In The News

CityStudio Is Synonymous With Social Innovation

In 2011, Duane Elverum and Janet Moore of Simon Fraser University co-founded CityStudio, a learning hub in Vancouver that connects students, instructors, city staff and community members aiming to co-create solutions to real-world problems facing their city.

In February, organizations like CityStudio that are leading the way in the province in the area of social innovation will be coming together for the BC Summit on Social Innovation and BC Social Innovation Youth Awards. The summit is helping to raise awareness of innovation across all sectors within the province of British Columbia.

“The point of CityStudio is to provide context for the skills the students are learning. It’s an innovative space where people can interact,” Elverum said.

Elverum and Moore had been teaching at the university level for 15 years each and were finding that students wanted to get more in-depth understanding of the theoretical concepts they were tackling. Students also wanted experience and skills before leaving university. The pair had a strong vision, but putting together something that hadn’t existed was a big challenge.

Six years later, not only has CityStudio engaged with over 3,500 students and helped over 200 projects get off the ground, but its idea has spread across the country as far as Corner Brook, NL. Five new CityStudios have opened their doors, each tackling its own specific issues.

In Victoria, the location of the second CityStudio, Mayor Lisa Helps sees the innovation hub as part of the city’s economic action plan.

“CityStudio courses build civic capacity, give students learning opportunities that make a contribution and have an impact in the community and can lead to meaningful employment in the region after graduation. It’s really exciting to see the potential, creativity and insights that students bring which enrich the urban fabric of the City,” Helps said.

Derek Masselink, associate faculty at Royal Roads University, taught the first Royal Roads University course at CityStudio Victoria in October 2016.

“It was a great learning opportunity for everyone involved. The students were able to engage directly with city staff members and the councillors really seemed to appreciate the fresh perspective the students brought,” Masselink said.

This echoes what Elverum has consistently found.

“When faculty and staff are invited together, there is lots of energy. They collaborate on experiments and prototypes to create a desired future,” Elverum said.

Projects in Vancouver have focused on such themes as access to nature, active living, clean air or water, climate leadership, local food, transportation and more. The projects make the city more livable, sustainable or simply more joyful. CityStudio work has garnered a number of awards and recognition including being recognized as the first Canadian recipient of the Ashoka U-Cordes Innovation Award in 2013.

“The BC Summit on Social Innovation is a terrific opportunity to highlight social innovation within British Columbia,” said Michelle Stilwell, Minister of Social Development  and Social Innovation. “Organizations like CityStudio are addressing social issues in unique ways, complementing the work we are doing in the province. Together, we are creating a better future for all British Columbians.”

Quick Facts:

  • CityStudio was founded in Vancouver in 2011 and is now in development in six cities across Canada, including Victoria; Brantford, Ont.; Waterloo, Ont.; Hamilton, Ont.; and Corner Brook, NL.
  • CityStudio Vancouver’s educational partners are: Simon Fraser University, British Columbia Institute of Technology, Langara College, University of British Columbia, and Native Education College. CityStudio Victoria is partnered with Camosun College, Royal Roads University and University of Victoria. The City of Vancouver and the City of Victoria are key partners.
  • A government-funded study on B.C.’s social venture sector found the sector has grown by 36% over the last five years, generates an estimated $533 million annually and employs more than 12,700 people.
  • As an active member of the BC Partners for Social Impact, government works with social innovation leaders in the public, private and non-profit sectors to promote and support social innovation and enterprise throughout the province.

Vacant Lot on Yates Will Soon be the Next Hands-on Classroom for Students and Residents


Media release from the city:

A Vacant Lot will Soon be the Next Hands-on Classroom for Students and ResidentsDate: Tuesday, March 22, 2016

For Immediate Release
VICTORIA, BC — A vacant lot on Yates Street will soon come to life as a community garden with the help of downtown residents and University of Victoria students, through the newly established CityStudio Victoria. 
Building on new City policies designed to grow more
food in the city, the currently unused property presegrowing_community-vacant-lot-to-classrooms-3nts a rare opportunity for City staff, university students and community members to co-create, design and launch a new community project from the ground up. The University of Victoria will offer its second CityStudio Victoria course, a public policy course, called Growing Community “From the Ground up”. It is an intensive three-week course, starting May 9, 2016, with third year students, and staff working in partnership with the Downtown Residents’ Association and Greater Victoria Placemaking Network.
Where:           On site at 1012/1014 Yates Street
When:            Tuesday, March 22, 2016 at 1:15 p.m.
Who:              Mayor Lisa Helps
                      Sarah Wiebe, University of Victoria, Department of Political Science
                       Nicholas Harrington and Janet Strauss, Downtown Residents’ Association
                      Kevin McGeough and Emmy Marshall-Hill, Greater Victoria Placemaking Network 
Building on the success of CityStudio Vancouver, the central mission of CityStudio Victoria is to innovate and experiment with the ways cities are co-created, while teaching students the skills needed to collaborate on real projects. An empty storefront at 742 Johnson recently became the new home of CityStudio Victoria. Earlier this year, Biketoria, a University of Victoria urban geography course focused primarily on planning and designing a new cycling network in the Capital City was offered in this new downtown classroom shared by Camosun, Royal Roads and the University of Victoria. 
“CityStudio Victoria is learning in action. Students get credit for courses by working on real-world opportunities, together with their classmates, community members and City staff,” said Mayor Helps. “We’re thrilled to learn from CityStudio Vancouver and to be their first CityStudio partner in Canada.”                                    
1012/14 Yates Street has sat vacant for several years after the City purchased it through a tax sale when the property owner did not redeem it. The former site of a dry-cleaning business, the property was subject to a provincial remediation order and was recently contained and filled to be considered for future use. Environmental monitoring of the site will continue, and City Council has approved the 7200 square foot property for a future community garden for three years while longer term uses continue to be explored.