The first Next City Café of 2012 focused on Spaces of Collaboration in the City of Ottawa. We began by collecting the knowledge and experience of everyone assembled on what collaboration means to them. The Alpha Soul Café audience held people with varied experiences in arts and culture, sustainability, heritage, technology and science. The variety allowed the discussions at each table to be in themselves a collaborative experience.
Personally, spaces of collaboration are interactive, dynamic environments that support spontaneous discussions between people who would otherwise not find the time or have a reason to connect. These spaces can inspire creative new projects and partnerships and expose new ways of thinking about old problems.
When asked about their personal experiences with collaboration and collaborative spaces, participants talked about not only the exciting new and upcoming examples of collaborative spaces in Ottawa but also how events such as Open Ottawa Libre, the 3i Summit and Pecha Kucha, that are themselves spaces of collaboration where people gather together to exchange ideas, network and become inspired.
The panel discussion was lively and inspiring and verified the growing feeling that there is creative innovation brewing in Ottawa.
First we heard from Vinod Rajasekaran creator of Hub Ottawa – an inspiring new space on Bank Street that is just exploding with innovation and collaboration. Vinod discussed how Hub Ottawa fosters collaboration through its physical space and innovative programming to connect and curate partnerships and linkages between its members. Vinod gave an example of a recent event where guests were given puzzle pieces when they arrived with the names of specially selected people who Hub Ottawa thought they should meet. Throughout the course of the evening people linked up with their puzzle matches and according to Vinod “engineered serendipity” happened.
Next was Julie Dupont, Cultural Planner with the City of Ottawa and team lead for Open Ottawa Libre. Julie spoke about her experiences with collaboration through her work with the city and how a culture of collaboration is evolving especially in the arts and culture sector. She also talked about her experiences with Open Ottawa Libre – a curated networking event that linked together people from a variety of sectors to encourage cross-sector collaborations. She gave an example of the power of cross-sector collaboration between a cellular biologist and a sound artist who collaborated on a project to investigate the different sounds cells made. This developed into a unique field of auditory-cellular biology. Open Ottawa Libre showcased many other examples of these creative linkages that help people think outside their own boxes.
The third panelist was Clive Doucet, whose passion for cities and recent world travels lends a big picture spatial perspective on collaboration. Clive discussed the increasing challenges to collaboration that urban residents have faced as we moved from the pedestrian city to the streetcar city and now the car city. We have less opportunity to interact with each other and develop relationships that used to lead to creative collaborations. Now, more than ever, more effort is needed to reduce the impact of the car culture on the city form so that we break out of our silos and move towards less isolated ways of moving through the city. But how do we do this without a major cultural shift at city hall?
Diane Touchette creator of Under One Roof and financial policy analyst for Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives discussed how Under One Roof brings together socially driven non-profits and for profits from a variety of sectors who are looking to share office space and resources. Also a new venture in Ottawa, Under One Roof provides opportunities for people to collaborate cross-sectorally and make linkages that lead to innovative change.
The panelists and participants had a lively discussion about how we foster a culture of collaboration within Ottawa and what impact would this have on Ottawa?
The discussion looked at specifically: how community investing can be used to leverage funding for innovative projects and a participant asked the question why can’t the city be involved in guaranteeing mortgages for innovative start-ups; and the value of curated collaboration that links people and ideas together and how the city can be more involved in creating and inspiring these linkages throughout Ottawa
To conclude, everyone was asked to write down what they can do to foster collaboration in the city. Here are the results:
- City funding for intentional connectors to help foster partnerships among different disciplines and organizations
- More public squares – places to “rub shoulders” and curated times to gather in them
- Streetcars = collaborative places and spaces
- Breakdown bureaucratic barriers perceived or otherwise
- Redefine success based on community and not on bureaucratic definitions
- Create a collaborative art studio for anyone who wants to be creative: It’s an Art Gym. It also offers ideas, supplies and different levels of service for different prices for ALL closet artists – not just pros.
- Get people out of their homes or apartments and have them participate in life and decision making
- Create an Ottawa community Crowd Sourced Creative Fund Project This would mean half of funding would be crowd sourced and the other city funds.
- Have an event to promote collaboration between groups that already share a common space and to cross-pollinate ideas among these groups as well as showcase it to the community. Draw from expertise and collaborate.
Thank you to everyone who attended. It was a great conversation and I know that innovative collaboration with happen as a result.