Our first day began in a landmark building: the Old Central Library, where big changes were taking place. The building was transforming into the University of Calgary City Building Design Lab and we would be using this dynamic space over the next two months. We gathered as 30 youth (18-29 years old) to began a two-month innovation and skill building process that would create ideas to improve Calgary’s urban food resiliency.
Everyone settled into their seats in a semi-circle, the program was introduced, and the organizers introduced themselves. Among them were Eloise Hirst and Joshua Bateman as the City Leads, Kristina Smith as the Future City Builders Manager, and Robert Barnard as the co-founder of YouthfulCities and the 30Lab concept. Instead of a traditional introduction, we invited everyone to bring in one artefact that they’d had for a long time and one new artefact. People brought in various items from old hockey tickets to childhood books to special pieces of jewellery. The stories that each person shared created connection, found common ground (think Marie Kondo), and provided a space where we were comfortable to share with one another.
After a break we continued on to a group thermometer activity where we figured out how comfortable people were with many topics around food. Questions included the importance of buying local and organic, having a source for groceries accessible to us, our confidence in our cooking skills, and, of course, which ice cream shop is better between Made By Marcus and Village. Our group displayed a wide range of background experience in and around food, previewing a rich diversity of knowledge that would soon be tapped into.
To finish off our session we brainstormed questions for a survey that we would create and spread to the community with a particular focus on youth. We wanted to figure out where youth stood on topics such as accessibility, affordability, time, food skills, and other factors surrounding good food. This critical information would set the stage for targeting projects that would assess a known issue here in the Calgary urban food scene.
We finished off the night no longer 30 strangers, but 30 collaborators passionate about creating change. With the task of getting our survey out to as many youth as possible, we headed off to begin Future City Builders Calgary.