists are coming of age, First Nations communities in Winnipeg are raising their voices louder than ever, and newcommers are contributing new insights to the urban conversation. These communities are eager to have their voices heard and to build on the legacy that Urban Idea has established—and they have come at a crucial time in Winnipeg’s history. In many ways, the urban challenges that Winnipeg faces today are more insidious and entrenched than those of a generation ago. Poverty, racism, lack of affordable housing, neighbourhood crime, crumbling infrastructure, sprawl, issues of accountability in decision making, economic and market uncertainty, and political and cultural impasses that seem to work against the best of intentions. And yet, in spite of these challenges, there is also a great sense of optimism about the future prospects of the city. There is a sense that Winnipeg is shifting gears, entering a new phase and there is hope for the kind of opportunities that can potentially be unlocked. What are these opportunities? How can they be realized? How can Winnipeg build a prosperous and beautiful city that makes room for the common wealth and health of all citizens? How can citizens be engaged in this process? What are the local assets and strengths that can be leveraged moving forward? What will be Winnipeg’s great contribution to the national urban conversation?

These are the questions that have informed the spirit of research and the insights and recommendations made in this paper. They are the questions that must be asked by any person engaging a serious reflection on the future of Urban Idea and its place in Winnipeg. Over the course of three months I consulted with dozens of Winnipeggers, including former Urban Idea board members, respected colleagues in the fields of art, architecture, design, and community development; reviewed archival materials about Urban Idea; considered the historic, organisational, cultural and policy context framing the discussion about the future of Urban Idea; and finally extracted insights and synthesized lessons into a framework and recommendations that the Winnipeg Arts Council and others can use to unlock hidden opportunity, promote citizen engagement in city building, and spark urban innovation in the years ahead.



1.1 THE URBAN IDEA CENTRE OF WINNIPEG: A HISTORY Winnipeg in the late 1980’s was a city facing enormous social, economic and political transformation. The scaling up of globalized trade, deindustrialization, the shift towards a service-based economy and a mobile workforce challenged Winnipeg to redefine its role. Though Winnipeggers looked forward with optimism about the future prospects of their city, decades of slow economic growth, population contraction in the inner-city, sprawling suburban development, and controversial “urban renewal” schemes had left the city struggling to maintain vitality. The idea of establishing a centre dedicated to the presentation of ideas and public conversation about the issues facing Winnipeg and its future prospects, emerged in 1986-87 out of informal conversations among professors at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Architecture. There was a growing concern among Winnipeg’s professional architects, planners, policy makers and urbanists of the day that Winnipeg was facing incredible challenges and there was a growing frustration over the absence of a forum to engage the public in meaningful conversations about the city’s future. The state of downtown was of particular concern and was the focus of a great deal of media attention. The degradation of Winnipeg’s once vibrant street life and public realm, brought about by a shift in orientation of commercial and business activity away from the core to suburban shopping and office centres, was dealt a 3


“Portage Avenue” Photo by Flickr user: extension 504. Source: Flickr

symbolic blow in 1976 with the closing of the pedestrian crossing at Portage and Main and the emergence of a network of underground shopping plazas and the skywalk system. New experiments in urban governance in the 1970’s with the Uni-City scheme, intended to streamline municipal administration and bring greater accountability and citizen involvement in decision-making, had inadvertently produced an opposite effect; stacking city hall with councillors favouring suburban expansion and ultimately neutering public input. By the time Urban Idea incorporated in 1989, Winnipeg’s inner-city had witnessed many waves of urban renewal schemes designed to revitalize derelict houses and commercial buildings, rejuvenate businesses and reskill poverty-stricken residents. The largest of these,

Winnipeg’s Core Area Initiative—an innovative trigovernmental and multi-year urban revitalization initiative for Winnipeg’s downtown core—was cap-stoned in 1987 with the opening of Portage Place mall. Debates in the media about the merits of these bold new developments, and how best to proceed with revitalization in general, tended to favour silver-bullet solutions. An editorial in the Winnipeg Sun dated September 12, 1990 reads: “There’s a search on for that one big project that will make Winnipeg an international, world-renowned city. Covered stadiums, new arenas and multiplex facilities are bandied about. A major tourist attraction at the Forks or a new hotel and office development are seen as what’s needed.” (Peter Diamant. Winnipeg Sun, September 12, 1990. p 18) Parallel to these developments, there was an awakening happening in Winnipeg among community leaders about the need for increased citizen engagement and participation in the political process. A surge in civic activism and the emergence of new community advocacy organizations and political groups in the city—including neighbourhood development corporations and the municipal political party “Into the Nineties”—formed the backdrop against which the Urban Idea Centre emerged. Early Urban Idea Centre organizers invited Ray Spaxman, then director of planning at the City of Vancouver, to visit Winnipeg in 1988 and speak to the public and the professional architectural and planning community to rally momentum and interest around creating a forum for

the discussion of urban ideas based on a model that was being developed in Vancouver. The Urban Idea Centre of Winnipeg incorporated formally in 1989 with a mandate to: encourage and facilitate the exchange of ideas and opinions relating to the city, its quality of urban life and its future possibilities; to provide interpretations of the city’s past and present conditions; to facilitate public participation in the exploration of current issues facing the city; to encourage and develop public opinion on both current urban issues and future directions based on an awareness of Winnipeg’s past and present conditions. The Urban Idea Centre of Winnipeg was established with great seriousness. The first board of directors represented a cross-section of powerful political and business leaders in the city, planners and city administrators, architects and academics. Members of the board included: Jim August, Executive Director of the Winnipeg Core Area Initiative; The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy, then Member of Parliament; Mira Spivak, Member of the Senate of Canada; University of Winnipeg Department of Geography professor Tim Ball, and Tom Carter, Director of the Institute of Urban Studies; University of Manitoba President, Dr. Arnold Naimark; Kathleen Richardson, a Director of James Richardson & Sons Ltd.; Tom Yuak, Commissioner of Planning and Community Services. The board moved quickly to establish a robust organisational structure. Records show that the Urban Idea Centre was designed with long term resiliency in mind. Early on, a committee was struck to secure investment through the CONTEXT


creation of a Trust. Records show the board was actively interested in securing a permanent location to house the Centre. A strategic planning committee and program development committees were also created to oversee the execution of public programming. The first major initiative of the Urban Idea Centre was the creation of an annual festival of ideas called City Week. The festival organized a series of lectures, films, architectural tours for elementary students, exhibitions of work by students from the Faculty of Architecture, and a photography competition. From about 1990-1996 the Urban Idea Centre continued hosting annual City Week events and hosted additional lectures, exhibitions, and design competitions throughout the year. One of

the Centre’s most successful programs was the Archibus tour, which brought elementary school students from across the city on a bus tour of Winnipeg’s architectural heritage. In 1993 the Centre hosted a public forum inviting discussion about the history, significance and controversy of Portage and Main, complete with the presentation of new designs for the site by landscape architecture students. In 1996, the Centre hosted an International Winter Cities conference. Although the Urban Idea Centre never achieved its goal of securing a permanent home, it was a well known and respected initiative in Winnipeg. In 1990 alone there were more than 160 registered paid memberships from among the architecture, design and planning communities. By the late 1990’s the Urban Idea Centre began playing more of a role in advocating for public policy changes. The Centre was a key player in bringing the conversation about the value of public art and placemaking through good urban design to the fore of public discussion. The Urban Idea Centre was instrumental in encouraging the City of Winnipeg to formally adopt a public art policy in 2003. This advocacy push to get the City to adopt a public art policy occupied much of the Urban Idea Centre’s activities during the late 1990’s and onward. After this time the Centre was unable to regroup with the same sense of purpose and direction as in its early years. Members of the board from this later period have noted that by 2003, many of the objectives that Urban Idea sought to bring to Winnipeg had been fulfilled in some capacity or were being fulfilled in other ways by new

