As I take actions to improve the city I live within I find myself continually leading activities which engage, educate and empower other individuals as they shape their communities’ futures. Holding a belief that cities should be built from the ground up by citizen themselves with their very best interests in mind has led to some of the most rewarding work I have ever completed. Acknowledging that I, and those I collaborate with, have the power, ability and responsibility to shape our city for the better, this strand of my practice considers the more tactical contributions I have made to supporting community development in urban environments.
The following pages outline work I have completed with individuals and organizations for the purposes of civic engagement. Focused primarily on grassroots projects, activations and resource development—those beginning with residents, citizens and community members—I consider the type of work that most resonates with me and the efforts taken to strengthen my perspectives and ability to affect change. Considering more than a decade of civic engagement work I provide insight into future actions and the impact I wish to make.
Focused on the modern day civitas—the social body of citizens—as the foundation upon which our communities function, my civic engagement efforts are concerned with how the civitas comes together to shape the places it calls home. Believing both individuals and member-based community organizations can work together in the building of stronger and more connected cities, my professional work focuses on taking complex ideas and distilling them down to their basic functions.
Designing solutions to address common everyday problems identified by citizens, I transform these solutions through quick, scalable, intentional and no-frills efforts. The projects, resources and activations I create help citizens take greater ownership over their communities. My work shaping neighbourhoods and cities has helped me to develop an understanding of the approaches, processes and relationships that inform what is and is not possible in terms of civic improvement efforts. Often working with municipal and institutional partners to implement initiatives administered through their processes, most of my professional practice to-date has had roots in radicalism. Considering efforts which are driven bottom-up by the community, I undertake work to help improve civic livelihood following an asset-based community development informed approach.
Senior Community Fellow
— The Good City Co., 2017–present
Creating projects, resources and activations to help residents take greater ownership over the cities in which they reside, I specialize in building stronger, more connected communities by transforming ideas into action. Working with individuals, community organizations, local institutions, private businesses and municipalities, I engage, educate, and enable citizens to harness their unused potential to create positive change.
— Block Party in a Box, 2013
Acting as a catalyst for community interactions and relationship building, this print-at-home toolkit has empowered neighbours from across the globe to celebrate the places they call home. Most often used by communities of faith and local neighbourhood associations, Block Party in a Box has been adapted and built upon to create unique, relevant and engaging experiences for audiences of all ages.
— PARK(ing) Day, 2010–2011
Bringing together not-for-profit organizations, businesses, and citizens to take ownership of urban spaces, I helped change the quality of dialog about the city in which I live while empowering others to do the same. Endorsed by civil servants and local politicians, my work provided the foundation upon which new and progressive public spaces are planned and developed.
In support of civic engagement efforts which often exist outside of formal organizations, structures or processes, the approach I take to develop my skills, knowledge and attitudes often leads me to informal or self-directed learning opportunities. Drawing inspiration and insight from the work of those who have come before me, I have cultivated my knowledge through observing and studying the work of art collectives, tactical urbanists, civic activists and the ongoing efforts of everyday citizens as they improve the relationships they have with their respective communities. Compared to the adult education and community leadership strands of my practice this approach to scholarship is less formal and reflective of the nature of this type of work. Rather than learning from established systems and texts, scholarship is drawn from the citizen led, ad-hoc efforts of those who have come before me which informs much of my work. Learning from the actions, successes and failures of others has provided a foundation upon which I have established further understandings of my own.
Supporting these informal learning opportunities, providing both the context and theory related to practice, I have complemented scholarship efforts through non-formal educational offerings. Provided by leaders in the fields of community development and engagement these opportunities have helped me in understanding how my contributions can be bridged with organizational, community and individual civic engagement efforts and how they support each other to build strength within their collective communities.
Community Engagement: Technologies for Change
— Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement, 2016
Building upon a thorough understanding of digital media and technologies, this workshop helped me to understand how I could better apply knowledge to community engagement efforts. Connecting with fellow practitioners I was exposed to new online services and strategies to aid in the face-to-face engagement experiences that are at the heart of creating community change.
