Future Cities, Future Us. Will you be a part of building the future?

Wendy Wang
Nov 23 · 8 min read

On November 7th and 8th, 2019, 1UP Toronto attended the Future Cities Canada (FCC) Summit as a part of the special climate action project “Future Cities, Future Us.” With Urban Minds, Evergreen and ENCORE Lab at OISE we hope to build a youth-led, intergenerational exchange of ideas with the goal to create a collective, actionable vision of future cities. Ideas submitted by youth from 1UP can be found here. At the FCC Summit, 1UP Fellows and Executives found inspiration to take real action to better the cities of the future by discussing these ideas with city-building professionals and other conference attendees.

Students submitted ideas for the Future Cities, Future Us project based on the following topics: Reduce & Recycle, Education, Building & Infrastructure, Renewable Energy, Transportation, Green Spaces, and Innovative Technologies. Some ideas were written on sticky notes and placed with their corresponding topics.

We asked our 1UP Fellows and Executives, “What have you learned from the FCC Summit and from the conversations you had with other people?” Read on to see what they had to say.

Wendy Wang | 1UP President

Never in my life have my hands shaken so much. Standing up to tell a crowd of a few hundred adults what to do is as nerve-racking as it sounds. Throughout the FCC Summit, the one statement I kept hearing was “We are giving youth a voice.” Wonderful. But when every single speaker so far has said that, the words begin to feel meaningless. Of course, youth need to be supported and understood and we want our voices to be heard, but we also want to do something with that voice. So instead of being the next organization that just hears us out, be the organization that lets us do something. Instead of letting youth be a voice to simply be considered, let us be a voice that designs, creates, and solves.

1UP President, Wendy Wang, speaking to the Future Cities Summit audience about 1UP Toronto’s contributions to local communities and the importance of giving youth opportunities to take action.

Working with 1UP Toronto, I am fortunate to have the ability to do something, but not everyone does and that’s exactly what I let the FCC Summit know.

Luckily for me, the adrenaline rush wasn’t limited to my shaking hands. I felt fueled to speak to more people and advocate for 1UP Toronto, its mission, and its fellows. One person, in particular, stood out to me. She was about a year older than me and deeply invested in environmental activism in her home town of Hamilton. She talked to me about her struggles with building up her own organization and how encouraging it was to see 1UP Toronto’s success as a youth-led organization. She wanted to learn more about our mission and how we managed to affect youth all over Toronto, saying it be an inspiration for how she could build up her own organization. But what she might not have known is that it is equally inspiring for me to see her establishing something from scratch as a way to work towards the action she wants to see in her community.

Kelly Qu | 1UP Fellow at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute

As a youth representative of Urban Minds, I helped run a community studio booth and shared some of my ideas about sustainable cities to several city-building professionals. In pairs, we engaged in conversations with other attendees at the summit, asking them to vote on which categories were the most impactful and to provide additional input. Some of their suggestions on how we should build our future cities included incorporating systems thinking, building up, and using renewable energy sources. Systems thinking deals with the complex cause and effect relationships between different categories of a system or structure. Building up saves space and encourages more green space, but it can be a safety concern. Some examples of renewable energy sources are solar, wind, and hydro and making use of them can significantly benefit our environment.

Michelle Ko | 1UP Fellow at Dr. Norman Bethune Collegiate Institute

Despite missing two days of school, attending the FCC Summit 2019 was a big eye-opener and has given me an experience I wouldn’t have been able to find anywhere else. I have gained more knowledge in how to bring ideas together to create and lead a project and a new mindset to think upon the past, present and future. Throughout the summit, I was able to network with different people, sharing ideas on what we value as a human on this earth and exchanging projects we’re working on to make this place a better place. As a youth representative with Urban Minds, we collected ideas from other summit attendees on thoughts and ideas for our project “Future Cities, Future Us” and see the different perspectives. In these engaging conversations, I realized that many people have brought up the fact that there is no single theme they value as the most important for a sustainable future city, but that most of them connect in a way. For example, renewable energy relates to transportation, education and building and infrastructure. All these can be improved by adding renewable energy sources or taught in school, exposing kids to think in ways to improve our cities. Listening to all the innovative speakers and networking with others in this summit was an enlightening experience.

