With Ottawa Community Housing

Synapcity’s Placemaking Project

Since January 2017, Synapcity has been collaborating with the residents of an Ottawa Community Housing building in Centretown to re-imagine their side garden as a new public space for community gathering.

We’re excited to announce we successfully secured a grant from United Way’s PCL Hard Hat Heroes program for the building of the garden’s infrastructure, while Ottawa Public Health has come on board to evaluate the project’s community-building and usefulness to residents over time.

Participatory Design

This placemaking project brings together the talent and skills of our many of our city’s key urban enthusiasts. As Participatory Design is one of Synapcity’s founding principles, we have loved being able to engage residents every step of the way – from design to planning, to the unveiling event itself later this year.

“This garden represents more than just a physical space,” says Ottawa Public Health Nurse, Ann Nowak RN, BN. MEd. (Couns.). “Engaging the residents to create their inspired ‘place’ can foster activity, sharing, well-being, and a sense of belonging. Placemaking can have a profound impact on health.”

To date, we have held four workshops with residents to re-imagine their garden. As well as making the garden more dynamic and inviting, residents imagine the new space will address other concerns and desires, such as more security, privacy and accessibility. One suggestion was to plant barberry trees along the property line for privacy, while Ottawa Community Housing is providing flood lighting to help with security.

Toon Dreessen, President of Ottawa’s Architects DCA and Synapcity alumni presented his design to residents, bringing to life their co-created vision for their home. He explained: “Getting involved with a collaborative visioning exercise, to bring together design professionals and the public, helps create a framework to show how design impacts community wellbeing, raising awareness of the power of well designed public space to shape our physical and mental health.”

Next Steps

 

We’re excited to announce that construction has begun and is scheduled for completion in November 2018. Once it is complete, we will announce an unveiling event with United Way to celebrate this resident-led placemaking success story. Stay tuned!

Civics Boot Camp Spring 2018

Noah Fang: Alumni Testimonial

Civic Design is closely related to Urban Design, one of my constant interests. Synapcity’s vision and direction instantly resonated with me, so I decided to give it a try. Civics Boot Camp was thought-provoking, inspiring, and overwhelming at times!

I absolutely loved the sessions. I had the chance to do quite a few things on my wish list, like chatting intimately with key stakeholders from the city, connecting with activists and advocates with relatable ambitions, and collaborating with a truly diverse group of people from all walks of life on social problems, old and new. I enjoyed it so much that I wish it was longer!

My biggest takeaway is that, by both participating and observing, I got to know not only what the people representative of Ottawa are thinking in terms of civic design, but also how they think and take action. I got to connect with people whose causes I can contribute to; I found people who can help me on my own pursuit of approaching social problems. The learning greatly enhanced my perspectives, and the connections strengthened everyone’s ability to act. I’m very very happy about the outcome.

You can learn more about Noah Fang by visiting www.kingofark.com.

Christine Earnshaw

Reflections on 100in1Day 2018

On June 2nd, the 100in1Day festival took place in Ottawa for the second year in a row. 108 activities filled the streets, parks and other public spaces across the city – from Kanata to Orleans, Overbrook to Alta Vista, the Glebe to Sandy Hill, and from Westboro to Vanier.  Early in the morning, Synapcity staff and volunteers fanned out across the city to visit as many of the events as possible to share in the experience and connect with organizers and participants.

Dundonald Park.


While we continue to gather feedback from the intervention leaders, partners and participants to better understand the impact of the festival, here are a few of my reflections from this year’s experience:

Community Offering of Skills, Expertise & Experience
As this year’s diversity of events demonstrated, the festival provides an opportunity for residents to share their interests, expertise and skills with others in an informal and friendly way.

  • One resident set up a free bike repair station in a neighbourhood park and ended up tuning 13 bikes
  • Another citizen organized a bike scavenger hunt for cyclists to visit landmarks across the city
  • A representative of Community Mediation Ottawa set up two comfortable chairs in Dundonald Park and invited people to share their thoughts  while she listened
  • To open up people’s eyes to other realities, one woman volunteered to talk about her daily life using Para Transpo
  • A professional photographer took portraits of people for free, which they can download from his website
  • Finally, another man organized a free workshop for Black fathers to learn how to style their children’s hair

All of these intervention leaders dreamed up and organized these activities specifically for 100in1Day. They gave their time and energy to offer something to the community at large that is based on their personal interest and skill set.