Image source: Matthew Carreau



initiatives and organizations. The prime objective that Urban Idea Centre set out to achieve, namely establishing a forum for public conversation and engagement about urban ideas, was being realized in new arenas: changes at the City had opened up a space for more community consultation and citizen engagement in the planning process; in 2006 Winnipeg embarked on an innovative and award-winning public consultation process for the OurWinnipeg Official Plan; the University of Winnipeg, under the leadership of former Urban Idea Centre board member Lloyd Axworthy began a more sustained engagement process with the community and the greater city; the Institute of Urban Studies also began a more sustained conversation with community through the Winnipeg Inner-City Research Alliance and other initiatives; the Faculty of Architecture took a greater lead hosting public forums and provoking public conversation about Winnipeg’s urban future. In 2009 a decision was made to transfer the incorporated nonprofit, its assets and charitable status into the hands of a steward who could oversee and maintain the organization until such a time as a more formal reflection on its future orientation could be conducted. In 2010 the Winnipeg Arts Council became that steward. Over the last two years, Urban Idea has maintained a subdued but special presence at the Winnipeg Arts Council. Under its banner WAC has hosted the Architecture and Design Film Festival, led the creation of a symposium on arts and the city (My City’s Still Breathing, 2010) and Urban Idea has remained a repository for ambitions and ideas about Winnipeg, its quality of urban life and its future possibilities. CONTEXT


1.2 THE NEED FOR URBAN IDEA IN WINNIPEG TODAY The Winnipeg of today bares some interesting similarities to the Winnipeg of 25 years ago when the need for a centre dedicated to public debate about urban issues and future prospects was first identified. While many of the big-ticket urban development questions identified in 1987 have since been acted upon in some capacity—from the dramatic redevelopment of the Forks, to the beginnings of a rapid-transit system—many of the broader structural and systemic issues facing the city remain unresolved. Winnipeg’s inner-city residents continue to face disproportionate levels of poverty and housing instability compared to the rest of the city. Property values and the cost of living have skyrocketed in the last 20 years while opportunities for upward socio-economic mobility have diminished. Racism and prejudice against Winnipeg’s First Nations people and newcomers is still a shameful reality. Suburban development in Winnipeg’s outer edges continues largely unabated and a culture of caroriented planning appears to take precedence. Some decision makers, developers and local media continue to perpetuate a ‘silver bullet’ or ‘next big thing’ approach to downtown revitalization. A divisive political culture at City Hall hampers the ability of the City to act with longterm vision and strong leadership. Issues of accountability and transparent decision-making with respect to urban development continue to erode public confidence in municipal governance.

And yet, in spite of these challenges, reading the papers in Winnipeg today one captures the same sense of enthusiasm and optimism about what is in store for Winnipeg’s downtown as was expressed back in 1989. A number of key projects in the last 10 years alone have dramatically changed the face of the city. These developments, including Shaw Park, the MTS Centre, Red River College’s Exchange campus, condominium development on Waterfront Drive, the Esplanade Riel, Millennium Library expansion, Canadian Museum of Human Rights, the University of Winnipeg campus expansion and others, have put the prospect of downtown revitalization back on the map in a big way.

“Portage Avenue Rush Hour.” Photo by AJ Batac. Source: Flickr



A new wave of urban revitalization is upon the city, however this time the revitalization is not being driven by broad government policy agendas such as the Core Area Initiative. Today, development is happening more piece meal, driven in part by a new sense of optimism and shifting public perception about the value and promise of downtown, as well as new market conditions that have made development a more lucrative prospect for commercial and real estate investors. In tandem with these larger scale urban developments, one is also beginning to see a new level of interest among Winnipegers with respect to issues of quality of life, neighbourhood vitality, historic preservation and sustainable urban development. A more nuanced and fine grained urban sensibility is taking hold, and the public is increasingly advocating for better access to public transit, neighbourhood amenities such as libraries and community gardens, and an approach to urban development that strives to create complete communities. This renewed sense of confidence about the city is also being expressed through a playfulness and daring in the design of new public infrastructure. From the public art interventions that now dot the city, such the EmptyFul sculpture in the Millennium Library plaza or the works of art integrated along Portage Avenue and as part of the Osborne bridge redesign, to bold architectural statements such as the Esplanade Riel, the Museum for Human Rights, and the “cube” stage in Old Market Square. This renewed confidence has also bolstered

Winnipeg’s professional design and architectural community, as evidenced by the critical and commercial success of local architectural firms, representation at the 2012 Architecture Venice Biennale and initiatives such as StorefrontMB and the Winnipeg Design Festival. In fact, right across the design and arts communities in Winnipeg, there is a sense of excitement and possibility. Winnipeg’s creative professionals are collectively punching above the weight that would be expected of a Canadian prairie city of this size. Red River College is producing cohort after cohort of new media and design specialists in all disciplines who are quickly making Winnipeg a hot bed for new media. It is no secret that the arts in Winnipeg also enjoy great notoriety. Winnipeg’s designation as the Cultural Capital of Canada in 2010 and the 2012/13 exhibitions Winnipeg NOW at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and My Winnipeg at Plug In ICA are a testament to this. Winnipeg’s cultural renaissance is transforming the city in unimaginable ways. A new generation in Winnipeg has turned its gaze upon the city as a site of critical and creative engagement, and Winnipeg artists and designers are at the front of this phenomena. Some of Winnipeg’s most innovative urban revitalization initiatives are those that apply art and design as tools to empower citizens and animate inner-city neighbourhoods. In many ways, it has been the artists who have been the torch bearers for Winnipeg’s civic imagination over the last several decades.



