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Creating a better city, one block at a time: Civic engagement has the power to transform cities

Programs like 100In1Day Canada and Green Bloc Neighbourhoods are changing the way we interact with our cities.
100In1Day Vancouver intervention asking people what change they want to see in Vancouver.

Published on April 16, 2018

With more and more people moving into our cities, it’s time we as residents were part of the conversation around how we build them.

The United Nations predicts that by 2030, one in three people will live in cities with at least half a million residents. In Canada, an estimated 80 per cent of our population resides in the country's urban areas.

The more voices in the conversation, the more our cities will be able to address the needs of their residents.

The key is not simply providing people with information, but supplying them with the tools and platform they need to make their ideas come to fruition. Meaningful and effective engagement happens when people are part of defining what their communities should look like, and when they can participate in ways that resonate with them. 

Civic Engagement: A process and practice that seeks to include residents in the decision making around city building. This can be led by individuals or groups, by public or private organizations, or by the government.

Civic engagement has the power to transform our cities for the better. Here are two ways residents are changing their cities, neighbourhoods and communities across Canada.

100In1Day Canada

100In1Day Canada is part of a global movement that activates resident-led initiatives in public spaces across a city.  

It’s back for its biggest year yet. On June 2, residents in 12 cities across Canada will transform their city through hundreds of interventions from pop-up seating in parks to DIY wayfinding signs.

But civic engagement doesn’t just take place on one day.

Workshops held in participating cities leading up to June 2 help generate ideas, build capacity and encourage participation in the initiative. Many residents have been inspired to turn their interventions into a longstanding project.

A trail in Hamilton illuminated at night by paper lanters as part of 100In1Day Hamilton.

For Surprise! Hamilton, a neighbourhood-based volunteer group aimed at transforming public spaces, 100In1Day was the perfect platform. It was at a 100In1Day Hamilton workshop where the group came up with an idea to illuminate a Hamilton trail.

“100In1Day gave us the cover, if you will, to finally do the things we’d only been talking about, and do them with the blessing of the city. Left to our own devices, we’d still be planning.”


100In1Day Canada promotion for workshops.

Want to take part in 100In1Day Canada this year? Join a workshop in your city or sign up for an intervention. Visit 100In1Day.ca for more information.

Green Bloc Neighbourhoods

Green Bloc Neighbourhoods fills the gap between individual level and city-level change by asking neighbourhoods to collectively address climate change and resource consumption. The program provides direction for groups and neighbourhoods to create safer, more sustainable communities. 

In the end, neighbourhoods decrease their ecological footprint all while building a stronger sense of community.

Neighbourhoods who signed on to the program in 2017 achieved an average reduction of their overall ecological footprint of 15 per cent. 

Participants take place in a sticky note activity during a Green Bloc Neighbourhoods workshop in South Cambie, BC.

The influence of Green Bloc goes beyond the numbers. The program is having a real impact on the participants themselves. 

“Green Bloc provided an incredible opportunity to build new connections with like-minded people. It encouraged me to take the time to think about what I want for my community’s future and act upon it," says South Cambie residentTracy Wilkins.

The success of Green Bloc Neighbourhoods is a testament to the power of collective action. Imagine what our cities could accomplish if we all were active in the conversations around how we could make them flourish.

Green Bloc Neighbourhoods is looking for two more Vancouver neighbourhoods to sign on to decrease their footprint in 2018-2019. Find out more information over on the Green Bloc website.

Every day there are more new ways to get involved in our cities to make them flourish. How will you transform your city?