In 2013, Urban Systems in Edmonton hosted the first annual Vibrant Communities Speaker Series. The speaker series was the idea of an EIT at Urban Systems, who felt there was a gap in public awareness and understanding of the technical issues that underpin the creation of great communities. The multidisciplinary nature of Urban Systems was seen to be a strong foundation for organizing lectures that would begin to address some of those knowledge gaps. The idea for the series expanded to include more than just technical topics, more holistically focused on the topic of “Creating Vibrant Communities”.

….the idea of a private company inviting the public to become better informed about our community, at no cost, is simply amazing. It shows great leadership in changing the ways things are currently done.

The focus of these events echoes Urban Systems’ mission statement: “spirit in service for vibrant communities”, and is viewed as a platform to bring a diverse group of Edmontonians together to learn about, discuss, question, and inspire what vibrancy looks like and has the potential to be in our communities.


Being a Speaker at the Vibrant Communities Speaker Series

What is the Speaker Series

The Speaker Series is organized around the theme of creating vibrant communities. The goal is to create awareness of, and generate discussion about, what makes a vibrant community; to encourage people to learn about their community and get engaged in change.

The list of speakers for 2014 is listed at the bottom of the page. Each speaker presented a different topic and how it contributes to making our community more vibrant. By promoting education and engagement, our aim is to build vibrant communities through involving people in relevant conversations on increasingly important issues.

About the Speaker Series

The series is hosted at a local venue, and is open to the public. The event consists of a formal 45 minute presentation and 15 minute question period, followed by catering and an informal networking opportunity. Speakers volunteer their time and expertise and in return a donation is made on behalf of the speaker and Urban Systems to a charity of the speaker’s choice. Promotion prior to the event is done via Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.), the Urban Systems website, community newsletters (NextGen) and associations (APPI, APEGA, etc.) After the event, reference materials, including the speaker’s presentations, are made available online. Photography and video taken during the event may be used for communication and promotional purposes by Urban Systems.

Why Should You Be a Speaker?

Our goal is to create awareness of and generate discussion about what makes a vibrant community. We want to encourage people to learn about their community and get engaged in change and how they can enhance Edmonton. We want to share this goal with like-minded professionals who are exceling in their fields, and who are generally interested in making a difference in our community.

This opportunity brings a great chance to interact with diverse people in Edmonton and surrounding area. Many of our speakers have made great connections during the networking after the lecture. Some of our guests include municipal government workers, Chief Administrative Officers for surrounding communities, Engineers, Planners, City of Edmonton staff, Urban System staff members and many more!

What’s Involved?

We do our best to make it as easy for our speakers as possible. Below is a quick snapshot of the logistics of being a speaker.

  • Work with us to determine a date for your lecture
  • Create a PowerPoint presentation
  • Send the presentations to us (we will take care of setting it up at the actual event)
  • Arrive at the venue 20 minutes prior to the agreed upon start time
  • Give a 45 minute presentation/lecture/discussion
  • Facilitate a 15 minute question session
  • Be available for networking/discussion after the lecture with attendees
  • identify which organization you would like a donation made to

Presentations from 2015

Permaculture Design: An Approach to Vibrant Communities – Takota Coen

Takota-Coen-Headshot_Widget4SiteClean water, nutrient dense food, shelter and medicine are the building blocks for vibrant community no matter where you live on planet earth. However, currently most of the ways we supply our basic needs come at the cost of someone else’s or the earth itself. In this thought provoking evening with Takota Coen of Deep Roots Design and Grass Roots Family Farm examined how permaculture design can address our fundamental needs in a way that is regenerative for the planet. In his presentation, Takota provided practical examples of how families everywhere could use the principles and design methodologies of permaculture to ensure productive backyards and farms that strengthen our local food systems and restore the environment. Using Grass Roots Family Farm as a case study, Takota defined how to design functional relationships between various elements like forest gardens, chickens, annual crops, honeybees and even elements that would only be seen on larger acreages like a dairy cow, pasture pigs, beef cattle and water harvesting earthworks.

Trouble With the Curb by Linnie C.L. Tse

What does a person who has a disability need to be included in the community?

Linnie C.L. Tse is the Barrier Free Policy, Administrator with Safety Services at Alberta Municipal Affairs and Alberta’s representative at the World Disability Union. In addition to being the Chair on the Children’s Ability Fund and President of Artspace (the co-op where I live). Her education consists of a Masters, Environmental Design (MEDes), BCR, Community Rehabilitation, and a BA, Sociology with a Minor in Communication Studies from the University of Calgary. In addition, 3 certificate levels in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) through the Calgary Police Service and Home Modifications from the University of Southern California.

Watch Linnie’s full presentation.

