CityStudio Champion: Naomi Maina

Written on September 9, 2019

This series profiles the champs and superstars collaborating with CityStudio to co-create a more liveable, joyful and sustainable city.

We have recently undertaken an organizational assessment for truth and reconciliation at CityStudio. As part of the wider efforts to embed these practices into our work, we were very fortunate to have had the chance to work with Urban Sustainability Fellow Naomi Maina from the City of Vancouver.

NAME: Naomi Maina

ROLE: Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion Fellow

ORGANIZATION: CityStudio Vancouver & City of Vancouver

In what capacity are you involved with CityStudio Vancouver? 
I was the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Fellow. CityStudio was facilitating my fellowship with the City of Vancouver, and being here has helped them explore how they can integrate equity into their work. 

Are you the first fellow in this role? 
Yes, I am the first Equity Fellow for CityStudio and also for the City of Vancouver. 

What is the main focus of your work with the City of Vancouver? 
My role involved reviewing the Greenest City Action Plan 2020 to see how equity was integrated into that work. The goal there was to identify areas where they’ve done that really well, identify any gaps and opportunities, and suggest how they can integrate equity in the new environmental plan. I was reviewing that policy, but also looking at how it connects with the others like The Healthy Cities and City of Reconciliation policies. I also looked at best practices from other cities to see how they can inform our equity work here.

What is your favourite thing about Vancouver?
If I had to narrow it down to just Metro Vancouver, I think it is the place where we are located. I think it is humbling that we are on unceded territories, and what that means in terms of honouring the relationships we have with the Indigenous people here. But also being located here on the land, near the mountains, and by the water – just the geography and location. It’s the place and the experiences that come with that and those relationships with the water and the mountains. There is a grounding in this geographic location. 

How do you imagine this work being applied/incorporated at CityStudio and the City of Vancouver? 
I see that work as two-fold. The first part is an invitation for people, including the staff here at CityStudio and at the City of Vancouver to reflect on the assumptions, personal histories, and values that they bring to the table. These worldviews shape and show up in the work that we do.  My work is an invitation to question and examine that, and then to bring that awareness into the work that we do. It’s hard to separate personal and professional when we’re talking about equity. The second part of my work is to challenge people to examine how these assumptions impact the work that we do. It gets them to think about how these shows up in their work, how they show up in the policies that they make for the communities they serve. My hope is that this work can help people start to ask questions such as: who is served, who is left out, who is burdened by what we do, and how can we make it better and equitable for everyone. 

It is an interesting time for Vancouver because the city is developing the equity framework. The work that I have started has hopefully paved the way for that, so when the framework is complete staff will build with that background. Having an institutional direction on equity will guide staff to think on a broader scale about how we can do better in serving the people of Vancouver (especially those that experience inequalities). 

If you had a magic wand and could change one thing about Vancouver, what would it be?
It’s hard for me to think outside of the work that I’ve been doing, so maybe if I had a magic wand I would make sure that there are no people left behind. That if people are receiving education, everybody has the chance to get that education and is well supported in accessing it. I would make Vancouver more equal. 

Can you tell me about a person or organization you admire? 
My all-time favourite person is Wangari Maathai. I think she is an amazing woman who, through the Green Belt Movement, used the idea of planting trees to teach women how to take care of the environment and be empowered through civic engagement. It was an all-rounded movement that empowered women, and everyone really, to be more conscious about these very interconnected issues: environment, poverty reduction, power, and governance. Although she faced a lot of opposition from the Kenyan government of the time, she was internationally recognized for her work, which continues to this day.

How do you destress? 
I listen to music. I’m a spiritual person, and gospel music really lifts my spirit and helps to calm me.

What is on your desk or radar in the coming year?
I’m looking forward to wrapping up my studies and moving towards supporting the City’s equity framework. I’m also looking forward to connecting with some grassroots organizations that are working on equity and climate justice. 

Find out more about Naomi here. 

We are learning more about this path through the work of our partners. Read more here:

City of Vancouver Greenest City Action PlanEquity Framework