February 2, 2022

How community-driven innovation is reshaping Canada in the COVID-era

By Evergreen

Highlights from a virtual panel discussion at Future Cities Canada: The Summit

Leaders need to have a transformative vision, being forward-looking and change-oriented.

Pierre-Marc Lincourt

Trois-Rivières, QC

Community needs are changing in the COVID-era and new priorities are emerging. As such, the challenges and opportunities can be vastly different depending on where you live. This was the focus of the session Community-driven Innovation and the Emerging Disruption held on October 14, 2021.

In this session, panelists Gary Wilson – Director of Operations, Costal First Nations, BC; Alexandra Cutean – Chief Research Officer, ICTC; Pierre-Marc Lincourt – Head of Contract Management for the City of Trois-Rivières; Devon LaFleche – Sustainability and Transit Coordinator, Town of Cochrane, AB; Cyrus Tehrani – Chief Digital Officer & Director of Innovation, City of Hamilton and Laurie Guthrie – Civic Innovation Strategist and Smart City Project Manager, City of Fredericton provided local responses to emerging questions in the areas of community health, infrastructure, mobility, the digital divide, and local approaches to data and tech solutions.

In the Town of Cochrane

Devon Lafleche says the Town of Cochrane learned to interact with residents in a whole new way during the pandemic, when they were forced to move services online, switching over to a mostly paperless process. That being said, they also learned that they must still accommodate people who aren’t comfortable using technology.

The town also found success with their on-demand transit service which users could call via their app Colt. The service was not only convenient for riders but resulted in cost-savings for the town. In response to the pandemic, the town offered free transit services for essential workers and residents needing to get to their vaccine appointments.

In Coastal First Nations

Gary Wilson spoke to the realities of First Nations communities during the pandemic without access to high speed internet or bandwidth for video conferencing. The inability to gather in person or online increased the negative feelings of isolation. Furthering the feelings of disconnection, were the discoveries of lost indigenous children and unmarked graves at residential schools. Reliving the trauma “has had a toll on mental health of our citizens” he says. Wilson points to the need for service providers to be more knowledgeable about indigenous issues in order to support people dealing with the enduring trauma and grief. Community members showed resilience and worked together to stay in frequent communication with local health authorities to prioritize the care of their elders, who were most at risk.

Mental health was a real issue, with isolation and not being able to gather.

Gary Wilson

Coastal First Nations

In demand skills and jobs

Moderator Martin Canning, Executive Director of Government Innovation at Evergreen, posed the question, “What are the jobs and skills that are going to be in demand either in short term and long term?” In response, Alexandra Cutean of ICTC says her organization interviewed 20 municipalities across Canada and 20 more international communities who are advanced in these areas and asked how did they get there? She said ICTC learned “there are a number of jobs and they fall into these five core areas.”

  • Cyber security and risk management
  • Ethics, equity and inclusivity
  • Innovation and growth
  • Infrastructure and mobility
  • Sustainability and resilience

Watch the full session

Many other solutions were discussed during this informative and engaging session including a human approach to collecting data, truly endeavouring to understand the data, and involving university students in the process of prototyping innovative solutions.

community driven innovation panelists on video conference

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