A Tale of Two Modes in Two Cities – Auckland and Edmonton – Darren Davis

Speaker-Series_Auckland-TransitAuckland, New Zealand is of similar scale to Edmonton and has increased its population six-fold since the end of the Second World War, developing around a paradigm of motorways and suburban expansion at the periphery and continues to struggle with strong population growth, transportation system bottlenecks and housing (un)affordability challenges. The Auckland Plan aims to set the city more firmly in the direction of a multimodal future and a quality compact urban form and sets ambitious targets to increase sustainable mode share. This includes doubling of public transit ridership within 10 years and a major expansion of the cycling network. To respond to these targets, Auckland Transport is completely redesigning Auckland’s public transit network and is co-investing (in partnership with the New Zealand Government) $124 million over the next three years in 52 kilometres of separated cycleways, designed to quickly achieve critical mass in a minimum grid of safe, separated cycleways. The presentation will draw parallels between Edmonton and Auckland as both cities strive to move quickly towards a more sustainable future.

Revitalizing Downtown: Events for the People – Omar Mouallem interviews Brad Ferguson, EEDC CEO

The City of Edmonton took a risk. Abandoning tradition, they selected an entrepreneur, Brad Ferguson
as the fifth CEO of Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC), the City-owned agency responsible for stewarding economic growth in the Greater Edmonton Region.

On day one, Brad redefined EEDC’s objective: the Greater Edmonton Region is to outperform every other economic jurisdiction in North America consistently over the next 20 years, regardless if the price of oil is $140 or $40. He rebuilt leadership capacity throughout the organization, which is now responsible for Edmonton Tourism, Enterprise Edmonton, the Shaw Conference Centre, the Edmonton Research Park, Make Something Edmonton, Startup Edmonton and — as a joint venture partner — TEC Edmonton.

Watch the interview below.

Presentations from 2014

Story Creates Place – Allan Bolstad and Matt Sloan

2014Speaker1_WebPagePeople search for a sense of place in their surroundings. Story and narrative have the ability to give meaning and purpose to space and to create a collective memory or experience. Shared experiences in turn assist in creating dynamic, sustainable and livable communities.

Our unique Edmonton community has been shaped by thousands of individuals and groups who have contributed to our shared story. The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues plays a significant part in that story and has the opportunity to recognize the efforts volunteers, past and present, through their 100th Anniversary project in Hawrelak Park.

EFCL Executive Director Allan Bolstad and Urban Systems Landscape Architect Matt Sloan will share with you the EFCL story and meaningful opportunity to take that distinct story to create place and further develop strength in our community.

99% at 10-15km/hr – Sarah Chan

Sarah4SiteA human being travelling on bicycle is the most efficient form of transportation. Mechanically speaking, up to 99% of the energy put out goes directly into the propulsion of the bicycle. All biofueled by the human body. It uses far less energy than walking and provides substantially accelerated mobility in comparison.

Sarah Chan is a Master of Arts in Integrated Studies (and a BA in English Literature, if anybody cares), and is also known as Edmonton’s Mayor, Don Iveson’s wife. Mother of two children aged 2 and 5, she is active in her community with organizations such iHuman, Norquest College, Edmonton Public Library, Edmonton Literacy Coalition, The Works Festival, Pro Coro Canada, Pilgrims Hospice, and Every Woman Organization.

The Infrastructure Imagination Imperative – Jody Rechenmacher

Re-imagining the way that we design, develop, maintain, and interact with our public infrastructure represents great potential for shifting our communities towards sustainability. Jody will talk about the potential that exists, the opportunity to do it now, and why we can’t afford to continue with business as usual.

Jody works with local governments and community organizations to lead and facilitate the development of strategies, plans, designs, and processes in the areas of public service delivery, sustainability, and civic health. As a professional engineer, Jody draws on her technical background, international experience, and facilitation and process expertise to translate and integrate diverse perspectives, leading to system-level solutions. Jody is a consultant with Urban Systems, the board chair and co-founder of the Engineering Leadership Council, and a member of the APEGBC Sustainability Committee.

View some highlights from Jody’s presentation in the video below

Edmonton’s Infill (r)Evolution – Kalen Anderson, Jeff Chase and Daniel Engelman

Things are definitely changing in Edmonton’s older neighbourhoods. Live in an established neighbourhood or travel through one on your daily commute? Surely you’ve seen the signs. In some areas, older homes are rapidly being replaced with new single family houses, duplexes, townhouses, smallapartments – seemingly overnight. In other areas, it would appear that not much is happening at all – ever. At the same time our city overall is growing exceptionally quickly. What’s going on here? What could be going on? Why should we care? And how can we help?
Three local city-builders with three different perspectives on why infill is happening, how we’re getting infill built, and what remains to be done to realize the opportunities of infill for our city. Kalen Anderson is the Acting Director of Urban Policy + Analysis with the City of Edmonton, Jeff Chase is the Senior Planner of the CITYlab Unit with the City of Edmonton and Daniel Engelman is the President of Engelman Construction Ltd. and a Director with IDEA (Infill Development in Edmonton Association).
Read the Edmonton Journal re-cap of the event.

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