Institute without Boundaries

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About Jeremy Vandermeij

I am currently the Creative Director at the Gladstone Hotel where I am working hard to tell the phenomenal story of the Hotel. I also work as Communications Coordinator at The Institute Without Boundaries, am an Instructor at Ryerson University, Founder and Co-Producer of Toronto Design Offsite festival and am a Founding Partner of the grassroots socio-green design organization, Public Displays of Affection. I have worked as a designer for 10 years in communications, architecture and interior design and have been art-making since I was old enough to negotiate tools. I curated Come Up To My Room for three years, worked for Roundabout Studio Inc, ALSOP Architects, The Design Exchange and have given talks at various institutions throughout the city. I love collaborating with burgeoning talent. Check out my portfolio for an idea of what I have to offer.

Suzanne Stein

Stein is a member of OCAD U’s Digital Futures Office (established in 2009), focusing on new technologies and research methods. She presently holds adjunct Faculty positions at AHO (Norway), the CFC (Canada), and the Unfinished Business School (virtual).

Previously she was Deputy Director and Principal Research Fellow in Technology Futures at  SMARTlab (United Kingdom) and part of Nokia Corporate Strategy’s Insight & Foresight group.

Earlier work included Sapient Corporation, as Discipline Lead for the Experience Modeling (XMod) group in London, and Director of the User Experience Group.

The Dublin Project Launches

For those of you that don’t know, the IwB 2012/2013 Major Project is The Dublin Project. Students that apply and are accepted into the program will travel to Dublin for a 5 week research trip where they will exame the various systems that make up the city.  When they return they’ll propose new and innovative sustainable urban practices that build on the existing planning practices of the city.

The Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) recently announced the partnership between the IwB, the City of Dublin and the DIT.

The MA in Design Practice - The Dublin Project is an internationally unique approach by a city and higher education to learning and innovation in the 21st century. It is a one-year, three-semester programme, delivered by DIT and supported by a large network of academic and practicing industry experts drawn from both DIT and the Institute without Boundaries (IwB) based in Toronto, Canada. These will include experts in graphic, spatial, digital, product and systems design, through to urban planning, architecture, community engagement, health sciences, engineering and business.

The objective of this programme is to leverage the combined talents of the Masters students, DIT academics, City officials and industry experts. The course will provide real-time experience to the Masters students to collaborate with DCC in enhancing the City’s diverse operations and how citizens experience them.

Each year, students on MA in Design Practice - The Dublin Project will focus on specific issues facing the City. In this first year, they will work in collaboration with students from the Institute without Boundaries (IwB) based in George Brown College, Toronto. The two student groups on either side of the Atlantic will focus on the same issue and the IWB group will visit Dublin in October to familiarise themselves with the city and to place the challenge in context. The groups will then continue to collaborate during the year, culminating in a joint exhibition to take place in 2013 in both Dublin and Toronto.

To read the full article go here.

Opening Night Party: Move Transportation Expo

The Institute Without Boundaries is proud to have collaborated with Evergreen to produce the MOVE Transportation Expo at Evergreen Brickworks, June 30 to October 28, 2012.

Check out some of the photos of the Opening Night Party by Michelle Hotchin, IwB Program Coordinator and don’t forget to swing by the Expo and learn about our relationship to the things that move us.

COLAB at Work: Case Studies Introduction

The Main Street Markham and Old Kennedy Road revitalization projects are presented here as case studies to demonstrate the COLAB model at work. Each case study presents a unique approach to main street revitalization that shows how strategic problem solving and innovative ideas can be generated when interdepartmental, multi-stakeholder and collaborative design thinking is embraced.

Main Street Markham and Old Kennedy Road are characterized by distinct histories, demographic make-ups and development conditions. Taken together, these case studies illustrate many of the key challenges and opportunities that Markham must consider as it pursues sustainable development, including: how best to undertake intensification in established low-density areas; how to incorporate sustainable building design within the limitations of a heritage context; how to create resilient communities and prepare for a transit-oriented future; how to meaningfully engage community and business in the revitalization process; and how to approach development that is strategic and leverages all available assets to greatest effect.

