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Citizens Academy Ottawa

August’s Awesome Ottawa award goes to Caroline Andrew, Manjit Basi, Davis Carr, Mitchell Kutney, Judith Maxwell, Maureen Molot, and Ken Victor to support the establishment of a Citizens Academy in Ottawa.

The Citizens Academy, they explain, will be a learning program for citizens, designed not only to teach municipal literacy but also to develop skills on how to engage, facilitate, ask questions, and present ideas. The participants will represent Ottawa’s age, gender, geographic, and ethno-cultural mix, and involve community groups, businesses and city officials. “By bridging the gaps between citizens and organizations, and educating both groups, we will catalyze civic vitality,” says Judith.

“We live in an amazing city with talented people, a stunning environmental setting, and many economic opportunities,” explains Manjit. “Ottawa is a city with a lot of passionate people doing many amazing things. But we are also a city that is growing, complex, diverse, and changing. Some of the changes are cause for concern: the gap between rich and poor is growing, many people lack a sense of belonging, affordable housing is not plentiful, the divide between rural and urban communities is unsettling, and neighbourhoods are not equal for all our citizens. That future lies in the collaborative economy. To create synergies and intersections between government, non-government organizations, and business, we need to share perspectives, learn from each other, understand challenges, connect across silos, and collaborate on actions. The Citizens Academy will create the space, the tools, and the connections that will re-energize civil society and deepen democracy.”

Judith, Manjit, and their fellow volunteers plan to hold a three-session pilot this fall — two sessions in English, one in French — to prove the design concept, get input from citizens on the experiential learning, test the on-line learning component, and evaluate design and resources. The award from Awesome Ottawa will help support that pilot, which will be focused on recreation and healthy active living. Next year, following the pilot, they plan to run series of eight sessions, with sessions focusing on the nitty-gritty of city decision-making such as planning, budgeting, and land use, as well as on strategic issues such as food security and affordable housing. They also envision holding reunions for participants to nurture new skills and enable engagement on issues of participants’ choosing.

Caroline Andrew is Director of the Centre on Governance at the University of Ottawa, Manjit Basi is former owner of Ottawa’s The Body Shop, Davis Carr is a recent graduate from Dalhousie and King’s College, Mitchell Kutney is an associate at Knowledge Mobilization Works, Judith Maxwell is former founding president of the Canadian Policy Research Network, Maureen Molot is a retired professor at Carleton University, and Ken Victor is from the Edgework Leadership Group.

To learn more, visit the Citizens Academy website at http://www.citizensacademy.ca.


Funded by Ottawa, ON (August 2012)