Core to Calgary’s respected ranking as the third most livable city in the world and first in North America is the inclusive culture and sense of community within the city. The third New Economy LIVE of 2022 explored the importance of accessible spaces and social connections in creating welcoming, vibrant communities.
“Inclusive, accepting communities improve quality of life,” said Jessie Seymour, Senior Manager, Community Experience and Strategic Partnerships, Brookfield Residential. “When people live in a space they feel meets their needs, this has a ripple effect that builds connections between people.”
With livability recognized as a key driver of the economy, building a city where everyone feels welcome, safe and able to build a meaningful life is a priority in the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy. Being known as one of the best places in the world to build a life helps attract and encourage Calgarians to build a stronger community and economy.
Leading the event, Vivo for Healthier Generations, a centre for recreation and healthy living research, shared the importance of play areas to bring neighbors and children together. The charitable organization is a partner in ActiveCITY – a local collective dedicated to making Calgary a place for movement and the most livable region in Canada for healthier and happier communities.
“We encourage Calgarians to connect and care for their community and environment by building social connections and exploring their own curiosity,” said Anthony Bourque, Innovation Designer, Vivo.
Bourque presented findings from the Vivo Play Project, a four-year social innovation and community lab designed to empower communities and increase participation in play, which is not just important for kids.
“Play can be a great opportunity to get out of traditional modes of connecting with each other,” said Tyson Bankert, founder of Recess Calgary, which organizes playground games for adults to exercise and meet new people. “When we remove ourselves from these frameworks, we increase inclusivity because we shift from how we’ve always done things.”
Panelists discussed the foundations to create an active and accessible city, which includes open reflection and collaboration on areas of growth.
“Acknowledging our history in community spaces is important,” said Karen Dommett, Director, Calgary Adapted Hub. “We need to recognize there’s education and trust-building that needs to happen, which includes providing accessible information about recreation that is inclusive for community members.”
To nurture a city that creates a sense of belonging and can be enjoyed by everyone in a physical and emotional sense, community-building needs to start from the ground up.
“By creating infrastructure and space that is adapted, accessible and engaging, we create space that people want to be in and that is inclusive for everyone in the community,” said Sean Crump, CEO, Universal Access. “This diminishes the gap between neighbours and also supports mental health in our communities.”
Beyond accessible spaces and infrastructure, programming goes hand in hand to build inclusivity in a community.
"Access to sport, recreation and physical activity is a human right, not a privilege. But, historically, accessibility has been an afterthought – we have been approaching this backwards,” said Dommett. “We have to be intentional about the environments we are creating. This leads to the importance of co-creating programming with individuals with lived experience.”
Panelists agreed overall health and well-being, social connectiveness, physical activity, quality of life, economic impact and environmental stewardship are pillars in creating healthy communities.
“Social connections build meaningful relationships. Our conversations get more profound the more we support small businesses, charities, the city and other partners. We start to bring new audiences into the conversation and find solutions to problems we didn’t have answers to,” said Seymour.
Cities thrive when infrastructure and opportunities to engage with the community are inviting and accessible for all.
“Livability is synonymous with building human connections in our communities,” said Bankert.
Five takeaways from the panel to help make Calgary an active, accessible community, include:
- Stay curious and bring creative solutions to address some of the problems in your own world.
- Continue to have conversations and bring this narrative forward to help others understand the value of making everyone feel included in all activities.
- Support businesses that champion accessibility standards.
- For companies and programs: Build initiatives, programs and opportunities with, not for people with disabilities.
- Allow yourself to be challenged and exposed to new ways of doing.
The New Economy LIVE event series aims to engage Calgarians in the economic strategy and the interconnected drivers that create long-term prosperity and an inclusive economy. In case you missed it, watch the full New Economy LIVE broadcast on our YouTube channel ➤ New Economy LIVE: Active and Accessible Communities for a Thriving Calgary.
For more on #LifeinCalgary, watch our video directed by Ali Paracha ➤ Calgary: Home to everyone.