In the Studio: SFU’s Civic Innovation Change Lab 2020

We are now in full swing at CityStudio Vancouver with the 3rd cohort of Civic Innovation Change Lab (CICL) students from Simon Fraser University. We want to welcome readers into our studio under the bridge with a three-part blog series, “In the Studio: SFU’s Civic Innovation Change Lab 2020.”

In Part 1, our Executive Director and Co-Founder, Duane Elverum welcomes the new cohort to the studio and introduces the CityStudio team with the story of this space as a place for relationships and experimentation. Step inside, grab a cup of tea, and take a peek into the first day of a Change Lab at CityStudio Vancouver. 

“Welcome to CityStudio. We’re an innovation hub and a Canadian charity that aims to make it easy and impactful for our universities and colleges to work with Cities in the everyday business of city-building. It’s a big day when we welcome a new group of students into the studio. You lift the energy and you remind us of our core mission to build relationships, create projects, and shift culture. We look forward to getting to know you and following your work.

So where are we today? 

We’re in a building owned by the City of Vancouver, who has provided this space for the past nine years to support our work. This space is under the Cambie Street Bridge, which is the third False Creek crossing. And we’re also on new land that has moved the shoreline 300 meters north. Lastly, we are here on this land with patience but not yet permission of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.

We try to earn this patience through projects created with City staff for civic benefit. Your work will contribute to Vancouver’s strategic plans so that we can all move the dial on City priorities like climate action, transportation, truth and reconciliation, housing, energy, equity, waste, diversity and engagement.

Bigger than projects though, we are here to shift culture and we believe that you are here because you want to shift culture too. Here, you have a seat at the table of city-building, placing you in the heart of decision making and service. 

One key way we shift culture is through intentional group work. The world is full of smart people – smart individuals – but sometimes we can all be a bit dumb in groups. And groups don’t get smart because they have smart people; we get smart by learning how to make decisions together, and by learning how to practice shared values, including marginal values. This matters because the opportunity in front of us to work on a project in a city, on a warming planet requires us to be smarter together. 

We’ve done this work for seven years within a Theory of Change and evaluation framework that begins by building trust relationships. This trust allows us to experiment and take bigger risks with collaboration and projects. These projects appear in neighbourhoods as new kinds of action and, ultimately, this action is the proof that our work adds value and contributes to a more sustainable, liveable, joyful and inclusive city.

We believe that our city is a place where students belong: it’s a place where you can compete with yourselves and collaborate with each other; it’s a place where how you show up matters; it’s a place full of smart people and smart groups; it’s a place where you can feel city-building in action; and it’s a place where you will thrive during and after school.

Welcome to CityStudio.”
– Duane

Find out more about the inspiring students of the CICL 2020 cohort.