In both case studies, we illustrate the COLAB model of engaging community, business and municipal stakeholders in a creative process of research, ideation and communications to achieve results that respond to the real needs of people. The Main Street Markham case study shows how COLAB could help Markham use prototyping and design development to initiate small-scale design interventions for Main Street with a focus on enhancing accessibility, residential and commercial infill, and public realm infrastructure. The Old Kennedy Road case study shows how COLAB could help Markham use systems thinking and foresighting to plan for large-scale community revitalization that is strategic and establishes new market opportunities for Markham in the green economy.

This is an article from COLAB, the final project of students from the 2011/2012 academic year. To see all the posts related to the project go here. To see a summary of the project go here.

Markham Meet COLAB: How does COLAB Begin?


Start Up : 6 Months
Jul 2012 – Dec 2013

Core Staff : Coordinator
Key Activities: Recruit Board of Directors, incorporate as non-profit; perform community and stakeholder
outreach; lead Markham strategic policy review.

In the first six months of operations, COLAB will focus its energies on recruiting a board of directors and establishing itself as a non-profit organization.

Ten board members will be recruited, with three each representing the citizens, private sector and municipality.

$30,000 in seed money from Markham’s Department of Economic Development will cover start-up staffing costs.

$10,000 grant from the United Way of York Region’s Strength Investment Fund will help cover other costs such as rent and studio facility purchases. The Strength Investment Fund supports emerging collaboratives with a mission to bring different stakeholders together to create new and innovative approaches to tackling community issues.

The Manager will begin formally reaching out to community organizations and striking up working relationships with the private sector.

A review of existing municipal strategic plans and, in particular, Markham’s Green Print will determine areas of strategic focus for COLAB over the following three years.

A multi-stakeholder engagement process will help the Board of Directors establish a vision and mandate.

Year One : 12 Months
Jan 2013 - Dec 2014

Core Staff : Coordinator + Manager
Key Activities: Stakeholder outreach; Main Street greening initiative

In its first year, COLAB will continue reaching out to build relationships with its citizen, private sector and municipal stakeholders.

A Coordinator will join the Manager on the team.

Another installment of $50,000 in seed money from the Department of Economic Development will go towards staff costs and overhead.

The remainder of staffing and overhead costs will be covered by an additional $40,000 grant from the United Way’s Strength Investment Fund.

A $10,000 grant from Evergreen’s Green Grant program, $15,000 grant from TD Bank’s Green Streets and $10,000 from the Markham Village BIA fund will help COLAB initiate its first major project: a Main Street Greening initiative. This project will work with the Markham Village BIA and residents to imagine, design and prototype small-scale greening initiatives for Main Street Markham. These will include tree and native species plantings, community gardens and a green wall prototype.

This project will allow COLAB to demonstrate its value as an expert facilitator and community engager while also helping the town begin to experiment with sustainable design technology in the public realm.

The Project Coordinator will recruit a landscape architecture summer student intern and volunteers to support the project.

Year Two and Three

Core Staff: Coordinator + Manager
Key Activities: Stakeholder outreach; knowledge sharing and capacity building with other change labs; Ontario Centres of Excellence, Social Innovation Partnership Challenge.

In the second and third years of operation, COLAB will focus on building its internal capacity as a change lab.

In fulfillment of this objective, COLAB will initiate a knowledge sharing and capacity building program to connect with other change labs in Ontario and around the world to establish best practices. The Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration’s Partnership Grant Program will provide $210,000 in funding over three years for this project.

COLAB will continue to receive $65,000 annually in start-up financing from the United Way’s Strength Investment Fund.
Over time, COLAB will build the capacity to pursue grants and projects with the private sector.

Demonstrating leadership in social innovation, COLAB will be named a “Regional Innovation Centre” in its third year as part of the Ontario Network of Excellence program.