The pride of place and love of city that is now energizing Winnipeg’s neighbourhoods, can be seen as part of a broader trend in North American cities towards an interest in all things local. This trend is itself connected to a broader demographic shift that is seeing people make a return to downtown living, especially among Generation-X and Millennials whose expectations about quality of life, work and recreation habits are very different than those of generations past. This phenomena is ultimately being driven by social and economic forces: on the one hand it is being driven by the emergence of new modes of production in the knowledge and creative economies which thrive in compact and networked urban environments; on the other, by an emergent social and environmental consciousness that is motivating people to seek out and practice low-impact and sustainable ways of living—ways of living that urban centres can offer in some measure. This great ‘urban shift’ and return to downtown investment is most visible in the Exchange District where the pace of transformation from derelict warehouses to new commercial, residential and cultural venues has been astounding. The East Exchange area in particular is undergoing dramatic change as old warehouses are transformed into condos or destroyed entirely to make way for new town homes. As more people begin to make downtown living a choice, a critical eye is increasingly being turned upon the city and a new generation of voices are speaking out about the inequities that still very much animate inner-city life. 9


New urban-focused media initiatives such as Spacing magazine, local blogs such such as The Spectator Tribune, podcasts like the Winnipeg Internet Pundits, and even the University of Winnipeg’s student newspaper The Uniter regularly focus a critical eye on local urban issues. As Winnipeg has adjusted to new economic and political circumstances, the shape of the city has also changed. As a ‘slow growth’ city these changes are sometimes difficult to pinpoint, almost imperceptible, but taken altogether they amount to a dramatic shift. This same imperceptibility also applies to the challenges that the city faces. Of course, there are the obvious issues that play out starkly on the streets of Winnipeg’s inner-city everyday: abandoned shop windows, poverty, crumbling infrastructure. But there are also the challenges that go unseen, and in some ways these are the more troubling issues confronting Winnipeg. These challenges include questions of citizen morale and engagement in the democratic process, a lack of openness and transparency in urban development and governance, a lack of formal infrastructure to support innovation that is not just commercially oriented, and ultimately the absence of a sustained forum for public debate and engagement with the issues shaping the city today.

1.3 CONSTELLATION OF URBAN INITIATIVES IN WINNIPEG The following is a survey of existing urban-focused cultural, research, and advocacy organizations and initiatives in Winnipeg. The list is by no means exhaustive, but is compiled to give a sense of the sheer volume of urban related work being undertaken in Winnipeg today. Omitted from this list are the many hundreds of community-based nonprofit organizations and social enterprises in Winnipeg that also advocate and offer programming on urban themes.


t Atmosphere, Faculty of Architecture, U of M t Winnipeg Design Festival t CEDnet Gathering t FRONTlines t 10x10x20 / PechaKucha / TEDxManitoba

PROFESSIONAL t Manitoba Professional Planners Institute ASSOCIATIONS t Planners Network t Manitoba Architectural Association t Manitoba Association of Landscape Architects EXHIBITION & GALLERY SPACES

t RAW Gallery t Arch 2 Gallery at U of M t Art City, Graffiti Gallery, aceartinc., Urban Shaman, Platform, MAWA, Martha Street Studio, PlugIn ICA< Winnipeg Art Gallery


t Faculty of Architecture, University of Manitoba t Urban and Inner-City Studies Program, University of Winnipeg t Department of Geography, University of Winnipeg


t Institute of Urban Studies - Journal of Urban Research t Social Planning Council of Winnipeg t Centre for Environmental Health Equity t CEDnet t Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives t Health in Common


t STUFF: Studio for Transformative Urban Forms and Fields







t The Uniter t Spectator Tribune t Blogs: Rise and Sprawl, Winnipeg Love and Hate,, the view from seven, etc. t Winnipeg Internet Pundits t Warehouse Journal t PlugIn Editions: Scratching the Surface: The Post-Prairie Landscape; Complex Order: Intrusions in Public Space; Informal Architectures: Space and Contemporary Culture

t HotHut International Design Competition t Prairie Design Awards t Free Press Design Summit - CP Rail Yard Re-Design


t Winnipeg Architecture Foundation t Janeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Walk t Winnipeg Art Gallery Junior Architects summer camp t IUS Summer Institutes t Heritage Winnipeg


t t t t t t

StoreFRONT MB For the Love of Winnipeg Transition Winnipeg ACI Artists + Community City Shop Talk CityWatch



2.0 ANALYSIS Winnipeg is a city built on a foundation of cooperation and collaboration. The many thousand year old history of human gathering and settlement at the Red and Assiniboine Rivers reveals this truth. Although the history of colonization, the dispossession of First Nations’ lands, exploitation of natural and human resources, decades of urban decline and all the attendant hardship would suggest a legacy of conflict and despair, it has been the perseverance and resilience of these dispossessed and exploited communities—First Nations people, the working class, immigrants, the individuals at the margins of society—as well as everyday Winnipeggers, that has defined the character of this city and its politics. Historic circumstance, coupled with the realities of a severe climate and geographic isolation, have given rise to a robust civil society with a strong culture of cooperation. Section 2.0 extracts insights and lessons, highlights Winnipeg’s assets and strengths, and identifies opportunities that Urban Idea can build upon as it seeks to define its future role.



2.1 INSIGHTS AND LESSONS Over the course of research, it has been observed that Winnipeg is a grassroots city. The number and diversity of community-driven initiatives is truly astonishing. In a sense, it can be said that there are many ‘urban idea centres’—formal and informal initiatives, organizations and individuals working, thinking, writing, creating and advocating on all number of intersecting urban themes. From socio-economic issues such as urban poverty and housing, sustainability issues such as food security and transit, design, architecture, planning, neighbourhood revitalization and small business development, there are a number of inspiring examples of work being done to create a more prosperous and just future in Winnipeg. It has also been observed that this grassroots, diversified and distributed approach is one of Winnipeg’s great strengths as a city. In the 15 or so years since the Urban Idea Centre ceased public programming, Winnipeg has seen a flowering of urban-focused initiatives and advocacy projects. In many ways, the seeds that were planted by the Urban Idea Centre have taken root. That being said, it has also been observed that while these grassroots and distributed movements may create fertile conditions for experimentation, there is a distinct challenge in this city with respect to the ability for one-off experiments and localized instances of innovation to scale-up, sustain momentum, and propagate innovation anew.

This is not to say that innovation in Winnipeg never achieves scale, momentum and propagation. Winnipeg’s arts community is an excellent case study in how diverse and distributed individuals and organizations working in very different disciplines have cooperated to establish formal and informal networks over the last 40 years that have allowed the arts in this city to dramatically flourish, sustain long-term momentum and most importantly propagate new generations of artists and new arts initiatives. Other examples come from First Nations run organizations, who in the 1980’s and 90’s created resilient networks and platforms to build organisational capacity and healing initiatives that have since given rise to many innovative programs and community leaders. Today, we can see the same success story unfolding in Winnipeg’s burgeoning Community Economic Development and social enterprise sector. These macrocosms of sustained innovation and network resilience are shining examples of what Winnipeg can achieve. However, they are limited cases in so far as each one is an example of a relatively closed system, where the constituent members fundamentally operate within the safety of a common cultural framework, often sharing similar assumptions and biases as a start. In these systems, cooperation is expedited by a common ground of understanding, and conflict, in general, is resolved with ease. Achieving scale, momentum and the propagation of truly innovative urban ideas among the vastly diverse initiatives and disciplines that fall under the umbrella of “The City” is another challenge altogether.





Because cities are diverse, multi-faceted and complex creatures, any serious approach to addressing their issues in a way that is robust, sustains momentum and generates innovative solutions will necessarily have to include diverse voices, multi-faceted tactics and provide a space for complex and sometimes messy experimentation.