Byron Pathway Pop-Up Bike Repair


Raising Awareness in Innovative & Creative Ways
100in1Day Is an opportunity for residents to make a statement or draw attention to important issues in new and creative ways. This year, two organizations, the Parkdale Food Centre and Somerset West Community Health Centre, collaborated to create a Rooming House Installation in a parking lot on Wellington St. W.. People “discovered” the installation as they walked by and in doing so learned about hidden poverty and the consequences of gentrification in the neighbourhood.

Smart City Playground @ Confederation Park


Another urban intervention invited the public to “experience Confederation Park in a way they had never experienced before”. This event was a community conversation and presentation to raise awareness about Smart Cities and what that means in real terms. These type of events show unique and innovative ways to get more citizens exploring and talking about critical issues in our city.

Platform For Community Engagement
More than anything, the festival is a platform to engage the community. One example of this is Wingd Inc., a digital agency that organized a series of activities for 100in1Day under the banner of Creatorland, which showcased local entrepreneurs and engaged the public through Q&As and panel discussions on the role that entrepreneurs play in our city. Several partners, including the Byward Market BIA, Ottawa Markets and local businesses supported this initiative recognizing the benefit of free, public events to foster a culture of appreciation for creators, entrepreneurs and makers in our city.

Transforming Public Space
Given that the festival takes place outdoors in public spaces, most of the 100in1day happenings temporarily transform the streets or parks, turning them into places for play, art and community dialogue. Some of this year’s events included:

  • An outdoor living room set up for community conversation
  • A friendly soccer match
  • The animation of Alexandra Bridge with music and prayer flags
  • A slide presentation on climate change

Prince of Wales Bridge Community Artstorm

 

Some of the 100in1Day activities went further though to physically change the landscape. This year there was:

  • A clean up at Mud Lake
  • The tossing of seed bombs in Hampton Park to support pollinators
  • The start of a community art project to beautify a local park and several community gardening planting initiatives
  • One group of neighbours chose to make a statement about a dangerous intersection by decorating a stop sign and drawing attention to the crosswalks with the goal of improving the intersection’s design

Digital Graffiti @ Main Farmer’s Market


All in all, 100in1Day represents what people have to offer and the willingness of others to engage. The festival brings together neighbours and citizens with like-minded interests and opens people up to new ideas. It is a community happening that inspires more people to be engaged and active in the community. As we continue to reflect on this year’s festival, I’m certain that 100in1Day is helping to build the culture of citizen activation in Ottawa.

Now, Synapcity is determined to harness this CityMaking energy, and continue the momentum. Who’s with us?!


And with very special thanks to 100in1Day sponsors for making it all possible: Councillors Tobi Nussbaum, Mathieu Fleury, Jeff Leiper, Scott Moffat, David Chernushenko, and to: ByWard Market BIA, Ottawa Markets, & Quartier Vanier BIA. 

Synapcity Announces New Executive Director

An update from Synapcity.

On behalf of the Board of Directors of Synapcity, Judith Maxwell is very pleased to announce that Laine Johnson is the new Executive Director, effective immediately. “We are delighted Laine has agreed to take on this role. She has served Synapcity as Acting Executive Director since October 1, demonstrating a remarkable capacity for leadership and management in a grass roots organization and we are very fortunate to have her,” stated Ms. Maxwell.

Laine replaces Manjit Basi, the visionary and inspirational Ottawa citizen who co-founded Synapcity in 2011 and served as its first Executive Director. Manjit continues to focus on recovery from a concussion. She is much loved by her colleagues and the hundreds of people who have benefited from her ground-breaking work in civic engagement. The Board extends its gratitude to Manjit, our wishes for a speedy recovery and looks forward to welcoming her back in a suitable role when that becomes possible.

Manjit stated, “It has been both a personal and career highlight to be part of creating and leading Synapcity these last 6 years. I am proud to have contributed to creating this movement that is based in optimism. Synapcity encourages people and institutions to engage constructively and respectfully with each other for the betterment of our city. The organization is in highly capable hands with Laine and I wish her and the Synapcity team all the best going forward.”

Read full letter here.

For more information, contact Nickie Shobeiry at nickie@synapcity.ca or 613-288-5810.

by Laine Johnson

CityMaking in 2018

Welcome back to a fresh calendar year, CityMakers! With a new year comes a new set of resolutions and good intentions. It’s a wonderful time to take a deep breath, take stock of what worked in 2017, and figure out how to channel more of that into the new year. We might try to amplify our blessings and gratitudes from the past year, to “crowd out” what we want to let go of. (ok, I borrowed that from my yoga teacher, but it’s a nice approach!)

