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Twitter chat card with speakers

April 01, 2020

#UnexpectedSolutions in cities and communities

This week, Future Cities Canada, with content partner Future of Good, hosted a Twitter Chat exploring how cities and communities across the country are adapting to this unprecedented change and sharing examples of unexpected solutions.  

We were joined by thought-leaders Andrea Gunraj from the Canadian Women’s Foundation; Karen Milligan from 211Ontario; Diane Roussin from The Winnipeg Boldness Project and Mary Rowe from the Canadian Urban Institute. The online conversation was thought-provoking and inspiring, delving into questions about what is giving them hope, are there any unexpected collaborations that have been formed to tackle these issues collectively and what does it really means to be resilient? 

Here’s what we heard: 

Cities most pressing issues have been amplified during this crisis 

Karen Milligan from 211Ontario, a free helpline that connects the public to social services in their area, shared about ‘social medicine,’ looking at how social and economic conditions impact health. What is a ‘healthy community’ when so much of the civic commons is inaccessible? 

The conversation continued to circle back to those in our communities in vulnerable situations. Andrea Gunraj from Canadian Women’s Foundation wrote that we must continue to this work, citing the concerns to raising rates of gender-based violence. 

 

Experimentations driving solutions we thought were once impossible 

From the needs-matching initiatives to innovative solutions, there are experiments taking place around the country that we can learn from. Many examples demonstrated the shifts in infrastructure to accommodate social distancing. From a spike in cycling to avoid crowded public transit to free transit in Hamilton to road closures in Calgary to allow for pedestrian distancing. 

Agility and partnership have brought quick solutions to major issues that have seemed impossible to tackle in the past. Fredericton, Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto were early adopters of emergency shelters in hotels and schools for people experiencing homelessness. 

Clothing manufacturers have pivoted to producing desperately needed PPE, like scrubs, gowns, masks and face shields. Across the country, we've seen breweries and distilleries shift their production lines to make hand sanitizer and donate it to frontline workers.  

Evergreen worked with partners of the popular Saturday Farmers Market to quickly turn around the ‘Farm-in-a-Box' program, finding a way to continue to support local food. 

At the community levels, neigbourhood pods in Vancouver and care-mongering have popped up to provide aid to vulnerable community members. Even signs in the windows of homes and businesses are bringing communities together in an encouraging way. 

 

Smart city approaches to advance resiliency strategies 

DNAstack is using machine-learning algorithms to help researchers determine which genetic markers predispose patients to certain diseases and treat patients based on responses to medications. 

BlueDot, the Toronto-based start-up that spotted the first signs of #COVID19 is now working with the federal government to anticipate the spread of the virus by scanning public health sources, moderated mass media and flight itineraries. 

Though this pandemic is a new experience for most of us, forecasting-models have run test disaster scenarios. We aren’t starting from scratch addressing this crisis, and the key to forecasting, mitigating, and potentially even preventing future disasters lies in good data.  

The ability to stay connected through our devices has been a lifeline for many, but what about those who have barriers to this technology. While some telecom companies are waving computer data overages as much of the country brings their office home, there are still areas on the country with unreliable access to high speed internet.  

 

Looking ahead

The agility and cooperation at all levels of government in Canada has been applauded by many. We are seeing the cracks in some systems, while others shine.  

The effect this pandemic will have on the rental and real estate market is still unknown. The overall conversation around affordability and urban centres is evolving, but some have been encouraged with more long-term rental units in the market.  

We have an opportunity to collectively create a preferred future, so what will we keep moving forward?