Andrew Wong | 1UP Fellow at Bayview Secondary School

During the FCC Summit, I was able to expand my knowledge on a wide range of topics in planning. The workshop about open data on the first day, for instance, showed me that personas aren’t just used in youth engagement workshops. In fact, personas are often used by professionals at their own meetings to consider how they will launch something new in a municipality, in this case launching an open data initiative. Considering that technology has collided with technology in Canada, as said by Andy Best from the Open City Network, a conclusion that can be drawn from the workshop is that cities launching such an initiative needs to emphasize education on data literacy. This can be done through events as small as asking citizens on the street what they know about the open data program. I also had the chance to learn more about the opposing opinions found within city-building, such as whether cities are beneficial as they are the best opportunity to fight against climate change, or are harmful as they are unsustainable, and listen to the strongest points made from both sides of the argument. Last, but not least, I had the opportunity to converse with professionals on their ideas of Future Cities, Future Us which were written by high school students. Some of these conversations included their thoughts on which theme they feel is most important for youth to focus on, while other conversations elaborated more on the project itself, as they were greatly interested in what youth are doing.

Enosh Chen | 1UP Director of Engagement

Through attending the second day of the FCC Summit, I learned that good urban planning involves incorporating ideas and opinions from people from all walks of life. To propose a project idea that can satisfy the majority, an urbanist should listen to children, youth, and adults’ experiences in the community and ask for their input on what changes they would like to see. During the summit, one of the speakers reminds us that there is a reason why we all have two ears and one mouth, and she used the example to explain that we should dedicate more time to listen to others’ vision for the city than sharing our insights on how a city should be planned out.

Max Lei | 1UP Director of Design

Whether you missed your bus because you woke up late or you just handed in that questionable test, as long as you’re human, chances are you’ve made a mistake at some point in your life. Mistakes are hard to swallow, and in some cases, their effect is irreversible. So rather than sulking over a past occurrence, you should learn from your mistakes and elevate yourself to prevent them from happening again. An example of this that I discovered from a speaker at the FCC Summit is the Art Smarts program, which is designed to preserve arts in education by inviting artists to schools. After a year of implementation, surprisingly, the average grade had decreased by a few percentage points, and again in the next year. Seeing the negative changes, the speaker decided to conduct research. Turns out that because of the Art Smarts program, more people started attending school thus bringing down the average grade. Seeing this trend, they kept the program for a third year, during which grades increased significantly. To truly bounce back from failures, we must be able to talk about the experience and share it with our team. This benefits teams in two ways–it takes responsibility and shares different perspectives. The goal of taking responsibility is not to convince the opposing party that your ideas are superior, but rather to discuss the mishaps and motivate the team to build trust and open up. By sharing different perspectives, we can effectively identify the cause of the problem while looking for ways to prevent it from happening in the future. As a teenager trying to figure out what’s going on, mistakes are bound to happen. But after listening to this speaker, I’ve learned that mistakes are not a reason to beat myself up, but medicine to help me grow into a better person.

Catalyst or Catastrophe? Do cities create more problems than they solve? William Reese and Dr.Gaynor Watson Creed debate as the affirmative against Zahra Ebrahim and Mazyar Mortazavi.

1UP Toronto is a youth-led initiative run in partnership with Urban Minds. Our mission is to include and engage youth in the city-building process and by providing them with unique and immersive opportunities in the field. Our 1UP Fellows lead 1UP Chapters at their high schools and are intent on identifying and solving the issues that burden their communities. Our 1UP Executives help run the 1UP initiative by providing continuous support for 1UP fellows and organizing events like the 1UP Conference and 1UP Leaders Lab.

Learn more about 1UP Toronto and our mission at our website 1uptoronto.org. Stay in the loop by following us on Facebook and Instagram at @1uptoronto. Feel free to contact us at hello@urbanminds.co.

¹ The Future Cities Canada Summit was hosted on November 7 and 8 at the TD Future Cities Centre at Evergreen Brick Works. Themed Catalyzing Community Solutions, the summit aimed to “translate the hard work being done at the community level into solutions participants can adapt to fit their specific needs and their local issues.” Speakers covered topics like youth engagement, indigenous placemaking, resilience planning, just to name a few.

Urban Minds

Wendy Wang

Written by

Urban Minds

​We are creating new ways for youth to participate in city building.

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