At Synapcity, we are grateful for the tidal wave of inspirational relationships that came in 2017. More people than ever before are taking co-ownership of developing Ottawa’s inclusive culture of participation. Co-created cities are successful cities. Likewise, this is how we  engage with each other, and with you. We do this because we know that cities are more resilient when made together.

Moving into 2018, we want to appreciate more the small things that have great impact. Canada150 was a celebration, to be sure, but the grassroots level of local vibrancy are what we think makes a city truly great. The city is its people. Our work in 2018 is to better showcase and celebrate the incremental, the tireless, the underappreciated act of CityMaking, every day.

Photo Credit: Danielle Allard

Sharing Our Thinking – And Yours!

Our biennial Community Impact Report will give us the opportunity to further share with you our thinking for 2018, while highlighting the community’s, too. We’ve organized this  around our newly formulated Theory of Change,  developed through the McConnell Foundation’s Innoweave Program. This helped to clarify our value as a bridge-builder between people, sectors and organizations who all share similar values to our own. These partnerships are at the core of Synapcity’s programs, from which come both wisdom and clarity of civic issues. We can’t wait to share their stories with you. Watch for its release this March.

 

Beyond 2036

One of these partners continues to be the City of Ottawa, who is currently looking ‘Beyond 2036’ to think through scenarios that can affect planning and development. We recently participated in an extremely comprehensive meeting where nothing was off the table: all potential drivers and disruptors of growth were considered. It’s intended to use these drivers and disruptors to scope out future scenarios that the City may have to face:

  • What if climate change creates a new floodplain?
  • What if rising land costs eradicate the possibility of public space?
  • What if people all work from home remotely and never have to leave the house?

 

Having binge-watched much of Black Mirror on Netflix over the break, none of these possibilities seem too remote.

I’m encouraged to see the City create a flexible and adaptable planning tool to develop the future forecast. The next task will be the implementation of this tool, a big part of which will require the support of the public. We understand Steve Willis, our current General Manager, Planning, Infrastructure & Economic Development intends the next Official Plan to be functional, legible and practical, so that citizens can better connect their personal observations and experiences to the great vision for the city.

Photo Credit: Danielle Allard

As part of better integrating the citizen perspective, the City will be hosting public engagement on these scenarios in the coming weeks. This includes new videos and a survey on the future of Ottawa.

What are you waiting for, CityMakers? Have your say – check out the Beyond 2036 website!

Let's have fun.

A hello note from Laine

Dear Friends,

I first came across Synapcity in the fall of 2014, back when it was still Citizens Academy. I was lucky enough to be sent by my employer to a We Are Cities roundtable event. Walking in the room felt like I had landed on a different planet. Everyone involved was actively participating, generating ideas together, listening carefully, and seemed to be having a lot of fun. What was this? I wondered. Where was the traditional talk from the front of the room, by some ‘subject expert’ usually white and male, followed by a Q & A? From that first day, I couldn’t get enough. I right away signed on as a volunteer, moved into contract work, and now we’re 2 years later where I have the honour of stepping up as Acting Executive Director.

I am so proud of how Synapcity has grown. I know this is partly because of how hard we have worked, but this is bigger than any one organization’s effort. There’s an undeniable culture shift happening in Ottawa, can you feel it? People across the city are flipping challenges into opportunities. The city’s size, its geography, its history, and its cultures have created a responsive and fertile ground on which people can really make their mark. We are not so big that we can’t see each other, if we know where to look. We are not so small that we can’t reach out to others to support us along our way. This is where Synapcity works, as a bridge for our city’s people, as they share wisdom, talents, and skills across our landscape.

This next phase of our work brings in new partners, new neighbourhoods, and new ideas. We will begin publishing and posting more regularly. We will better share our language, our results, and our stories. Synapcity was never imagined as just one program, but as an approach to living together. Everyone can be invited to participate in shaping the neighbourhoods and communities they live in. I am grateful and humbled by the opportunity to continue the organization’s work and I can’t wait to see what we come up with next, together.

Laine

Synapcity is growing. Get excited.

Join our Facilitation Team

We hold spaces for people, institutions, and sectors to create lasting relationships.

Synapcity seeks Facilitators to join our team on a casual and ongoing basis basis. We offer a dynamic environment that calls for you to work independently, be resourceful and think on your feet. You are passionate about our values and mission. You will act as an ambassador for Synapcity in your interactions with participants, volunteers, partners, and stakeholders from all walks of life. Synapcity is growing.  It’s a great time to join the team.

