Post-Secondary Institutions contribute a wealth of knowledge to city building research through people, projects, and ideas, in the hopes of improving quality of life. As such, they are unsurprisingly hot spots of city building initiatives, fueling research into how we can make our cities better.
Toronto is an epicenter of urban research with four large universities that have a number of programs and organizations dedicated to city building. These research hubs provide background information, data, reports and strategic plans related to improving city building policies and stimulating new initiatives. In total, Ryerson University, University of Toronto, York University, and OCAD University host 32 city builders!
Ryerson University: Campus to Community
Ryerson University has the largest number of city building organizations affiliated with a university with 18 located right on campus. This may come as no surprise to some as “expanding community engagement and city building” is one of Ryerson’s top four priorities from their Academic Plan.
A timely example is the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement, which is at the forefront of international migration, integration, and diaspora and refugee studies. Most recently, they hosted a lecture on the “Syrian Crisis and the EU Migration Policy” that discussed the effects and pressures of the humanitarian crisis on the EU migration policy, both internally and externally.
Another notable Ryerson organization is the Centre for Urban Research and Land Development (CUR), which focuses on the economic impacts and aspects of urban issues through numerous policy, research, working reports, seminars and lecture series. Their most recent Policy Report, “Density Benefit Incentives in Metro Vancouver: Lessons for the Greater Golden Horseshoe”, argues that Ontario Municipalities should be required to refine their process of negotiating density-amenity agreements under Section 37 of the Planning Act by using more predictable and transparent methods and policy frameworks, similar to the ones used in Metro Vancouver.
A fairly recent addition to Ryerson’s city building roster is the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, established just a year ago in January 2015. It is a source of policy expertise and a leading think-tank on today’s most relevant issues related to innovation and entrepreneurship.
Similar to Ryerson’s DMZ, one of Canada’s largest business incubators for emerging tech startups, the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship incubates and supports policy and technology innovation projects. While DMZ requires students and start-ups to produce a ready-for-investment prototype, Brookfield instead focuses on the early stages of project development to attract and support top creative students.
The University of Toronto: Local to Global
The University of Toronto has 10 city building organizations affiliated and located on its St. George Campus. The Mowat Centre is an independent policy think tank which informs Canada’s public policy agenda from the Ontario perspective. Mowat’s most recent publication is their final installment of “Emerging Stronger”: a five-year agenda aimed at spurring growth and prosperity in Ontario.
From Ontario to the world, the Global Cities Institute, is dedicated to creating better tools for designing and planning cities by providing globally comparable data, strategic analytics, and synthetic media to ultimately model alternative urban futures. Its Global City Indicators Facility hosts a network of 255 cities across 82 countries committed to developing standardized city indicators for performance management including a database of comparable statistics that allow cities to track their effectiveness on everything from planning and economic growth to transportation, safety and education.
York University and OCAD: Policy to Design
The City Institute at York University is one of three city building organizations affiliated with York. It is an interdisciplinary institute that facilitates critical and collaborative research in areas of sustainability, employment and urban development. Last week, the Institute released an excellent report entitled “Nest Stop: Equity”, which discusses how to make transit more equitable in the GTHA. Based on their research findings, the report provides a long list of recommendations such as encouraging the Toronto Transit Commission to introduce system-wide, time-based (2 hours) transfers and to better serve employment destinations, especially those trips made in off-peak hours, through further analysis.
At OCAD University, the Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab) is a centre for research and development in design, innovation and strategic foresight. Working with the University, sLab has developed the “Master of Design (MDes) in Strategic Foresight and Innovation”, the first of its kind in Canada and the largest graduate program at OCAD; a program weaving the creative capacities of design with social science, technology and business innovation.
McMaster University: Health to Climate
Down the road in Hamilton, McMaster University is the city’s institutional research hub and it has 8 affiliated organizations that focus on city building. The Gilbrea Centre for Studies in Aging is one example. Through their interdisciplinary research, the Centre hosts a number of events throughout the year including an Aging, Care, and Literature Reading Group and annual seminar series with topics this year that include digital storytelling, mental health and urban planning.
The McMaster Centre for Climate Change not only explores the impacts of climate change, but also the human perception of climate change. Their tool, the “Local Education and Action Resource Network on Climate Change (LEAR-CC)”, allows members of the Hamilton community to report actions they are taking to help limit climate change as well as local impacts of climate change that they have noticed.
Educating the next generation of City Builders
By and large, these research hubs are a great opportunity for students interested in various social, economic, and environmental focuses such as policy making, urban planning, community services, healthcare, energy, and business to get involved in organizations working within local, municipal, regional or provincial contexts.
These organizations can provide excellent volunteer and job opportunities for students trying to gain experience in their fields of interest. Another bonus is that most of these affiliated organizations are located right within or near the university campuses so that students do not have to travel far to get valuable experiences. What a great way to build a resume and take part in positively impacting cities!
And don’t forget! All of these organizations are featured on Ryerson CBI’s Citylinx database, along with hundreds of other city building initiatives across the GTHA.
- Centre for Global Health and Health Equity
- Centre for Studies in Food Security
- Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity
- Centre for Urban Energy
- Centre for Urban Research and Land Development
- Diversity Institute
- Global Diversity Exchange
- Great Lakes Policy Research Network
- Institute for the Study of Corporate Social Responsibility
- Laboratory for Geocomputation
- Privacy and Big Data Institute
- Ryerson Centre for Cloud & Context-Aware Computing (RC4)
- Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement
- Ryerson City Building Institute
- Ryerson Urban Water
- Brookfield Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship
- Ryerson Institute for Infrastructure Innovation
The University of Toronto
- Women and Gender Studies Institute
- Citizen Lab
- Comparative Program on Health and Society
- Environmental Governance Lab
- Global Cities Institute
- Innovation Policy Lab
- Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance
- Martin Prosperity Institute
- Mowat Centre
- University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute
- City Institute at York University
- York Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability
- Toronto Immigration Employment Data Initiative
- Strategic Innovation Lab
- Centre for Spatial Analysis
- Gilbrea Centre for Studies in Aging
- McMaster Centre for Climate Change
- McMaster Centre for Scholarship in the Public Interest
- McMaster Centre Community Poverty Initiative
- McMaster Institute for Energy Studies
- McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics
- Population Health Research Institute
We welcome feedback and encourage city building organizations to enhance and expand the Citylinx City Building Database. To search organizations, add a new organization or update an existing organization, please click here.