Building on this, COLAB will establish its first formal project with a private sector partner. HydroOne will match a $50,000 grant from the Ontario Centres of Excellence, Social Innovation Partnership Challenge. Together, COLAB and HydroOne will work with new residents in Markham Centre to develop new products, services or business models that meet social and environmental needs.

This is an article from COLAB, the final project of students from the 2011/2012 academic year. To see all the posts related to the project go here. To see a summary of the project go here.

Markham Meet COLAB: Why Does Markham Need COLAB?

Markham is recognized as a leader among Canadian municipalities for its progressive and visionary approach to planning. Time and time again, we have observed that Markham is a city that works. A culture of collaboration, respect and pragmatic problem solving is already alive and well in the halls of the Civic Centre. COLAB is a proposal that builds on this tradition. COLAB presents Markham with an opportunity to set a high bar for interdepartmental and multi-stakeholder collaboration.

At the heart of the COLAB vision is the simple idea that the solutions to Markham’s most pressing challenges are already at hand. As Canada’s high tech capital and one of the most diverse municipalities in the country, Markham is in the enviable position of having incredible assets in knowledge and creative capital among its citizens. Furthermore, the design processes that are at the heart of the COLAB working model– research, ideation, systems thinking, design development, prototyping, communication and foresighting– are already happening around Markham. What is not yet happening, however, is the interface between the potent mix of community, industry and municipal interests and the design-thinking process within a collaborative setting.

COLAB addresses this opportunity with a proposal for a design solutions unit within the municipality that is dedicated to building partnerships with community and the private sector and engaging them in creating innovative new ideas for Markham’s sustainable future. By drawing on the wisdom and perspectives of its citizens and complementing these insights with the knowledge of city staff and the dynamic energy of the private sector, design solutions can be generated that are tailor-made to meet Markham’s unique needs.

COLAB responds to the need for a strategic and integrated approach to achieving sustainability that is identified in Markham’s existing planning documents. Over the last decade, Markham has undertaken an impressive program of strategic planning and policy review. From the Integrated Leisure and Markham Diversity Action plans, to the Green Print Sustainability Plan, and more, the town has identified a number of progressive sustainability and economic development objectives. These objectives encompass a range of issues from environmental health, social and cultural well-being, and economic vitality. They include recommendations for promoting greater levels of resident involvement in community stewardship; increasing the viability of local commercial food growing and processing; promoting green business development; creating a culture of walking, cycling and transit usage; and planning high performance new neighbourhoods.

The Green Print Sustainability Plan sets out a number of strategies to ensure the successful implementation of these objectives. The proposed recommendations include:

  • Coordinating project management of cross-departmental initiatives
  • Embracing pilot projects
  • Leveraging partnerships with the private sector
  • Establishing stakeholder working groups
  • Emphasizing the role of community engagement

These strategies are at the heart of the COLAB model. As Markham moves forward, the city requires an approach to sustainable planning that is interdepartmental, multi-stakeholder and collaborative. COLAB is the design solutions unit that can facilitate communication and consensus-building between community, the private sector and municipal departments, to help Markham achieve its economic, sustainability and community development objectives.

This is an article from COLAB, the final project of students from the 2011/2012 academic year. To see all the posts related to the project go here. To see a summary of the project go here.

Markham Meet Colab: COLAB’s Structure

COLAB is located in Markham’s Civic Centre. The physical space accommodates the creative needs of a working design studio with the administrative resources to support the Board of Directors, Manager and Coordinator.

The Board of Directors is responsible for setting the vision, mission and overarching strategic objectives of COLAB. The board is made up of nine volunteer members representing stakeholders from the community, municipal and private sectors. The board is responsible for overseeing the financial health of COLAB by pursuing funding opportunities and maintaining financial records, as well as establishing operational policy and promoting high level partnerships with industry, academic institutions and the government.

The Manager reports to the Board of Directors and is responsible for helping to establish COLAB’s strategic objectives and nurturing stakeholder partnerships. The Executive Director implements COLAB’s mission by setting program directions, submitting funding proposals and producing regular reports and program evaluations. The Executive Director also curates interdisciplinary teams to support COLAB’s ongoing projects and ensures that project results attain a high quality.