Working closely with the Executive Director and the Program Manager, you will shadow and then lead the facilitation in both our core programs, Civics Talks and Civics Boot Camp. Civics Talks is a 2.5-hour workshop and Civics Boot Camp comprises of six 3-hour sessions. We offer 2 Boot Camps and about 8 Civics Talks a year, for each of which we will offer an honorarium. Additionally, you may be asked to lead other programs as well.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Preparing materials and training rooms for all activities;
  • Providing a positive and hopeful environment where participants are encouraged to actively participate in the learning process;
  • Delivering content per the standards of the program;
  • Nurturing a playful and curious atmosphere;
  • Adapting facilitation methods to meet participants’ varying needs;
  • Maintaining effective and efficient record-keeping;
  • Reporting real-time observations as part of our emergent learning practice; and
  • Collaborating with co-workers to continuously improve our programming.


Requirements

  • Measurable experience in the field;
  • Ability to work with a diverse population, including people facing multiple barriers;
  • Strong understanding of Ottawa, community, and services offered; and
  • Requires personal vehicle


Who We Are

The city is its people. You are this city.

Synapcity brings people together to share ideas, understand new perspectives and collaborate on initiatives to improve our city, without political agenda or bias.

We provide the knowledge and tools to help people understand our city and gain confidence to make positive change. We give people a sense of belonging and empowerment to co-create so that we can preserve and strengthen what makes Ottawa great.

Social connection makes our brain better. We make this happen through community engagement. We gather positively passionate people, who would never otherwise meet, and help them contribute to our city’s accumulated intelligence.

Send your CV to hello@synapcity.ca.

We are accepting applications on a rolling basis. Only selected candidates will be contacted, and we thank you sincerely for your interest. We are an equal opportunity employer.

Synapcity presents

100in1day Ottawa on June 3

Global citizen-led festival empowers residents to inspire change in cities by turning creative ideas into interventions on Saturday, June 3, 2017

OTTAWA, ONTARIO (June 2, 2017) – For the first time ever, Ottawans share their vision for a better city through 100 urban activations on Saturday, June 3, 2017 during 100In1Day. The city-wide festival is a fun, inclusive way to focus on the role of people and public spaces, demonstrating how small citizen-led changes can make big improvements to cities. This year, OTTAWA is joined by Edmonton, London and Hamilton as part of the global citizen engagement event. The activities are free to attend or participate.

This Saturday, Ottawa neighbourhoods come alive with more than 100 interactive events created and led by residents, community groups, businesses and local organizations. The city-wide activities showcase how just one action, from generating community art projects, taking care of local habitats, and creating accessible fun ways to connect with neighbours, can sow seeds for a more resilient city.

June 3 is a true Ottawa love-in. We encourage everyone to participate and support the people hosting events in their community. Play, learn, explore, dance, laugh, meet, skip, restore, walk, experiment, colour, cook, eat, dream, think …!

Here are a just a few highlights for 100in1day:

  • Rhythm Jumpers Double Dutch Party invites people of all ages to come and skip together – a reminder of the simple joys of childhood games. Awesome music and tons of ropes provided. With Ping Pong Rec Day come and celebrate Ottawa’s brand new first and only outdoor ping pong table at the Britannia Woods Community House.
  • Sanad Collective is offering an evening potluck at the Rhoda Mosque garden to celebrate Ramadan with Iftar Under The Stars – an invitation to learn and share. Langar for Hunger is spreading the principle of equality and caring communities inspired by the Sikh faith’s practice of free kitchens; they will be offering free food and information.
  • Connecting with Nearby Nature promotes the importance of nature in improving children’s education. The Mus Lake Clean Up wants to ensure the continues health of this unique urba landscape and sanctuary for many species, including turtles.
  • Paint Therapy and Walk and Talk are both raising awareness of mental illness and the importance of nature and art therapy in communities.
  • Science and play are also on the scene with Robot Missions Field Test. They invite participants to use their 3D printed robots to collect tiny and harmful trash from the shorelines. And Biohacker Space will be activating cool science demos in its community lab.

For more information and hours of these urban interventions, visit: 100n1day.ca/Ottawa

Everyone has a role to play in making our communities happier and healthier, says Manjit Basi, Executive Director of Synapcity. “The 100in1day event catalyzes people’s ideas and passion to make something happen. It’s an opportunity for 100’s of people to participate and experiment with social change, illustrating how one day can spark initiatives that can transform and benefit an entire city.”

