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:
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.