Posted by: Jessica | February 27, 2014

A Measure of Civic Participation

Halloween by VPSN

This past week some fifty or so guests converged in the basement of the University Women’s Club of Vancouver to hear from, and converse with, Andy Yan, Adjunct Professor with the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning. Andy is also a Researcher and Urban Planner for Bing Thom Architects where he co-leads BTAworks, BTA’s independent research and development arm.

The presentation was part of a series of Tuesday Dialogues with the UBC SCARP faculty, with the Q+A moderated by the school’s Director, Penny Gurstein. The remaining Dialogues on our City’s Future  run to March 18. Here is a description of the talk from the SCARP poster:

10 data points you should know about your City, from demographics to civic participation, to real estate ownership. What might it take to create our own “Good City of Vancouver”?

To my left and right, some were taking copious notes on the data points, others were saving their salient questions for the post-presentation dialogue. Of course we’d all want to be a part of creating the Good City! But really, I’m a bit of a map geek and I was there to see the latest research work plotted on some shiny new maps. Many of the data points could further the VPSN Routemap objectives; for this short blog post, I will focus on one finding in particular, which related directly to the Routemap Goal #6: spaces for expression and engagement.

Civic spaces and civic processes that invite deliberation and public expression, and support the notion of urban democracy.

Every year on October 31, Andy and his team collect crowdsourcing data from Trick or Treaters. Over the past few years, the aggregate data has allowed Andy to map what he describes as an ultimate measure of civic participation – in the darkness of night, you open your door to masked strangers and give them something…. in another scenario this would be the beginning of a home invasion. Instead, on one special night of the year, this common practice could be a measure of participation in our communities, the ‘glue’ that holds our neighbourhoods together. When plotted geographically, the map showed a crescent moon ring through the City; the neighbourhoods sound like familiar areas where I would feel at just fine walking down the street alone, and at night: Commercial Drive, South Main, Kitsilano.

Source: Vancouver Sun

Source: Vancouver Sun

To further emphasize the civic participation, Andy pulled up another map showing us the voting trends from our latest municipal elections. Same crescent moon, same neighbourhoods again. Now if only we could continue meeting our neighbours, without the candy incentive, on other nights throughout the year. Great food for thought, especially for those with a sweet tooth.


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