Emerging City Champions Studio: A Boot Camp for Urbanists

8 80 Cities hosted twenty rising urbanist stars in Toronto last week for the Emerging City Champions Studio 2016.

The Studio is a four-day boot camp on city building, where twenty civic innovators develop and hone essential skills for implementing successful urban interventions in their cities. The participants were selected as part of the Emerging City Champions fellowship program which supports civic innovators with bold ideas to enhance civic engagement, public spaces, and mobility. Participants receive a $5,000 mini grant and have one year to implement a wide range of projects, from music camps and mobile libraries to alleyway retrofits and Open Streets. The program is run by 8 80 Cities with funding and support from the Knight Foundation.

The twenty young leaders selected to participate in the 2016 fellowship hail from thirteen American cities, ranging in size from 40,000 to 1,500,000. By trade, the 2016 Champions are students, musicians, librarians, real estate agents, planners, and architects. What they share in common is creative ideas to address to complex urban challenges and the passion to see those ideas to fruition.

Toronto marked the first stop on their journey as Champions. During the Studio, we heard from internationally renowned city builders such as Gil Penalosa of 8 80 Cities, Jason Roberts of Better Block, and Hunter Franks of The League of Creative Interventionists. The Champions also picked up tips on advocacy, community engagement, and urban design from local champions such as Jane’s Walks, Stop Gap Foundation, and Cycle Toronto.

The speakers and workshop facilitators challenged the Champions to challenge the status quo, embrace failure as part of the process of change, and work collaboratively.

Most importantly, the Studio provided an opportunity for the Champions to map out, deconstruct, and redefine their project plans. Our expert staff and guest speakers including five champions from last year’s Studio, provided inspiration and guidance, but they also received peer support and motivation from each other.

At week’s end, the Champions returned to their cities with detailed project plans, stronger skills, and new collaborations. The agenda was packed and even though the week was exhausting, we all returned to our work with renewed energy and confidence in the future of our cities, knowing these twenty emerging champions are leading the way.

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