Group sets June 3 for ‘magical’ day of community action

By Marissa Kocent

The 100In1Day, an international grassroots initiative, will make its Ottawa debut this summer by encouraging residents to connect with their community through a single day of participation in 100 projects making positive use of public space.

Colourful pop-up art exhibits, guerrilla gardens, flash mobs, silent disco, yoga classes, public concerts and picnics are just some of the expected projects, dubbed interventions, that will animate city streets on June 3.

The hope is that this event will foster lasting change, as citizen participation is the building block for a sustainable future, according to event organizer Manjit Basi, cofounder of Synapcity, a social enterprise with the goal of creating more connected communities.

With Canada’s 150 birthday coming up, Synapcity has proposed to make 100in1Day fittingly 150In1Day.

“We would like to push to 150 interventions in one day, just because it’s the sesquicentennial,” said Basti.

In Ottawa, opportunities already exist for residents to get involved with food swaps or planting community gardens. Organizations such as Soup Ottawa and Just Change push for civic collaboration, but what Basti says the city lacks is a framework for these organizations to rely on so they can learn from each other’s mistakes and share their wins.

Basti says she thinks that in Ottawa, 100In1day will be a “catalyst for participatory engagement” on a community level that is akin to the framework currently in place in a borough in London, England.

In West Norwood, an area in south London, director of the Participatory City initiative Tessy Britton has been working with residents to restructure their neighbourhood into a place that is safe, happy and inclusive. Britton says her goal is to create 300 projects – such as having a central shared location where anyone can borrow tools and equipment – over the course of five years.

“The kind of density we want to get to is that if you live in that neighbourhood, you’ll have about 70 opportunities every week to do stuff with your neighbours — free activity, that’s just kind of built into your everyday life,” Britton explained.

She said the questions a resident living in a participatory city may ask include “do I feel like cooking today or am I going to do some cooking in the community kitchen which is five minutes away from me? Do I need to learn something or is there someone in my local neighbourhood that knows how to do that?”

For Basti, this concept is “magical.”

“If we can launch a movement here in one day this year, what would it transform into in a year as we all start to really connect and collaborate?” Basti said.

Centretown resident Ryan Stec says that he is eager to participate in the 100In1Day events happening in his neighbourhood. He said the event is a welcome attempt to revitalize the downtown core, in which he feels the urban design inhibits community engagement.

Basti said that following 100In1Day festivities, Synapcity will collect the stories and hear what people felt from it to see how to shape the future of neighbourhoods.

Leading up to the event, all Ottawa residents are encouraged to pitch their project ideas through the 100In1Day website.