Active Creative Engaged Community Building
— Grassroots Enterprises, 2011
This course provided the knowledge and resources needed to be a more adept community development practitioner while working in partnership with the City of London on initiatives to strengthen neighbourhoods and grassroots community efforts. Addressing strengths and challenges in leading communities, this course helped me identify and further develop my leadership style as both a nurturer and researcher (see Appendix B for personal inventories).
Characterized as “novel”, “innovative”, “creative”, and “forward thinking” (see Appendix C for testimonials), my work designing civic engagement experiences has been well received by the communities I aim to serve. As a starting point for broader conversations, my approach to engaging citizens brings root problems to the surface while highlighting the assets from which improved conditions and experiences can be created. Helping others to understand the core problems and the minimum requirements needed for effective solution implementation, my work is often built upon by local organizations to create more formal, community specific initiatives which exist permanently in the public realm. Endorsed by citizens, organizations, civil servants and politicians, my work aims to engage audiences in authentic ways that are not hindered by traditional processes.
Recognized nationally and internationally my work extends beyond the confines of the communities it is developed within. This approach is by design. When problems are addressed appropriately there are opportunities for learnings and solutions to be more broadly applied beyond the boundaries of the initial issue they aim to solve. Through the design and distribution of tools, resources and programming that are more widely adaptable there is the opportunity to affect change in ways initially unimagined.
League of Creative Interventionists April Global Hangout: Neighbor
— The League of Creative Interventionists, 2014
Recognized for my ability to creatively engage citizens in the process of building stronger communities, I was asked to contribute to a conversation on the importance of neighboring. Hosted by the League of Creative Interventionists and Good Worldwide Inc., I joined civic engagement practitioners from across the globe for a public discussion on ways to make cities more neighborly.
Unofficial signs take first steps (Walk London)
— Spacing Magazine, 2012
Highlighting Walk London, a guerrilla wayfinding initiative I brought to my home town modeled after Walk [Your City], Spacing Magazine provided national and international attention to this civic engagement project. Noting the challenges London, Canada faces in providing adequate infrastructure to serve pedestrians, the author takes time to connect this simple yet effective civic engagement initiative to larger planning processes.
PARK(ing) Day London: Documentary
— Redcat Films, 2010
Documenting the local application of PARK(ing) Day, an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks, this film highlights how the quality of dialogue about the city we live in can change when citizens are brought together and feel empowered to take ownership of urban space.
Developed in a similar fashion to my work as a community leader, the efforts I have taken related to civic engagement have often formed from initial pain points in my life or challenges communities face. In addressing issues that most resonate with citizens one of the greatest rewards has been learning from community members in locations from around the globe, adapting and building upon their work to help solve localized versions of similar issues. A common element amongst the civic engagement initiatives I have designed has been the adoption of the ideas, platforms and mechanisms by established organizations for sanctioned programs. As not-for-profit, economic development and municipal organizations build upon my efforts it has been encouraging to see versions of my work exist in the public realm on a permanent basis.
With an ability to distill complex ideas down to their core elements I have helped organizations focus their time and attention to deliver more manageable projects. Whereas resources may have been poorly invested under traditional project processes, my approach begins with a minimum viable product scaling it to larger sizes as needed. In support of initial project efforts gaining greater traction I could dedicate more attention, resources and a long-view approach to the work I complete to help establish legacies for the projects I lead. Often abandoning work once it has been launched, staying with initiatives beyond their initial development would help me to refine the ideas, measure impact and help shepherd them forward to increase their reach.
Recognizing that any individual has a finite amount of time, energy and resources at their disposal, I am most interested in how I can more wisely invest my skills, resources and talents. As my practice evolves, with an emphasis placed on collaborations to generate greater impact, I aim to focus my time on the development of resources that can be replicated and adopted by those beyond my local communities. Moving away from the subversive work I have completed in the past and towards more formal and partnership based work, I hope that my efforts will gain greater recognition across communities. As I build stronger relationships with fellow practitioners I aim to develop more meaningful community connections founded on respect, mutual encouragement and the co-creation of positive change.