Planners in Public Spaces is a public engagement initiative started by City Planning in 2013 in order to advance actionable items of its Strategic Plan, under the Strategic Direction for Clear, Consistent and Compelling Communication.
The basic purpose of Planners in Public Spaces is to bring planners to the people and provide opportunities for the public to engage with City Planners, one-on-one, on issues that affect the City and specific concerns they may have about development and policy in the city.
Planners in Public Spaces format is simple. We bring a tent, a table, some planning material and a bunch of planners and set up in parks, recreation centres and some special events like farmers’ markets or festivals. Then we are ready to chat with anyone with a question or comment.
To engage with the people of Toronto by going to where people are in order to increase residents’ access to planners, reach people who don’t attend our traditional public consultations, and advance the public’s understanding of planning with the intention of increasing future citizen participation in the planning process.
Our goals are:
Learn – To actively listen and learn from what we hear.
Teach – To promote understanding of planning.
Partner – To promote dialogue and collaboration.
Contribute – To give our energy, time and skills to address various needs in the communities we serve.
Innovate – To engage the public in a variety of ways; to reach segments of the public City Planning doesn’t usually engage; and to attract people to events using new methods and tools.
“The planner is in!”
What is Office Hours?
In previous years, Planners in Public Spaces was only a summer event series, however starting in 2015 it has been expanded to a full year program. One component of the full year program is the implementation of a new engagement series called “Office Hours”.
Office Hours is a public engagement idea that came out of City Planning’s Youth Engagement Strategy Research Group. Our group of youth researchers found that young people would like to engage planners in convenient locations, like libraries.
Office Hour events are non-statutory, casual pop-up events located indoors during colder months of the year. All citizens are welcome to stop by our tables to speak to city planning staff.
These events will provide organic opportunities to interact with community planners and will happen in those special neighbourhood places that act as living arenas for civic interaction like libraries, recreation centres, coffee shops and other meeting spots. Most will feature a specific local planning study and will have the area community planner and other planning staff on hand to speak with interested members of the public.
Planners in Public Spaces is organized and run by City Planning staff volunteers from each of the four districts across the city. More than 65 planners from Community Planning, Parks, Transportation Planning, Strategic Initiatives Policy and Analysis, Heritage, Urban Design and Graphics, and Committee of Adjustment make up this year’s volunteer base.