Future City Builders in Halifax launch Housing 30Lab ๐Ÿก ๐ŸŒ‰

Written by Alfred Burgesson for YouthfulCities

In 2018, YouthfulCities released their first ever Canada-wide Index, giving citizens insights to a comprehensive, relevant, credible and comparable database that measures the youthful infrastructure of cities. YouthfulCities then partnered with Evergreen and RBC Future Launch to present Future City Builders, an initiative that engages 150 youth across Canada (Vancouver, Calgary, Hamilton, Toronto & Halifax) to develop work-ready skills while improving their city, bringing them together to launch innovative ideas for urban resilience.

My name is Alfred Burgesson, I'm a co-lead for the Future City Builders Urban Innovation Lab in Halifax, and I'm a student/entrepreneur. I attend Saint Mary's University and I run a small business (social-enterprise) called HFX Collective Inc.

I've always searched for ways to be connected, dynamic and playful in my entrepreneurial ventures. And I always seem to be talking about Halifax, creativity or the future.. or all three at once.

This is my youthful perspective. This is a behind-the-scenes look into FCB Halifax.

Thanks for reading!

In Halifax we chose to focus our 30lab on the subject of housing. For a combination of reasons: I've come to realize that Halifax has an unacceptable history when it comes to planning policy (specifically dealing the displacement of people of colour, and the lack of accessible infrastructure) this is an issue that plagues a demographic of marginalized individuals. In 2018 Halifax was ranked the 4th-largest growth city in Canada. However, we have one of the lowest vacancy rates in Canada at 1.6%, which means if youโ€™re looking for an apartment to rent and arenโ€™t wealthy, your options are limited. Halifax doesnโ€™t just need more housing, it needs affordable housing, and more importantly the socio-economic infrastructures to help the marginalized feel welcomed and apart of our growing and vibrant city. These are by no means easy problems to solve, however, we see this as a great opportunity to create a space where the passion and vision of youth generates a shift in our thinking about sustainable housing infrastructure development.

As I expressed in my first blog post, "Halifax is a city experiencing an urban renaissance and an increase in economic growth. Momentum around Tourism, Oceans, Tech, and Infrastructure are generating a buzz this city has never experienced before -- today a record number of cranes can be seen in the Halifax skyline, as major land and infrastructure projects will be developed in the coming years."

Joyce and I have been keen to get our lab underway - we requested applicants in November and we've hit the ground running since. After months of preparation, the Future City Builders team in Halifax has been selected and introduced to the 30Lab concept! 94 applications and many interviews later, we have organized what we believe is a team of 30 dynamic, inventive, curious and connected youth in Halifax!

Special thanks to our event sponsor: Common Good Solutions, CIC -- for hosting us in their cozy space in the North End of Halifax.

Here is a recap of the first engagement session:

Future City Builders is co-created by YouthfulCities and Evergreen Foundation, championed by RBC Future Launch. FCB is also an initiative of Future Cities Canada, a national collaborative platform accelerating innovation to transform cities.

On January 17th, the leadership team from YouthfulCities and Evergreen Foundation joined us in Halifax for our first session. Robert Barnard (Co-founder at YouthfulCities), Lhazin Nedup (Manager at Evergreen) & Kristina Smith (Manager at YouthfulCities). Kristina Smith says, "We're honoured to bring our 30Lab program to Halifax and the energy has been amazing so far! The 30Lab is made up of such a diverse group of young Haligonians, that together have shared lived experiences on housing. Through the 30Lab process, we will tap into this knowledge and creativity over the next two months to create unique solutions to address housing. Alfred and Joyce have been invaluable in making sure our 30Lab is connected to changemakers in the city and that our content is contextualized for Halifax. We can't wait to see what the final projects will be!"

We welcomed all participants and introduced them to the 30Lab concept. ๐Ÿ—ฃ

We began by acknowledging that we are in Miโ€™kmaโ€™ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Miโ€™kmaq People. We realize that acknowledging this is only a small part of cultivating strong relationships with the First Peoples of Canada. Our lab will proceed with genuine and ongoing work to forge real understanding, and to challenge the legacies of colonialism.

Next, we reviewed the welcome agenda: session goals, about YouthfulCities and Evergreen, group icebreaker, about the 30Lab, why we chose housing, group thermometer, survey questions, and together we built a community agreement. Our goals for the day were to introduce participants to the history, overview, goals and format of the 30Lab. To connect participants to one another and to each oneโ€™s purpose for participating. To create group cohesion and a shared understanding of the community agreement and our goals as a group.

Last but not least, our goal was to have fun!

Below is a slideshow of images from session #1.

We were joined by special guests: City of Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, Halifax Innovation District Vice President Miriam Zitner, and RBC Senior IT Lead Melinda Sheridan.

We've been positively overwhelmed by the interest this lab is generating locally, not only from our peers, but from senior professionals, media, public servants and entrepreneurs who want to help us succeed. Over the course of the lab, we will be inviting subject matter experts to speak with our group and to mentor us as we develop 5 or 6 different concepts to address housing locally.

Halifax Partnership

We're excited to acknowledge a new local partner, the Halifax Partnership (Innovation District) for supporting the lab in Halifax. Halifax Partnership will support the lab through capacity building, helping participants develop work ready skills and to connect with local stakeholders.

Miriam Zitner, VP of the Halifax Innovation District says, "Engaging our youth in visioning for the future is imperative. We want to attract, retain and engage youth to help build a vibrant city of options. Yes, we want increased GDP and population, but we want these things so that people can enjoy their lives and pursue their passions, with success, right here in Halifax!"

Between now and March 4th we have a number of sessions together as a group -- in Session #2 (Where We Are and Where We Want To Be) we will explore the current state of housing in Halifax with mentors, define what accessible housing means to us, and finally co-create a vision for how Halifax could better provide housing for all. During Session #3 (Ideation, Brainstorming, and Divergent Thinking) we will identify potential audiences, specific and big picture solutions in an idea jam, and hone in on potential project ideas with a project team by the end of the day. Session #4 (Convergent Thinking and Project Development) will involve fine-tuning our projects by collaborating with our groups and mentors to develop our project ideas. In this session we will develop project planning and development skills like pitching. This day will also involve planning the sustainability for projects in terms of how it will be implemented on the ground after the final presentation. And on March 4th we present ideas to the public. Between sessions teams will have an opportunity to develop their concepts further.

Stay tuned for further behind-the-scenes updates of the lab, and for announcements about local supporters & mentors.

If you'd like to get in contact with the FCB Halifax Urban Innovation Lab, please contact fcbhalifax@gmail.com๏ปฟ