Synapcity is a not-for profit organization that provides programs for people, groups, and institutions to learn, act and connect on ideas that make our city thrive. In bringing 100in1day to Ottawa for the first time this year, Synapcity has hosted several workshops and worked with groups one on one to help generate ideas and plan implementation. The festival couldn’t happen without the support of partners such as the United Way, Evergreen, JackPine, Apt613, CKCU, AlternaSavings and others. “Most importantly, the 100in1day event could not happen without the people of Ottawa – this is a celebration of their commitment and love for their city.”, says Manjit.

Please contact Manjit Basi, Executive Director at Synapcity for all media inquiries: 613-277-1082 or Manjit@Synapcity.ca

ANNOUNCEMENT

Manjit Basi honoured with spark Ignite Award

The first-ever spark Ignite Award will be presented to our very own Synapcity co-founder and ED, Manjit Basi.

This month, the first-ever spark Ignite Award will be presented to Ottawa philanthropist, businesswoman and community builder, Manjit Basi.

The annual award recognizes a woman who has made a significant impact in Ottawa in the areas of leadership, philanthropic giving, advocacy, and volunteerism. It will be presented at spark’s November 15 cocktail event, celebrating the power of extraordinary women making a difference in Ottawa.

Who is Manjit Basi?

Manjit says she grew up in a “blue collar immigrant family with a culture of hard work and generosity.” Inspired by her mother’s openness and kindness to strangers, Manjit’s passion for social justice began early on in her career.

As the owner of four Ottawa locations of The Body Shop from 1987-2008, Manjit felt it was important to offer employee volunteer opportunities, encouraging them to bring forward the community issues they care about, as well as an action plan for how they want to make a difference.

An early advocate of giving employees paid time off to volunteer, Manjit enabled staff to volunteer in many ways including tutoring at Operation Come Home, hosting body image workshops to help empower young women, raising awareness to end violence against women, and fundraising to send survivors of violence to recovery programs. Her shops became meeting places for the community to come together to discuss important social issues and spark local initiatives.

If you offer people an opportunity to be a part of something that’s bigger than themselves, they thrive, are more engaged, and feel connected to work and community,” she says.

Today, as co-founder and Director of Synapcity, a citizen engagement non-profit in Ottawa, Manjit leads workshops and events on community development and city building. She has contributed as a board member to many organizations including the Community Foundation of Ottawa, Immigrant Women Services, and the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Health Centre. She also hosted a Rogers TV series called Trailblazers. Manjit is currently on the Telus Community Board and a founding member of Women for Mental Health.

“In her work, Manjit emphasizes the importance of collective potential and collaboration to make a lasting, local impact,” says Jane Bachynski, spark Chair. “At spark, our mission is to bring women together to build strong communities and initiate change – something that Manjit has been doing for more than 20 years. This is why we’re so pleased to honour her with the first-ever Ignite award, and look forward to celebrating the power of women driving change in our community on November 15th.”

What is spark?

Through spark, women collectively invest their donations into the sparkFund. They then allocate Community Action Grants for resident-led, grassroots initiatives serving Ottawa’s priority neighbourhoods. Members learn the needs of the community, assess and score proposals, and vote collectively on projects to support.

Manjit says she is thrilled to receive the spark Ignite Award because she is driven by the same values as spark; collaborative change and empowering women.

“Everyone wants to contribute,” she says. “It’s magic when people realize how we can all be catalysts for change right here in our own community.”

The United Way Spark Cocktail Event is happening on November 15, 2016 at Play Food & Wine (1 York Stret) from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. Tickets are $50 and are available here

*This blog post was originally published in sparkottawa.ca

ANNOUNCEMENT

Synapcity Nominated for Social Impact Award

A legacy initiative of One Young World.

This October, Synapcity was nominated for the Ottawa Social Impact Awards.

The Ottawa Social Impact Awards are recognizing and celebrating the leaders in our community who are making a positive social impact through innovative, collaborative, and scalable initiatives and enterprises. A partnership between Impact Hub Ottawa and the City of Ottawa, the inaugural Awards seek to:

  • Highlight Ottawa-based community initiatives and social enterprises that have significant potential for growth and lasting impact;
  • Emphasize the power of the collective rather than the individual; and
  • Recognize social innovation in our community that is turning the status quo upside down.

Citizens from across the city have nominated almost 50 social enterprises and community based initiatives. Click here to learn more and vote! You have until Friday, November 4, 2016.