The Coordinator oversees the management of COLAB projects, guiding project teams to achieve successful results. The role of Design Coordinator requires strong leadership and facilitation skills to maintain the day-to-day working relationships of the COLAB team members. The Design Coordinator is the public face of COLAB and as such is the point of contact with the community and inquiring public. The Design Coordinator promotes  the work of COLAB through public speaking engagements and other communications channels.

The COLAB space is a multipurpose Resource Area designed to support a variety of project requirements. COLAB understands that its partnerships with the community and private and municipal stakeholders are essential to its success. As such, the COLAB Resource Area is designed to support collaboration and promote a sense of optimism, possibility and dynamic energy. Facilities include computers equipped with design software, printers, a shared work table, a supply of creative materials and flexible space in which to move, model, draw and experiment.

This is an article from COLAB, the final project of students from the 2011/2012 academic year. To see all the posts related to the project go here. To see a summary of the project go here.

Markham Meet COLAB: How Does COLAB work?


The Town of Markham is an essential client partner for COLAB. Although COLAB is an independent agency, it works closely with the municipality to find innovative ways to help the town achieve its sustainability objectives. Markham’s investment in COLAB will take three forms: financial support, information and resource support, and access to space. In addition to contributing financially, the Town of Markham will support COLAB by fostering a culture of openness and cooperation with the agency, consulting with COLAB in the official planning process and providing COLAB with access to staff. This close relationship between COLAB and the municipality will be supported by COLAB’s proximity to leaders and decision makers, being located physically in the Civic Centre.

In exchange for this support, Markham will have access to an in-house consultancy dedicated exclusively to helping Markham achieve design innovation. COLAB meets a need that Markham has identified in its own strategic planning documents: the Green Print Sustainability Plan in particular makes a number of recommendations to support the implementation of its sustainability objectives that COLAB meets directly. These include coordinating project management of cross-departmental initiatives, embracing experimentation through pilot projects and leveraging partnerships with the private sector and community. Municipal staff will benefit directly by having a dedicated space where they can dream big and propose visionary ideas and pick up new skills in the design-thinking process that can be used to support their own work.

Private Sectors

The private sector will be a key partner in assisting COLAB to fulfill its mandate to help Markham achieve innovation in sustainability. The private sector can support COLAB in a number of ways, including providing staff with specialized knowledge and technical skills, supporting pilot projects with financial and material donations, and offering expert market advice that will be crucial to ensuringthe viability of COLAB initiatives. Markham is one of Canada’s leading hubs for high technology business. An impressive group of information and communications technology companies, both large and small, have chosen to locate their offices in Markham. These companies have the resources and the wherewithal
to get involved in the kinds of projects that COLAB will undertake.

By supporting COLAB in its mission to help Markham achieve sustainability targets, the private sector will benefit from the creation of favourable conditions for increased growth and commercial activity in Markham. Furthermore, by supporting COLAB with intellectual capital that may lead to innovative sustainable services
and technologies, the private sector stands to benefit from the creation
of new market opportunities. Joining community members on projects that contribute to quality of life and healthy living is an excellent way for businesses to meet their corporate social responsibility targets in a meaningful way. By engaging with COLAB in the creative design-thinking process, business leaders can acquire new ways of problem solving and creating innovation that can be brought back to their own companies.


Citizens support he COLAB process by contributing their expert knowledge, and volunteering their time to help execute projects. This knowledge is invaluable, as it is the citizens of Markham who live, work and play in the city and bring an intimate and intuitive knowledge of its quirks, charms and challenges. Residents often have the most visionary ideas for the future of their communities. In addition to their deep knowledge of Markham, these citizens are also a pool of talented and well-educated professionals, capable of contributing insights and skills to the projects they work on.
By working with COLAB, citizens are able to help shape and direct Markham’s future in a tangible way. COLAB’s projects also help citizens build capacity by helping them understand the municipal process and allowing them to build skills. Markham is already seeking to forge meaningful connections with its citizens, and engage them in the planning process. COLAB has a strong focus on citizen engagement and can help Markham achieve this. By facilitating relationships between citizens and the municipality, and engaging them in real world projects, COLAB helps citizens feel empowered to effect change in their world.

