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January 22, 2019

What we heard at the Future Cities Canada Summit

2018 was a huge year for Future Cities Canada. Not only did we launch in May, but we also hosted the inaugural Future Cities Canada Summit.

The Summit brought together more than 850 leaders from across Canada and the world who are taking action to create more equitable, regenerative and prosperous cities for all. As we learned from speakers and attendees over the two-days, coordination and collaboration across sectors is, and will continue to be, a requirement for developing solutions to our most complex challenges.

The Summit also reiterated the commitment we must all make to fostering inclusion in our communities. The 21st century presents us with a range of tools and approaches that we can harness to make this commitment become a reality, from technology to new models of civic participation, alternative forms of financing and investment models, and even regulatory innovation.

We are the smart in smart cities, and we can lead the change we want to see. It’s certainly not easy, and we have a long way to go, but if the Summit taught us anything, there are hundreds of people who care and who we can work with to continue doing great work. We wanted to start the year off by sharing some of the insights and quotes from Future Cities Canada Summit that left us feeling inspired. There is a lot more to come from Future Cities Canada and we look forward to doing it with all of you. 

Partnership is an ongoing working relationship where risks and benefits are shared. Partnerships do not develop quickly — they require building trust, which takes time.

In the Doing More, Together breakout session, Mary Pickering of The Atmospheric Fund talked about the evolving dynamics of relationships within partnership. Meaningful collaboration can allow groups to pool resources and leverage capacity for greater returns, while reducing potential risks.

Future-proofing our cities includes future-proofing affordability.

In her keynote address as TD Future Cities speaker, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, highlighted ways New York City is locking in affordability for years to come, preserving existing affordable housing stock, while incentivising new builds. For more of Alicia Glen’s presentation, watch the live stream.

The only way we can deal with issues of inequity is by calling out the realities facing people in our communities.

In his plenary session, Desmond Cole called on city builders to do better by defining the systemic racism and segregation that defines the reality of Toronto’s Black community, and communities around the world. Hear more from Desmond in his Q&A with the Open During Construction podcast.

Cities need new forms of sustainable investment that can strengthen local ownership of community resources.

Stephen Huddart, President and CEO of the McConnell Foundation, shared that there is an opportunity to think differently about the traditional role of banks and anchor institutions, in order to unlock alternative sources of capital and foster local ownership of community resources.

Acknowledging and representing the Indigenous histories of our cities is required in order to address the current and future challenges of inequality.

In the closing We Are Cities panel, Tanya Talaga emphasized the importance of belonging. The author suggested that immediate acts, such as translating street signs to the local Indigenous language, can have an impact on Indigenous People’s feeling of belonging, and are important to enact while we all work towards massive change that will take generations to accomplish.  

For urban development to benefit from data and new technology, we need to resolve issues of ownership control, governance and ethics.

Speakers in the Urban Data Done Right session spoke to the responsibilities of all sectors to manage the inherent risks of the digital age, stressing that government staff need to be gaining key technological skills and know-how, leveraging data to be more responsive and inclusive, while ensuring that private partners are committed to human rights, and residents are recognized as leaders of “smart” cities.

Want to learn more about the 2018 Future Cities Canada Summit? Check out our Best of the Summit page, and subscribe to our newsletter to hear about this year’s event.