How we got here

In 2019, the Wellesley Institute and the City of Toronto Planning Department entered into a partnership to explore how to embed more equitable processes and outcomes in the City’s engagement processes, especially to support more meaningful consultations and engagements with equity-deserving groups. Project founders Kofi Hope and Zahra Ebrahim carried out research on behalf of the Wellesley Institute into best practices for engaging with equity-deserving groups, interviewed engagement professionals, and studied case studies of similar engagements that had been led by the Planning Department. 

One part of the research was a literature scan. After 100 hours of research, 203 documents were collected. These 203 documents included: 

33 Frameworks
95 Toolkits 
12 Academic Articles 
23 Insight Driven Reports 
15 Digital Engagement Platforms 
25 Case Studies 

Of these, 20 Toolkits were deemed ‘best-in-class’ based on 5 defined criteria:

Comprehensiveness (includes: development, implementation, evaluation) 
Including an equity lens 
Including case studies 
User friendliness (design)

Through the research, we found that there are toolkits available for building more human-centred approaches to research and concept development, however, there are none focused specifically on public engagement with equity-deserving groups. What our literature scan did show was that there are a plethora of static (mostly PDF) toolkits available around public engagement, most of them produced by government entities (in some cases, to meet legislative requirements). When it comes to tools that specifically speak about equity, they tend to live outside of the government-produced resources and all of them lack interactive, searchable elements. While useful, these tools lack case studies from the perspective of city staff, and information on how to navigate around the constraints they face when delivering engagement processes. This, in addition to the qualitative research, demonstrated a clear gap for Making Space to fill.

The research led to the second phase of this project, which was led by Monumental, an organization working to advance fair and just cities. During the second phase, Monumental engaged with planners at the City of Toronto Planning Department through online surveys and a series of workshops to identify their needs with regards to engaging more meaningfully with equity-deserving groups in Toronto. Bringing together these specific needs with the research collected in Phase 1, Monumental worked with the collaborative design studio, And Also Too, to bring this website to life. Making Space is a beta-toolkit that equips planners with a curated set of tools to make space for more voices in their city-building processes.

Special Thanks

  • Julia Abelson
  • Ajeev Bhatia 
  • Zoe Brown
  • Cheryll Case
  • Laurel Christie
  • Jane Farrow
  • Daniel Fusca
  • Nadia Galati
  • Melissa Goldstein
  • Hanifa Kassam
  • Peter MacLeod
  • Allison Meistrich
  • Jay Pitter
  • Narmadha Rajakumar
  • Thomas Rees
  • Imara Rolston
  • Nicole Swerhun
  • Sara Udow
  • Mirej Vasic
  • Kristy Wung
  • Housing Help Centre
  • Community Corner

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