The wisdom and knowledge required to address Winnipeg’s collective urban challenges are embedded within its own communities. Unlocking these powerful resources and sparking innovation can only happen when individuals and communities are given the means, financial and otherwise, and the support, through networks, knowledge sharing, and space to experiment.

It is not that Winnipeg is somehow deficient in the social, organisational, intellectual or physical infrastructure to support this kind of innovation generation. Winnipeg has many institutions of higher learning, research centres, countless civil society organizations, designers, creative people and dedicated citizens of all stripes, passions, and abilities. What is not yet happening, is a forum where these diverse bodies can come together, leverage their unique and individual strengths and work collaboratively to innovate solutions for pressing urban issues. Put another way, the challenge is this: how can Urban Idea create a venue that brings together students from Red River College's digital media program, local food security organizations, community residents from the Maples, and young social-entrepreneurs, into a collaborative environment to design and innovate new services, products and systems that change the way residents think about and access food in Winnipeg’s North End? How can this model of community innovation and design be applied in different contexts, with different partners to tackle other urban issues?



The evidence for this kind of cross-disciplinary approach to seeding innovation can be found right here in Winnipeg. Indeed, some of the most innovative and successful initiatives to arise in Winnipeg addressing urban challenges are those that have emerged at the intersection of diverse sectors. For example, when the arts community intersects with neighbourhood revitalization and community development, we find programs like ArtCity, the North End Arts Centre, Graffiti Gallery and the Winnipeg Arts Council’s WithArt program. When small business intersects with environmental and sustainability issues, we find cooperatives and social enterprises like the Landless Farmers Collective and the Peg City Car Co-op. The innovative models and frameworks are at hand, we need only look around and build on this rich legacy. And there are many more innovative models and initiatives yet to be invented, or borrowed from other cities and adapted for Winnipeg’s local needs. Some of these models are presented in the Case Studies section of this paper.

OPPORTUNITIES MOVING FORWARD Winnipeg has important lessons to contribute to the national and international conversation about the future of urban living and the opportunities that collective action and collaboration can unlock. Given the immensity of this opportunity, it is not enough for Urban Idea to operate exclusively in the realm of ideas and visions, or primarily as a silent player chipping away at government policy reform. Although ideas and visions are powerful and useful, and certainly a part of the equation moving forward, and policy reform is key to creating a sustained culture of innovation, Winnipeg has no shortage of forums for the presentation of ideas and no shortage of organizations with the experience and expertise on the ground to advocate for policy reform. Further to this, it is not sufficient for Urban Idea to operate as a single-issue organization, advocating only on a set of narrowly focused problems such as promoting public transit use, access to affordable housing, or the adoption of sustainable building codes. As outlined in this paper, Winnipeg is well served by established and emerging advocacy initiatives covering many of these themes.

What is required instead is a framework that brings together the 'idea people' and the 'policy people' with the makers and creators in this city. A framework that opens up spaces of exchange and experimentation between activists and academics, city dreamers and code developers, entrepreneurs and educators. A framework that challenges these groups to think holistically about urban issues and design new products, services, and business models at the intersection of their collective strengths.




Urban Idea remains incorporated as a nonprofit The organization maintains its charitable status There is money in the bank Urban Idea enjoys a positive reputation in Winnipeg A strong legacy has been left behind with projects that made an impact on the city

WEAKNESSES t Urban Idea has not been publicly active in more than 15 years t Urban Idea has not updated it’s vision or mandate since incorporation in 1989 t The scope of Urban Idea may be limited if it remains exclusively a special program area of WAC

OPPORTUNITIES t t t t t t t t

The issue of the revitalization in downtown Winnipeg is getting a great deal of media attention today There is a feeling of enthusiasm and public good-will towards revitalization efforts and prospects for change Winnipeg is a slow growth city. This provides an opportunity to reflect, consult widely and make informed decisions Integrating First Nations perspectives could offer a more holistic way of thinking about urban health and wellbeing Winnipeg is a grassroots city with a diversity of established and emerging urban-focused initiatives There is an opportunity for Urban Idea to make connections and partnerships with these initiatives Arts and design communities in Winnipeg are well networked and organized and plugged into urban issues Engaging newcomers in the urban conversation will bring an international perspective and valuable insights

THREATS t The urban conversation in Winnipeg tends to be dominated by professionals coming out of the university system, or by big-ticket developers such as Centre Venture, and the mainstream media t Lean financial times mean money for new initiatives may not be easy to come by t Engaging communities that are not already “plugged into” the issues will be a challenge t Finding a way to include non-inner-city voices such as those from the suburbs will be a challenge t Collaboration fatigue: citizens are turned off by “engagement” processes that result in little change



2.3 POLICY REVIEW One of the legacies of the Urban Idea Centre was the role it played in promoting the value of placemaking through public art and urban design. The connection between urban vitality and the arts, and the role of the City and the Winnipeg Arts Council in promoting these practices is confirmed in the City’s proposed Cultural Action Plan Ticket to the Future. WINNIPEG ARTS COUNCIL & CITY BUILDING The Cultural Action Plan situates ‘placemaking’—creating dynamic and desirable urban environments—at the heart of its recommendations for the City of Winnipeg. The Plan emphasizes how through engaging the public in creative and collaborative programs like WAC’s Public Art initiative, Winnipeg can promote the development of creative communities and position itself as a “City of the Arts” that is an attractive and competitive place to live, work and play. Good urban design also has an important role to play in placemaking and contributing to the quality of urban life enjoyed by residents. To this end, the Winnipeg Arts Council has been a leader not only in supporting the professional development of artists and arts organizations, but also in developing programs that position arts and culture as tools for placemaking and community building. In recent years the Winnipeg Arts Council has been involved in a number of public works projects that have contributed directly to the creation of dynamic and desirable public spaces in the city.

The connection between the arts and city building is also reaffirmed in WAC’s Strategic Plan 2012-2017. The Strategic Plan outlines the role WAC plays in the arts community as a sort of network hub between diverse players including artists, arts presenters, audiences, policy makers, and others. Included in this network is a group identified as “city-builders,” suggesting the Arts Council embraces its role as a catalyst for urban change and a network facilitator between creative producers and Winnipeg urbanists. Indeed, this was the very premise of a conference organized in 2010 by WAC on the occasion of Winnipeg’s designation as the Cultural Capital of Canada. The My City’s Still Breathing conference brought together city builders and artists with planners and government to celebrate Winnipeg as an arts city and find ways to encourage creative urbanism. Given this legacy, it is clear that the Winnipeg Arts Council is the organization in Winnipeg that is best positioned to support Urban Idea as it begins the process of articulating a new vision for the future.



3.0 FRAMEWORK A VISION FOR URBAN IDEA The emerging vision of Urban Idea is of a laboratory for community innovation and design. Section 3.0 outlines a framework for this vision that is grounded in four principles and eight strategic focus areas. The principles and strategies of this framework focus on sparking innovation through knowledge exchange and incubating people and ideas, employing design as a tool for citizen engagement and advocacy, building capacity through education and celebrating assets, and creating collaborative systems that are open, accessible and human-centred. The principles and strategies have been designed to be mutually reinforcing and complementary. For example, strategies that fall under the principle of â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Educationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; are reinforced and include dimensions of the other three principles: educating the public about planning issues and the municipal process can be aided by art and design tools that present complex ideas in simple formats; education fundamentally leads to increased levels of social and economic access, and ideas in turn are the sparks that fuel innovation. Case Studies in the succeeding section detail specific examples of these strategies in practice.



