For far too long, the ways we build, govern, and talk about our cities have failed people of colour. It is undeniable that the urban planning profession has an ugly past that few people are willing to talk about. From racial zoning to redlining, from urban renewal and highway projects to decades of public transit disinvestment, these practices have perpetuated racial exclusion and injustice in both American and Canadian cities.
Today, our profession is still far from immune from systemic racism, and we need to talk about it.
In the days after George Floyd’s death and the beginning of protests in cities across North America, I admit that I struggled initially with how we as an organization should respond. Rather than putting out a generic statement, I knew we needed to do more than that. We needed to have a conversation, albeit a difficult, uncomfortable one. To do that, I reached out to two members of the Urban Minds team, Santessa Henriques and Matthew James. …
Confused? Read on and we’ll explain why.
2018 was a year of many firsts — strategizing, starting new initiatives, and positioning ourselves as the youth engagement specialists. We were building a foundation to fulfill our mission: to create new ways for youth to participate in city building. We were putting our foot in the door.
This year, we saw ourselves swinging that door wide open and taking full strides towards that goal. Like many of the young people we work with, over the span of merely a year, we felt our arms and legs stretching longer than before and our minds advancing in maturity. …
The short answer is yes, but we can change that.
Look, let’s be real. We know that engaging youth in urban planning and development, if done at all, is carried out mainly to make an organization look good. These shallow attempts may look like well-marketed, splashy events or programs that succeed in attracting youth but fail to yield any concrete next steps.
Unless we can trace the path of youth’s ideas translated into policies and designs, youth engagement is a waste of time for both the decision makers and the participants.
How can we change that?
1. Redistribute power.
Let’s take a page from the diversity committees now being set up in many large companies and organizations. Without the backing of a partner or senior-level director, these committees have no real power. The changes they propose are simply suggestions with no bite, giving people the illusion that the organization truly cares about equity and inclusion. …