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Toronto-Universities Network (TUN)

Establishing a Centre of Toronto and Universities Collaborating for Research, Innovation and City-Building

Principal Investigator: Dr. Joe Mihevc, CITY Visiting Professor 

A key objective of my time as a visiting professor at York University is to establish a formally incorporated city/universities office/research coordination centre with participation from the City of Toronto and willing university partners based in Toronto to undertake, coordinate, and promote research and knowledge-sharing projects to promote city and social innovation, to support broad urban/civic knowledge development in the wider Toronto community, and to support good public policy development at the city level.

The very tentative name of this new entity would be something like the Centre of Toronto and Universities Collaborating for Research, Innovation and City-Building. The timeline goal to establish this new entity would be by early to mid-2021
Why a new Centre?

At the University level, the focus on urban issues has significantly advanced in the last few decades. Each Toronto university currently has some kind of centre or institute in place and further is developing new areas of study and research for students and faculty to enhance teaching modules, courses and theses, to advance scholarship while also contributing to public policy questions. This good work could further benefit from deeper relationships with city officials in respective departments, agencies and city boards.

At the City level, Toronto is dealing with a changing and very challenging urban environment on many levels including: governance, financing, resource allocation, a rapidly growing and diversified population, affordable housing, transportation, democratic renewal, community safety and security, social inequity and inclusion, environmental sustainability, state of repair of aging infrastructure, economic development threats and opportunities, etc. The list is broad and ever-expanding. The list of key urban challenges include “soft” municipal services and “hard” services like solid waste management, road construction/maintenance, water/wastewater infrastructure. The political push and pull of the current municipal system, the short timeframes for municipal decision-making would benefit from a deeper and broader research base.

A Centre working closely with both sets of institutions is an opportunity to leverage the best and brightest in the university community to help address urban challenges in a more dynamic and future-oriented manner. It is an opportunity for students and professors to build relationships and research partnerships with appropriate managers and directors at the city.

This project is now the CivicLabTO.