3.1 FOUR PRINCIPLES - ONE IDEA INNOVATION As a laboratory for community innovation and design, Urban Idea will position itself as an active centre where conversation and collaboration between citizens, sectors and disciplines is supported. Participants will be challenged to think holistically about urban issues, recognize opportunities to link and leverage individual strengths, and design innovative products, services and initiatives that confront urban challenges with local solutions.

DESIGN Define. Explore. Ideate. Prototype. The design process, with its emphasis on modelling and visual expression, can help participants with diverse levels of knowledge and expertise define problems, explore context, imagine solutions, and model alternatives using a common set of tools. Urban Idea will invite artists and designers to facilitate creative problem solving and create works that highlight urban issues and provoke critical thinking about the city and its various systems.

EDUCATION Education is power. Urban Idea will empower citizens to see themselves as agents of change and give them the tools to better understand and engage with the forces that shape their cities and communities. Urban Idea will also work to educate the public about local innovative projects, organizations and community leaders that are transforming Winnipeg. Celebrating underrepresented success stories is a key to propagating new innovations.

ACCESSIBILITY In its organisational and operational capacities, Urban Idea will be a model of the very collaborative, citizen-centred and creative practices it seeks to spur. Urban Idea will advocate for a culture of openness in Winnipegâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;open data, open collaboration, open and transparent decision making. Urban Idea will promote human-centred values as a cornerstone in all its programs.





1. Incubate community change-makers and social entrepreneurs.

3. Reveal urban systems through design research and exhibitions.

Investing in people, above all, is the key to driving innovation and creating positive urban change. Urban Idea has an opportunity to seed local social innovation by creating programs for emerging community leaders to access networks and mentorship, build professional skills and incubate new initiatives. A ‘Community Innovators’ residency or fellowship program could provide cooperative/internship work experiences for students and young professionals.

How much food is consumed in the city of Winnipeg each day? What intersections are the most dangerous for pedestrians? Is there a connection between the number of trees on a street and the median level of income? Urban Idea has an opportunity to use design research to investigate urban systems, creating tools and exhibitions that help the public better understand how cities work— in all their peculiar ways—and inviting citizens to think critically about the urban environment.

2. Facilitate dialogue and collaboration across disciplines and sectors.

4. Use art and design as tools to support community planning.

Innovation happens at the intersection of established practices, when disciplines and sectors work collaboratively to create new knowledge and more holistic approaches to solving problems. Urban Idea has an opportunity to spark innovation by becoming a laboratory for interdisciplinary collaboration—inviting individuals from different sectors, professional disciplines and lived experiences to exchange knowledge, share assets, and design new strategies for urban revitalization.

Engaging communities in the planning process is an important and challenging objective. If urban revitalization initiatives in Winnipeg are to be carried out in a responsible and sustainable way, then it is essential that citizens are given the tools to express their ideas and concerns. Urban Idea has an opportunity to support this effort by working with schools, neighbourhood centres and other organizations to facilitate creative workshops and consultations that give voice to community objectives.





5. Define and celebrate Winnipegâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s urban assets and innovations.

7. Model open, participatory and collaborative practices.

Winnipeg boasts many outstanding examples of community-driven innovation. Our fine architectural heritage and urban neighbourhoods are among the most beautiful in Canada. We live in a diverse and cosmopolitan city. Unfortunately, these assets often go uncelebrated in the local and national discourse about Canadian cities. Urban Idea has an opportunity to celebrate these assets and underline Winnipeg as a city with important lessons to contribute to the national urban conversation.

Promoting openness and collaboration is easier said than done. Collaboration can be messy, especially when participants do not share the same perspective. Creating open and inclusive systems that accommodate people of all different life experiences and abilities requires patience and skill. However, the benefits that open and collaborative practices deliver in terms of building innovation that truly meets real-world needs, and establishing bonds of trust, respect and resiliency make the effort worthwhile.

6. Educate the public about planning issues and the municipal process.

8. Promote urban strategies that are inclusive and Human-Centred.

Many cities struggle with how to meaningfully engage citizens in the planning process. Citizens themselves often feel alienated by the complexity of municipal issues and may not be aware of the ways that they can get involved. Urban Idea has an opportunity to invest in programs that promote literacy around local planning issues and municipal processes. Hosting workshops and programs that give citizens the tools and confidence to participate fully in civic life and enriching local democracy.

Human-Centred Design is an approach to design that is sensitive to the needs, desires and scale of humans. A Human-Centred approach engages people, the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;end usersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; of a product, service or environment in the actual design process, and seeks an intimate understanding of how the design can serve their unique needs. Urban Idea has an opportunity to promote this value in all the work it undertakes and advocate for urban designs and strategies that are inclusive and enable the living of a good life.


4.0 CASE STUDIES Section 4.0 presents case studies of innovative projects, partnership and organisational models that may provide inspiration for Urban Idea. Eight case studies are presented, one for each strategic focus area outlined in the framework, to give real-world examples of how these strategies can be realized. The case studies are selected for their applicability to the Winnipeg context and in some cases, comments on the relevance of the case study to Winnipeg is explicitly highlighted.


Image source: FastCompany.

STRATEGY Incubate community change-makers and social entrepreneurs EXAMPLE Create Here LOCATION Chattanooga, TN. USA SUMMARY Create Here is a nonprofit organization based in Chattanooga, Tennessee that focuses on placemaking, utilizing creativity and entrepreneurship as tools to spur positive urban development. CreateHere engages open and creative processes to organize diverse stakeholders around pressing civic issues, while providing resources for individuals and communities to take action and make positive change. CreateHere projects include a community leaders fellowship program, a small business planning course, a grants program for creatives, and community visioning facilitation. CONTACT

CORE PROGRAMS Lead Here: Lead Here is a fellowship program for emerging community leaders. Gathered from a variety of educational and experience backgrounds, LeadHere fellows oversee end-to-end project management of all Create Here programs and initiatives. Fellows also participate in training opportunities to more deeply connect with the community and civic responsibility. Spring Board: Spring Board is a resource hub for Chattanooga’s creative and social entrepreneurs. An eight-week business planning course helps budding business leaders of all stripes—from trades people to artists—build capacity to launch new enterprises. Spring Board’s interdisciplinary model generates innovative businesses at the intersection of the trades, business and the arts. RELEVANCE FOR WINNIPEG Create Here is a model for a new approach to urban revitalization. It starts from the belief that place-making, capacity-building and connectivity are powerful drivers of urban renewal. Create Here shows that even small cities can become hubs for innovation when you connect people from diverse sectors with ideas, skills and a platform to experiment. The model that Create Here established can be adapted for Winnipeg. Imagine linking Winnipeg’s burgeoning co-operative and social enterprise movements, with the established design and arts communities, to incubate new initiatives, new businesses and community leaders. CASE STUDIES 24