This is an article from COLAB, the final project of students from the 2011/2012 academic year. To see all the posts related to the project go here. To see a summary of the project go here.

Markham Meet COLAB: What does COLAB Do?


COLAB conducts interviews, photo documents, organizes events and experiences, fosters community engagement, consults academic research and analyzes statistical and demographic data to establish a context for making informed decisions.


COLAB uses ideation to rapidly generate innovative ideas, tailoring our methods to suit the specific requirements of the ideation exercise. Some of these methods include brainstorming, mind mapping, drawing, sketching and model making.

Systems Thinking

COLAB uses systems thinking to help us understand the important relationships between the various forces that shape a city. We use tools such as the City Systems diagram and other methods to organize, categorize and visually model systems.

Design Development

COLAB takes conceptual designs and works out the details by rendering, phasing, illustrating and evaluating their impact, working with our partners in the private sector to demonstrate how schematic plans would actually work.


COLAB prototypes in order to thoroughly test and refine ideas before they go live. Prototyping allows us to create models or drafts of design concepts and place them in context to see how people will respond and interact with them.


COLAB communicates with the citizen, municipal and private sector stakeholders to ensure our work remains responsive to the changing needs of the city. Facilitating open and productive channels of communication allows us to collaborate effectively.


COLAB is a strategic design solutions unit working with Markham to help the city achieve excellence and leadership in sustainability. We synthesize research insights and apply systems thinking to predict future trends and get ahead of the curve.

This is an article from COLAB, the final project of students from the 2011/2012 academic year. To see all the posts related to the project go here. To see a summary of the project go here.

Markham Meet COLAB: Change Labs in Action

The Danish government has MindLab, and Kent in the United Kingdom has SILK (The Social Innovation Lab for Kent). The value of collaborative thinking is evident from these successful precedents. The IwB is in many ways a change lab for people, places and ideas. By collaborating with faculty, guest speakers and domestic and international students from interdisciplinary academic backgrounds, and, most importantly, by taking that collaboration and distilling it into solutions, the IwB transforms participants into design thinkers. Design thinking and the ability to work interdepartmentally without the limitations of civic bureaucracy are the value that a change lab offers.

“SILK is a small team based within Kent County Council that was set up in 2007 to ‘do policy differently’.Over the past 4 years we have been doing projects which have demonstrated the benefits of working in a different way and have developed a Methodology and Toolkit which provide a structure for the way we work.  We believe that the best solutions come from the people who are closest to the issue; this could be service users, residents or frontline staff. We go much further than community consultation and we believe that people should be actively involved in the design of services that they are going to use or deliver. The SILK Methodology provides creative and innovative ways to engage with people and approach projects, and enables a collective ownership and responsibility for project design, delivery and outcomes.”

“MindLab is a cross-ministerial innovation unit which involves citizens and businesses in creating new solutions for society. We are also a physical space – a neutral zone for inspiring creativity, innovation and collaboration.We work with the civil servants in our three parent ministries: the Ministry of Business and Growth, the Ministry of Taxation and the Ministry of Employment. These three ministries cover broad policy areas that affect the daily lives of virtually all Danes. Entrepreneurship, climate change, digital self-service, citizen’s rights, emplyment services and workplace safety are some of the areas they address. MindLab is instrumental in helping the ministry’s key decision-makers and employees view their efforts from the outside-in, to see them from a citizen’s perspective. We use this approach as a platform for co-creating better ideas.”

This is an article from COLAB, the final project of students from the 2011/2012 academic year. To see all the posts related to the project go here. To see a summary of the project go here.
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About the IWB

The Institute without Boundaries is a Toronto-based studio that works towards collaborative design action and seeks to achieve social, ecological and economic innovation. To learn more click here.

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