October 9, 2018

PARC (Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre) Co-design Session: Summary and Results

As part of our continued efforts to include diverse perspectives in creation of inclusive cities, IDRC partnered with PARC and organized an embedded co-design session to be completed during their staff meeting on September 26th, 2018. About 20 staff members participated in a forty minute co-design activity from 3:00 pm to 3:40 pm. Two IDRC members were also available to facilitate this session.

Activity Overview

The goal of doing this brief co-design activity was to introduce the project to PARC staff and provide them with an opportunity to experience a co-design process to be able to facilitate similar co-design activities with their drop-in members. The activity had two parts: small group discussion and large group discussion.

Small Group Discussion

Objective: Discuss and brainstorm ways to improve the city for their community
Duration: 30 minutes

Participants were divided into groups of 3 to 4 people and given the following 4 questions to discuss and answer:

  1. As a group describe situations when your needs and capabilities were NOT considered in the design of the neighbourhood: (For example when you are outside, on the subway, at the park, at school, etc.)
  2. As a group describe positive experiences you had receiving support from others in your community when navigating streets in your neighbourhood
  3. As a group think about different ways you can educate the city about your community’s needs: (List as many ideas as possible)
  4. As a group think about different ways that the design of your neighbourhood or technology can help you thrive in the community.

Results

Needs Not Considered

Several groups commented on the inaccessibility of public buildings and streetcars in general. Insufficient number of accessible public washrooms, lack of benches and seating areas specially for elderly, homeless and people of different sizes were among other problems raised by the participants. Some groups expressed feeling unsafe and worried due to increasing crime rates and suggested having unarmed foot police, supportive community policing, and more crossing guards to help improving the safety of our neighbourhoods. The other issue raised by the members was related to the new property development in the area that has affected the rental cost, made housing unaffordable and driven out many local businesses and lower income residents from the area. Aging public infrastructure, such as crumbelling and uneven sidewalks, neglected and inaccessible parks and playgrounds were also among other issues that were brought up by the participants. One group also mentioned a need for more public phones because low income residents may not have a cell phone.

One group particularly focused on the PARC building and talked about inaccessibility of the building when the elevator is broken, low ceilings, slippery flooring, and scent sensitivities. They also mentioned that the lineups for food bank block the sidewalks and lead to a negative experience for people staying in line during hot and cold seasons.

Positive Experiences Receiving Support

Participants generally expressed that lots of people are friendly and approachable, and responsible with their pet. They emphasized on the importance of shared spaces where people can meet and get to know each other. As they mentioned, staying in one community longer leads to people advocating for each other more. Wide sidewalks and accessible entrances for local businesses were other points that led to a positive experience for the participants. General awareness campaigns on public transit was another approach to connect the community members together and inform them of their needs.

The group that focused on PARC building, mentioned that having access to free meals, non-binary washrooms, harm reduction services (e.g. shower and benches), info sharing posters, plants and Art pieces inside the building were all different elements that led to a more positive experience for the members. The glass facade also helped members see what’s happening inside and make the building more welcoming.

Ways to Educate the City

Participants suggested different approaches to connect the city officials with PARC members and other similar institutions. On one hand, they suggested inviting elected officials to visit PARC to directly talk with members, attend community events, and do a “homeless” sleepout. On the other hand, they talked about attending the local planning meetings for property development, going to city council meetings, writing letters and impact statement letters with councillors, and including ambassadors in city / town halls. They were also mentioning a few other proactive approaches, such as grassroot community organizing, televised speaker corner, distributing flyers, running ad campaigns, starting a community newspaper, skywriting, and protests to bring awareness to their community’s needs. One group also emphasized the importance of enforcing community involvement in the design and planning of the private and public buildings and businesses to ensure the community needs are included right from the start.

Design and Technology that enables a thriving community

One of the groups didn’t have a chance to respond to this question. The other groups suggested using technology, such as traffic cameras, streetcar and taxi cameras, an app for reporting traffic violation to help making our streets safer. Free Wi-Fi everywhere was another thing that could help individuals thrive in their community. Building more bike lanes, benches, public phones, accessible washrooms with 24 hour tampon machines, water fountains, and public pod housing were among other ideas suggested by the participants.