STRATEGY Facilitate dialogue and collaboration across disciplines and sectors EXAMPLE Ontario Centres of Excellence - Social Innovation Partnership Challenge SUMMARY The Social Innovation Partnership Challenge is an Ontario based funding program designed to promote collaboration between industry, academia and the nonprofit and social enterprise sectors. Administered through the Ontario Centres of Excellence, the program challenges the sectors to work together to create socially innovative projects, services and business models that tackle complex sustainability challenges. The program allows NPOs, SEs, industry and academia to gain access to talent, research, networks and expertise that many would not have had the opportunity to access otherwise. Image source:

STRATEGY Reveal urban systems through design research and exhibition EXAMPLE Broken City Lab SUMMARY

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Broken City Lab is an artist-led collective and nonprofit organization based in Windsor, Ontario. The collective aims to connect various disciplines through design research and social practice, generating works and interventionist tactics that adjust, critique, annotate, and re-imagine cities. Broken City Lab projects have included interactive outdoor projections detailing ideas and messages for the city, designing micro-gardens, hosting international artists for a storefront residency project, leading psycho-geographic walks, DIY workshops, and community brainstorming sessions in cities across Canada.

STRATEGY Use art and design as tools to support community planning EXAMPLE Hester Street Collaborative LOCATION New York City, NY. USA Image source:

SUMMARY Hester Street Collaborative (HSC) is a design/build nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the physical environment in underserved New York City neighbourhoods using a participatory planning and design approach. HSC works with local residents and youth to transform neglected public spaces into parks, schools, and affordable housing developments through a participatory design and advocacy process that capitalizes on local knowledge and resources, gives stakeholders a hands-on role, and encourages meaningful, long-term community stewardship. CONTACT

CORE PROGRAMS Design Education: HSCâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s educational approach places students at the forefront of design initiatives. Youth learn skills and strategies to participate in public space improvement projects alongside designers and key decision-makers, allowing for authentic ownership of community change. Ground Up: Ground Up is a design education program that brings together architects, local artists, activists and teachers to engage public school students in a curriculum that introduces them to architecture and design concepts through hands-on, site-based workshops. Ground Up works with elementary, middle and high school students with age-appropriate materials that encourage students to view their surroundings in a new and critical way. People Make Parks: People Make Parks is a project to help communities participate in the design of their parks by facilitating collaboration in park design between invested communities and the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation. Working with Partnerships for Parks, HSC created the People Make Parks Toolkit to inform residents about the process of making physical improvement to parks, help them collect information that is relevant to design, communicate it to park decision-makers in a timely way, and transition into long-term park stewardship.


STRATEGY Define and celebrate Winnipegâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s urban assets and innovations EXAMPLE Detroit Urban Innovation Exchange LOCATION Detroit, MI. USA SUMMARY The Urban Innovation Exchange (UIX) is a network and showcase for Detroitâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s growing urban social innovation movement. UIX provides a web-based platform for changemakers in Detroit to be inspired, share knowledge and collaborate. The UIX website highlights stories about innovative local community initiatives and social enterprises, profiles of community leaders and provides a portal of resources that individuals can use to turn their ideas into social change. UIX also hosts forums and collaborates with other Detroit-based organizations to incubate new ideas and initiatives. CONTACT


RELEVANCE FOR WINNIPEG Winnipeg, like Detroit, is a city of individuals and communities that has responded to challenging socio-economic circumstances with ingenuity. From the many initiatives supported through the inner-city neighbourhood associations and development corporations, to the burgeoning social enterprise and cooperative movement, hybrid initiatives that link the arts with community development, and more. It can be said that Winnipeg is a model of community-driven innovation in Canada. Celebrating emerging and established initiatives and making these stories visible could help catalyse resources and bolster this trend. Providing the public with positive models of urban change and innovation, as well as the resources to connect and incubate new initiatives can have a transformative impact on the city.

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STRATEGY Educate the public about planning issues and the municipal process EXAMPLE Centre for Urban Pedagogy LOCATION New York City, NY. USA SUMMARY


The Centre for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) is a nonprofit organization that uses design and art to improve civic engagement in New York City. CUP projects demystify urban policy and planning issues so that citizens can better participate in shaping them. CUP works collaboratively with artists, designers, communitybased advocates and policy makers to create simple, accessible and visual tools that explain complex issues such as urban ecology, zoning laws, food access, and more. The tools are used by organizers and educators to help their constituents better advocate for their own community needs.

Making Policy Public: The Making Policy Public series aims to make urban policies accessible and understandable to lay audiences. Four times yearly, CUP pairs designers with advocacy organizations to translate complex policy issues into easy-to-grasp visuals that are then widely distributed within the community most affected by the policy. Past issues have included Vendor Power: A Guide to Street Vending in New York City, which helps street vendors navigate the bylaws and policies governing their businesses, and the Tenants Rights Flashcard set which breaks down the New York Tenancy Act into simple to understand visuals.


RELEVANCE FOR WINNIPEG The project of building a great city is about more than bricks and mortar infrastructure, it also includes building a citizenry that is informed, engaged and invested in the future well being of their communities. Many cities struggle with how to meaningfully engage citizens in the planning process. Citizens themselves often feel alienated by the complexity of municipal issues and may be ill-equipped to make informed decisions. This lack of information or literacy about urban issues can lead to mistrust, scepticism and ultimately lost opportunities for positive urban development. Investing in programs that promote urban or civic literacy, especially among youth and through creative programs that use design and art to break down complex issues, can give citizens the confidence to participate more fully in civic life. CASE STUDIES 28

STRATEGY Model open, participatory and collaborative practices EXAMPLE ChangeCamp “Unconference” SUMMARY ChangeCamp is an event format, a participant-driven unconference where the agenda is created by the attendees. ChangeCamp brings together citizens, policy-makers, technologists, designers, business owners, and others to answer the question: “How do we re-imagine government and citizenship in the age of participation?” Unconferences feature open discussions rather than keynote speakers or panellists. The event format facilitates horizontal participation, giving participants the ability to drive the agenda and work collaboratively to make changes to better address real-world challenges in their communities. Image source:

STRATEGY Promote urban strategies that are inclusive and Human-Centred EXAMPLE IDEO Human-Centred Design Tool Kit SUMMARY

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The Human-Centred Design Toolkit was designed for NGOs and social enterprises working in the developing world to enable individuals to facilitate the creation of designs and solutions that addressed local issues. Designed by IDEO, an international design firm, the toolkit walks users through the human-centred design process and supports them in activities such as empathic research, workshop facilitation, brainstorm and concept development. The Toolkit could be applied in any community where local challenges and insights need to be identified and to facilitate a collaborative design process.


5.0 RECOMMENDATIONS The need for a more robust level of engagement in Winnipeg’s urban conversation from across the spectrum—citizens, the private sector, civil society and government—and the need to create infrastructure that supports and incubates new voices, ideas and initiatives, is as crucial today as it was in 1989. This paper has outlined a framework of four principles grounded in innovation, design, education and accessibility as well as eight substrategies with illustrative case studies showing how this objective might be pursued. In this section, specific recommendations are made about how this framework can be implemented with the Winnipeg Arts Council as a key partner. A model is proposed for establishing and coordinating collaborative partnerships, and a fully detailed scenario and plan of action for Urban Idea moving forward in the next year is suggested.





