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— urbantick

July 2019 Monthly archive

Civic participation and community collaboration isn’t something thats limited to Europe. Calgary has a long history of an engaged public helping shape its environment. Municipal efforts to involve Calgarians can be seen as far back as the 60’s and 70’s with major efforts being tested and contributing to development and transportation plans throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s. Today the city has an engagement department specifically intended to seek citizen involvement with Calgary’s current issues.

Image source: calgary/ourcity

Municipal efforts aren’t the only ones shaping Calgarys future, organizations and individual citizens play an important role in enacting change in our city. In the following we discuss some of the groups that have enacted change in their communities and throughout the city;

Co-Design Group
Image source: Co-Design Group

Founded in 1971 by Architect Stanley King, the co-design process stemmed from an effort to explain development and involve children in the design process.With the support of the Government of Canada, King would continue his research and the Co-Design Society would be founded with the aid of SAIT and the University of Calgary (SAPL (formerly EVDS)). Groups of students came together with “Artists, Architects and Architectural Technologists” to hold workshops and further develop a framework for public participation. The Co-Design process would be utilized for the Calgary Downtown Riverbank Co-Design Workshop Report, a vision for what is now the Eau Claire promenade and Prince’s Island Park up to Center Street Bridge.  In 2006 the Co-Design Group along with Stantec would win a National Honour Award from the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects for their work on Riverside Park (Memorial Drive)

Southwest Communities Transportation Committee

Brought together by the South Calgary Community Association in 1988, The Southwest Communities Transportation Committee (S.C.T.C) was a citizen response from 14 communities to development and transportation planning going on in the area of 50th avenue. This organization which advocated for citizen involvement in planning transportation, lead to the establishment of “The Advisory Committee for Transportation South” by the City of Calgary. The ACTS would be a prototype for future citizen collaboration, staffed by 7 alderman and community representatives.

The S.C.T.C would continue to play a role, representing citizens in the Steering Committee for the GoPlan as well the Calgary Plan.

River Valleys Committee (now Calgary River Valleys)

Formed during the same period as the S.C.T.C and established under the direction of Alderman Al Duerr in 1989 (Mayor of Calgary 1989-2001) the River Valleys Committee (RVC) played a key role in uniting organizations and citizens to address protection of the Bow and Elbow Rivers and the surrounding environment. The Committee would go on to contribute to the GoPlan, Urban Parks Master Plan, and 2009’s Plan It. Formerly under the administration of the Parks Foundation, this relationship ended in 2009 and Calgary River Valleys was registered as a not-for-profit organization.

Bow to Bluff
Image source: bow to bluff

A Citizen initiative bringing together various organizations and the city to transform public space. Both Civic Spaces and the Community Association for Hillhurst-Sunnyside were involved, as well as O2 Planning to facilitate engagement around the Northern LRT corridor. In 2012 the Bow to Bluff Urban Design Framework was adopted by the city along with the B2B Process Guide outlining the citizen engagement process with projects manifested in an updated Hillhurst/Sunnyside Area Redevelopment Plan. These documents were revisited in 2017 in order to prioritize those projects which were still relevant with feedback resulting from that gathering as an updated Public Realm Plan for the space.

City of Calgary

The predecessor to Calgary’s current Calgary Transportation Plan (CTP), the GoPlan (at the time known as the City of Calgary Transportation Review) was the city’s first large scale effort to include citizens in the planning and development process. A public involvement team was appointed along with external consultants and project management all answerable to the steering committee who, reported to city council. The City hosted workshops and developed a public engagement strategy including lesson plans for school social studies and a workbook distributed to the public.


A shared vision of Calgarys future begun in 2005, 18,000 participants contributed to a long range sustainability plan which would contribute to the current MDP and CTP. In partnership with organizations and individual citizens imagineCALGARY created 114 sustainability targets focused around 5 inter-related systems; Built Environment, Economic, Governance, Natural Environment, Social. The imagineCALGARY partnership guided and monitored implementation over the next ten years. The influence of imagineCALGARY can still be seen making an impact on sustainability in the city.

Plan It

Building on the work of imagineCALGARY, Plan It Calgary asked the question of how Calgary would sustainably support a population growth of an additional 1.3 million people over the next 60 years. Citizen Engagement was run by the city of Calgary from 2006 to 2009 with 6000 Calgarians giving long term vision for the Municipal Development Plan and Calgary Transportation Plan.


This is just a selection of the amazing collaborations going on in the City of Calgary. As the city begins the process of updating the Municipal Development Plan, what ideas and processes can we draw from in order to ensure citizen input in our future?

A huge thank you is owed to the staff at the City of Calgary Archives without whom I would not have found my “Smoking Gun”. Thank you for your patience and insight. Thank you also to Jesse Salus for your suggestions on chasing down an oblique reference, which led to a wealth of information.


feel free to discuss your favourite Calgary initiatives and organizations in the comments


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