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May 10, 2018

IDRC Inclusive Co-Design Draft Proposal

The following is a draft proposal provided by the Inclusive Design Research Centre and submitted to Sidewalk Toronto on May 10th, 2018. This proposal aims to directly and actively engage the community in the Quayside project at every stage, and across various work streams. The proposed co-design approach suggests moving beyond community consultation, and towards actively building a sustainable and lasting relationship between the community and the project team.

Inclusive Cities Co-Design Toolkit

The goal of this project is to create, document, and share an evolving toolkit of perspectives, activities, and measures that support the community-led design of civic infrastructure and connected cities. The toolkit is intended to be used by multiple participants, including Sidewalk Labs, Waterfront Toronto, and the residents of Toronto. It will be co-created by these stakeholders in a manner that reflects the diversity of Toronto, and will be posted openly so that others can use and adapt it.

This toolkit will be used to assist in the creation of Sidewalk Toronto's Inclusion and Accessibility Principles, which will be included in the Master Innovation and Development Plan for the Quayside neighbourhood.

Sidewalk's Principles are being developed in parallel with other aspects of the Master Innovation and Development Plan, and some of those parallel aspects are not (currently) public or are still under development. Therefore, the full details of the plan won't be public while the co-design is being done. Without knowing the full scope of Sidewalk Toronto, it will be difficult to come up with a comprehensive set of principles and we might miss important aspects to consider. We propose the co-creation of the toolkit as a resource that can be reused over time as more details become known and the implementation of the project takes shape.

This toolkit would be used to discover, evaluate and provide reusable co-design activities that can be applied throughout the Sidewalk Toronto project; from the development of the MIDP to the building and subsequent habitation of the Quayside site. It aims to cut across all the work streams defined by Sidewalk Toronto to ensure the public is fully engaged throughout the process of designing Quayside. It will also include community-led measures to assess the effectiveness of the proposed principles and evolve them once the project has been built and is being lived in.

During the creation of the Inclusion and Accessibility Principles, we may find that some are in opposition to others. The toolkit can help provide a framework in which to navigate potential conflicts and clarify why and how the principles have been created.

We think it is important to develop the Inclusion and Accessibility Principles concurrently with the inclusive design tools and the community-led measures due to the reasons mentioned here. Each component of this toolkit works with the other parts to support the Inclusion and Accessibility Principles and to provide a means that could be easily used by the community, and achieved by the Sidewalk team. If we focus on the creation of accessibility principles only, without supporting them with the design toolkit and the community-led measures, we risk not fully responding to the accessibility needs and requirements of the Quayside project.

Life in the Quayside neighbourhood and in Toronto will change; new technologies will be developed and our ideas of urban living will also change. The Toolkit will provide tools that we can use to continue to ensure that our city is inclusive, livable, and welcoming. Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto will also be able to reuse and adapt these tools for any other project to ensure the outcomes are more inclusive and accessible.

In this diagram, co-design is placed at the centre representing an engine that initiates an iterative cycle. This cycle includes three main components of perspectives, activities and reflection measures. The activities and reflection measures also include individual iterative cycles which contain implementation and application phases. This whole system empowered by co-design has two outputs: 'Inclusion and accessibility principles' and 'Inclusive design tools and civic metrics'.

Contents of the Toolkit

The Inclusive Cities Co-Design Toolkit will be an evolving collection of resources that will consist of:

  • Perspectives on Inclusive Civic Design provide perspectives that aim to reconceptualize how planners, developers, technologists, and governments approach building connected communities in more participatory and inclusive ways. These perspectives will, among other things, provide a foundation that will inform Sidewalk Labs' Inclusion and Accessibility Principles.
  • Inclusive Design Activities are built in conjunction with the perspectives, and provide actionable ways to design, refine and enact the Inclusion and Accessibility Principles. Tools are put into action through an iterative cycle of implementation, application, and refinement.
    • In the case of tools with a technology-implementation component, such as a story-collection tool, the implementation phase will involve initial prototyping of the tool via hackathons or other collaborative events. Subsequent iterative cycles will refine the implementation, moving from prototype to deployable artifact.
    • The application phase will see the tool applied in the context of the Sidewalk Toronto project. For example in the case of a story-collection tool, the collection of stories from Torontonians. The application phase will generate information directly helpful for Sidewalk Toronto (such as the collected stories) and will serve to test, validate, and refine the tool.
  • Reflection Measures offer new ways of assessing the Sidewalk Toronto project's impact, and ensuring the Inclusion and Accessibility Principles are put into action and evolved over time.


This toolkit aims to address the following objectives:

  • Provide perspectives and activities to assist designers, technologists, architects, urban planners, city developers and any other stakeholders involved in the design and development of cities to think more inclusively and incorporate diverse range of needs and preferences in a project right from its inception.
  • Inform city dwellers of inclusive design and give them tools to get involved and participate in planning, designing and building of inclusive cities and communities.
  • Include qualitative reflection measures that help both city builders and communities to evaluate the impact of using the toolkit over time.

Who is this for?

  • People involved in design and development of smart cities particularly the Sidewalk Toronto and Waterfront Toronto teams
  • People who will be living in those cities or affected by them
  • Civic right activists to hold governments, and city developers accountable for their practices

How is it built?

This toolkit should be developed with contribution of diverse groups. Underrepresented communities, people with disabilities, people with low income or no income, new immigrants, or any other group that has been marginalized due to our current urban development practices should be invited to this process and participate in the co-design process.

The process for creation of such toolkit would involve:

  • Recruitment and invitation of marginalized and underrepresented communities, as well as project stakeholders, urban planners, architects, etc. to participate in the co-design process
  • Planning the activities and the process of co-design sessions
  • Planning the activities and the process of hackathons to build activities/tools
  • Hosting weekly meetings to discuss ideas and share progress with co-designers
  • Hosting ~4 co-design sessions with the selected community to design and develop the toolkit
  • Hosting 2-4 hackathons with the community and the project stakeholders to develop tools
  • Disseminating the tools to apply them in the context of the Sidewalk Toronto Project
  • Writing up and sharing notes from the co-design and hackathon sessions publicly and on mailing list
  • Synthesize outcomes into project deliverables
  • Provide subject matter consultation when needed


  1. A brief guide on how to do co-design
  2. A series of co-design workshops held with residents in Toronto
  3. Synthesis of the co-design sessions outcomes, resulting in contributions to Sidewalk Labs' Inclusion and Accessibility Principles
  4. Reusable co-design toolkit, consisting of the perspectives, activities and reflection measures


May: Planning of initial co-design and hackathon events, creation of short How to Co-Design Guide
June to Mid-August: Several co-design sessions and hackathons
Late August: Initial synthesis of co-design insights to date; contributions to Sidewalk's draft Inclusion and Accessibility Principles (I&APs) document
September: Remaining co-design session/hackathons (if needed); second iteration of contributions to I&AP document
October: Full synthesis of co-design sessions; contributions to version 1.0 of I&APs

Iteratively and ongoing: Create and share inclusive cities co-design tools

Graphic image of the timeline.