The purpose that Urban Idea is called upon to serve in Winnipeg today is to stoke the flames of Winnipeg’s civic imagination and channel the passionate and creative energies of citizens into actions and outcomes that make a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the city.

Since 2010 the Winnipeg Arts Council has acted as the primary administrator of Urban Idea. WAC has maintained the incorporated nonprofit and charitable status of Urban Idea with a small care-taker board of directors and administrative support.

The challenge for Urban Idea is to reach out and link all the small brush fires—the many small pockets and instances of brilliant urban research and action that are scattered about the city—in such a way that raises the collective impact of all and sustains the urban conversation and innovation generation in Winnipeg over the long-term.

Moving forward, it is recommended that the Winnipeg Arts Council maintain its special role as administrator for Urban Idea, however it is recommended that the current board of directors be expanded to give the organization latitude to articulate a direction and mandate that is not weighted only towards the interests and capacities of the Winnipeg Arts Council. It is recommended that this expanded board of directors include representatives not only from the arts community, but also the design community, environmental and community-service NPO’s, small business, academia, government and other constituents who will form the basis for the crossdisciplinary partnerships and collaborations that Urban Idea will need to establish.

To achieve this, Urban Idea must build a network of networks: establishing collaborative and productive relationships across disciplines and sectors. The objective is not to replicate or duplicate services and programs that are already happening in the city, but to bring these diverse initiatives together, under one umbrella, into one room, to collaborate and design new ideas, programs and strategies for our urban future.

In the next couple years, as Urban Idea re-establishes its presence in Winnipeg, the organization will benefit immensely from the operational and administrative support that the Winnipeg Arts Council can offer. That being said, it is recommended that Urban Idea establish an operational structure that enables it to pursue programs and collaborations with grassroots initiatives and other partners in a way that is organic and mutually sustaining for Urban Idea and its partners. RECOMMENDATIONS


CONSTELLATION MODEL OF COLLABORATIVE SOCIAL CHANGE The ‘constellation model’ of collaborative social change was pioneered by the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and the Environment, and Tonya Surman, Director of the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto. It is presented here as a model that Urban Idea can take inspiration from as it seeks to establish a network of collaborative and productive relationships among diverse Winnipeg urbanists. The following text has been cited and adapted from an article published by Tonya Surman, available online. See Credits & Thanks section for details:

Inspired by complexity theory, the constellation model emphasizes the role of small, self-organizing action groups working together on a particular task or issue. The model is distinguished by three features: Constellations, a Stewardship Group, and a third-party Secretariat. Constellations take the form of clusters of activity in which partners voluntarily participate. They can be formal projects, opportunistic initiatives or working groups. Clusters become active when a group of partners decides to work on a particular issue. When there is low energy or declining opportunity, a constellation can become inactive without impacting negatively on the overall partnership. Constellations flow from opportunism, not from a rigid strategic plan. This makes it possible to balance the interests and needs of each group within the broader goal of highly productive collaboration. 33 RECOMMENDATIONS

The Stewardship Group sets overall strategic direction, monitors the partnership’s overall health, identifies opportunities to initiate new constellations when appropriate, and ensures that constellations align with the partnership’s overall purpose and objectives. A third-party Secretariat is established outside the formal constellation and stewardship groups. In collaborative partnerships, placing the secretariat function within one of the partners can negatively alter the power dynamic of the group. One partner takes executive power while the others defer responsibility and lose energy. With the constellation model, the secretariat is housed in an intermediary organization with the experience and capacity to manage day-to-day administration.

5.3 SCENARIO 2014 - A YEAR OF URBAN IDEAS VISION A year-long presentation of public programming, community forums and targeted pilot-project funds, presented by Urban Idea in concert with community, academic, governmental and private sector partners. The ‘Year of Urban Ideas’ initiative is proposed as a way to reintroduce Urban Idea to the broader community, while building a legacy of collective impact and strengthened capacity for all parties with a stake in Winnipeg’s urban future. The proposed initiative seeks to connect Winnipeg’s urban visionaries and advocates from across disciplines and sectors, to amplify their collective voices for responsible and sustainable urban development. The initiative seeks to celebrate Winnipeg’s unique urban assets and culture of experimentation, while creating opportunities for new and emerging initiatives to gain traction. Finally, the initiative seeks to promote a culture of informed and sustained public engagement in the conversation about Winnipeg’s urban future.

RATIONALE Urban Idea has an opportunity to leverage its good name, connections with local community leaders, and modest financial assets to make a significant contribution to the urban conversation in Winnipeg. Given this immense opportunity, it is not sufficient for Urban Idea to simply pursue projects opportunistically. Although a number of interesting one-off projects could be executed with Urban Idea’s current financial resources, if this tactic is pursued the net benefit to Urban Idea in the long-term and the broader community impact would be minimal. It is recommended that Urban Idea pursue a year-long coordinated campaign of programs, in partnership with universities and other Winnipeg institutions and community groups. A Year of Urban Ideas initiative will allow Urban Idea to establish the kinds of relationships and networks necessary for achieving long-term impact, in a way that would otherwise be untenable if Urban Idea attempted to create programming alone. A Year of Urban Ideas initiative would serve to raise the profile and collective voice of all invested parties, raising the profile of urban issues to new heights in Winnipeg and setting a course to shape the urban conversation in Winnipeg for years to come.


PROGRAM POSSIBILITIES It is proposed that the Year of Urban Ideas initiative organize programs, events and project themes with the four strategic focus areas of Innovation, Design, Education and Accessibility in mind. While some programs offered during the proposed Year of Urban Ideas will be unique, many more can be offered by creating partnerships with organizations and institutions in Winnipeg and aligning existing programming under one common banner for 2014. In the spirit of building connections between diverse initiatives and sustaining momentum among Winnipeg urbanists, the role of Urban Idea during this year will be to offer administration and communications support to ensure that partner initiatives are coordinated and well represented. City Builders Camp: Ideas and Actions for Urban Innovation Kicking-off the proposed Year of Urban Ideas initiative is a gathering of citizens, community organizations, policy makers, artists and designers, small business owners, planners, economists and everyone in between, for a two day unconference to share ideas and actions for urban innovation. Presentations by local and visiting individuals and organizations sharing innovative urban practices will inspire participants to consider actions and projects that can be initiated in Winnipeg. The intention is that the ideas and networks established at this gathering


will be carried forward and perhaps taken up for further development over the course of the year in the Student Charrette, Summer Institute, or through the Small Project Fund programs. Lecture and Film Series Many organizations and institutions such as the University of Winnipeg offer public lecture and film series. There is an opportunity to partner with these groups and coordinate lectures and film screenings that connect broadly with urban themes. Promoting these programs under the banner of the Year of Urban Ideas initiative could help generate larger audiences for partners and reinforce the public awareness and interest in Urban Idea. Student Design Charrette A charrette is an intensive and highly collaborative process that brings together students, faculty, professionals and stakeholders to workshop ideas and solutions that address complex urban challenges. There is an unrealized opportunity to tap into the intellectual and creative resources of Winnipegâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s universities and colleges to generate ideas and solutions for urban problems. A Student Design Charrette process would bring together students from different disciplines such as business, liberal arts, sciences, creative communications and digital design, architecture to workshop products, services and business models to spur urban innovation. Charrettes can be integrated into curriculum for credit and the results can be displayed for public consideration.

