June 21, 2019

City Experience: Co-Creating Calgary's Future

Urban provocateur Julian Petrin opens the two-day program

Cities should represent who we are. Calgary has undergone a rapid period of change. During this period of transformation, how well have we been representing ourselves, our needs, our future?

In June 2019, a team of urban planning researchers from the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape invited Julian Petrin, an urban change expert based in Germany, to facilitate a series of co-creation workshops with Calgarians to understand where our city could be headed. The goal was to activate citizens in shaping the future direction of our city.

Julian's role at this two-day event was to open people's minds, explore previously unexplored notions, bring a global perspective to how we think about Calgary. As the founder of the internationally-acclaimed think tank Nexthamburg, Julian has been able to engage and activate citizens. One of the strategies in his toolbox is an online project incubator that allows everyone to share and discuss ideas in real-time — ideas that catch on get prototyped by a team of experts. Julian released this kind of open innovation in 2009, which works online and offline. Since then, the innovation format has spread to many cities around the world. This time he's brought his expertise to Calgary.

Julian opened the program with three provocative questions. The first was about exchange, "How do you currently participate in projects and collaborations?", followed by an exploration, "What are Calgary’s future challenges and opportunities?" and finally a formation of ideas, "Ways to collaborate and co-create our future city?". Projects such as the Greenline, East Village and Rivers District, Downtown West, Beltline and the ring road were drawn into the discussions, focus group sessions and workshops. Four focused topics were also explored during the program: aging-in-place, growth and density, transport and business, and lastly, cultural representation in the built environment with an Indigenous perspective. Leading these engaging focus groups were community organizations Jack Long Foundation, Kingsland Community Association, Chinatown BRZ, and the Tsuut'ina Nation. Sessions were involved significant participation from members from the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, the University of Calgary, and the City of Calgary.

In fall 2019, the research team plans to bring all participants back together to develop next steps further, and invite the engagement of an even broader audience. Pencil in October 17 and 18 for round two of this program.