How might we improve the ways that citizens access public services and that diverse groups of stakeholders work together to solve civic challenges? One way to do so is by taking a design-led approach.

On June 26, 2015, Civic Design Camp Toronto will convene public servants, designers and technologists at MaRS to experiment, learn and prototype new solutions to civic challenges.

Civic Design Camp Toronto logoAt MaRS Solutions Lab, we believe that in order to create the change necessary to tackle complex social and economic challenges, we need people and institutions to work together to develop system-wide solutions. Through our work on the Future of Government, in which we’re helping redesign public services, we have seen that there is an appetite for innovation within government, as well as growing capacity for problem solving in society. At the same time, while talented designers and civic innovators are interested in working on complex public challenges, they face many barriers in understanding how they can get involved in such work. We are excited to support Civic Design Camp Toronto in building the civic design community in Canada.

The first-ever event of its kind to be held in Canada, Civic Design Camp Toronto is being organized by Meghan Hellstern, a Studio [Y] fellow, in collaboration with MaRS Solutions Lab and with the support of sponsors including BridgeableImagine My City and Google. The event will feature a jam-packed and inspiring morning of keynote speakers and unconference sessions, as well as an active afternoon of designing and prototyping solutions to real-world public policy challenges. Speakers include Nigel Jacob, co-founder of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics in Boston, and Jess McMullin, an international leader in design thinking and the public sector, among others who are still to be announced.

Participants will be invited to think through a challenge, such as a civic problem or a public service, from a design perspective by asking questions like: Who is the user? What is the problem? And where are the constraints? Civic Design Camp Toronto aims to explore how we can collaboratively work together in applying design methods and mindsets to improve the citizen experience.

Civic Design Camp was started in the United States by Code for America and we’re looking forward to bringing it to Canada. Having worked in the public service for several years, Meghan is hoping to build trust and connections among disparate communities of policy-makers, designers and technologists to more effectively address challenging public problems.

“Convening diverse groups of people, working on civic challenges and using design thinking—that is what MaRS Solutions Lab is all about,” says Joeri van den Steenhoven, director of the Lab. “We had read about the Civic Design Camps taking place in San Francisco, New York City and Chicago last year. So, when Meghan came to us with the idea to bring it to Canada, we immediately jumped on board.”

Join us as we gather to improve design in the public interest. You can find more information and purchase tickets to attend this event on the Civic Design Camp Toronto website. We are also actively seeking sponsors and partners to help Canada’s first Civic Design Camp have a real impact on real lives. If you’re interested in sponsorship opportunities, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Idil Burale

Idil Burale is the Associate for the MaRS Solutions Lab. Idil’s introduction to social innovation began as a Studio [Y] Fellow at MaRS, where she investigated the nexus between information dissemination and personal efficacy as it relates to community empowerment. She is now bringing her grassroots insights to MaRS Solutions Lab. See more…