Summer Institute PlugIn ICA hosts an annual Summer Institute inviting artists and designers to take up residency and work on creative projects. The Institute of Urban Studies has on occasion hosted summer learning institutes that use the inner-city as a classroom to educate the public about urban issues and local community development initiatives. There is an opportunity to invite PlugIn and the Institute of Urban Studies to partner with the Year of Urban Ideas and create a Summer Institute that engages critical and creative investigations about the city. Small Project Funds: Urban Innovation Challenge The flagship program for the proposed Year of Urban Ideas is a Small Project Fund that provides resources to support pilot-projects and emerging initiatives that demonstrate innovative ideas that address contemporary urban issues. The funding program is framed as a challenge because in order to be accepted, applicants must involve partners from at least three of the following four groups: professional artist, designer or arts/design organization, community-based nonprofit organization, small business or social enterprise, academic partner. For the Love of Winnipeg: Exhibition & Publication As a capstone to the Year of Urban Ideas, it is proposed that an exhibition and publication be produced cataloguing all the initiatives, ideas and projects undertaken over the course of the year. Inspired by the Toronto publication U-TO-pia, the exhibition and publication will serve as a sort of love letter to the city,

highlighting all of Winnipegâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s incredible assets; a time capsule of a moment in the Winnipegâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s history that witnessed a rebirth of civic affection, and a call to action for Winnipeg and for Urban Idea to seize the opportunity afforded by this moment to make a positive and lasting impact.

PARTNERSHIP & FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES It is recommended that Urban Idea create partnerships with community organizations, universities, government, professional associations and the private sector to leverage its existing financial resources and secure funding from local and national foundations, and other funding bodies to pursue the Year of Urban Ideas. Funding partnerships that may be explored include: United Way of Winnipeg, Winnipeg Foundation, City of Winnipeg, Government of Manitoba, Faculty of Architecture, University of Manitoba, Red River College, University of Winnipeg, Assiniboine Credit Union Manitoba Community Services Council, McConnell Foundation, Knight Foundation, Canadian Innovation Exchange, Evergreen There are a number of exciting festivals and centenary celebrations scheduled for 2014 in Winnipeg that make this an ideal time to start planning and coordinating efforts: Royal Architectural Institute of Canada festival, May 2014; Prairie Design Awards; Centennial of the Manitoba Association of Architects; Centennial of Faculty of Architecture, U of M RECOMMENDATIONS 36

LEGACY WINNIPEG LABORATORY FOR COMMUNITY INNOVATION AND DESIGN Following up on the success of the Year of Urban Ideas initiative, conditions in Winnipeg will be much more open and fertile for Urban Idea to establish a more robust mandate. It is recommended that Urban Idea build on the legacy of the previous year and position itself as an umbrella network or hub for urbanists and urban-focused initiatives in Winnipeg.

Create Here ceased programming in 2011. This limited time-frame helped establish a dynamic and frenetic energy within the organization and a sense of urgency about being creative and proactive with projects. Create Here attracted similarly ambitious and energetic partners and was able to make a big impact in a short period.

Further discussion amongst the board and community advisors will have to be undertaken to determine the role of Urban Idea and its relationship with WAC beyond this point. A long-term partnership between Urban Idea and WAC, perhaps with Urban Idea established as a special project area at the Arts Council might limit the ability of Urban Idea to fulfil a robust mandate. On the other hand, establishing long-term funding and organisational capacity might not be entirely appropriate either.

This approach flies counter to the course that most organizations take. The need to constantly secure long-term funding often results in an organisational culture that is more oriented towards applying for grants than executing projects. This limited approach might also be an appealing prospect for funders in tight economic times. The approach is also complementary to the objective outlined for Urban Idea in this paper to spark urban innovation.

Taking a page from the Create Here case study, Urban Idea may want to consider establishing itself as an organization with a defined term and sunset clause. Create Here was established in 2006 as a 5 year project. Headquarters were taken up in an abandoned storefront in Chattanooga, TN and the studio space displayed a running count-down until the experiment was over.


6.0 NEXT STEPS STEP ONE Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s talk. Assemble a roundtable of representatives from different sectors and invite them to participate in the review of this white paper and the conversation about recommendations moving forward.

STEP TWO Get help. Apply to the United Wayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Organisational Development Fund for resources to support a coordinator in this process.

STEP THREE Take action. Determine a plan of action for Urban Idea in 2013/14.



CREDITS & THANKS In addition to close friends and colleagues, the following individuals formed the core group with whom I consulted and who were instrumental in offering ideas, support and feedback throughout the process. Thank you to: Susan Algie, Winnipeg Architecture Foundation; Sheri Blake, Department of City Planning, Faculty of Architecture; Jae-Sung Chon, MAKE + Studio for Transformative Urban Forms and Fields; Heather Cram, Hilderman Thomas Frank Cram; Jino Distasio, Director, Institute of Urban Studies; Harry Finnigan, McKay Finnigan and Associates; Robert Galston, Urbanist, writer and student; Jason Granger, Community Investment Manager, United Way of Winnipeg; Richard Milgrom, Director of City of Planning, Faculty of Architecture; David Penner, StorefrontMB; Brendan Reimer, CCEDnet Manitoba; Thom Sparling, ACI Manitoba; Darren Stebeleski, Red River College; Robyn Webb, Daniel McIntyre / St. Matthews Community Association, urbanist; Stephanie Whitehouse, Manitoba Museum; Ian Wight Department of City Planning, Faculty of Architecture I greatly appreciate the support of the staff at the Institute of Urban Studies who provided space, material support, critical feedback and moral encouragement. Thank you also to the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg for welcoming me into your office and supporting my work.

Icons on pages 20-22 are sourced from The Noun Project ( and are used here under the Creative Commons license CC BY 3.0. The icons were created by the following designers: Nucleus designed by Chad Wimberly from The Noun Project. Hand designed by Jakob Vogel from The Noun Project. Speech Bubble designed by James Fenton from The Noun Project. Building Blocks by Matthew Carreau. Case Study summaries were compiled with text taken directly from the organization or project website. The ‘constellation model’ referenced in Section 5.0 is outlined in, “Listening to the Stars: The Constellation Model of Collaborative Social Change.” by Mark Surman and Tanya Surman. Available online at: MarkSurmanFinalAug-2.pdf


Urban Idea White Paper  

This white paper has been commissioned by the Winnipeg Arts Council (WAC) to provide a body of research, analysis and recommendations that w...

Urban Idea White Paper  

This white paper has been commissioned by the Winnipeg Arts Council (WAC) to provide a body of research, analysis and recommendations that w...