Next City Vanguards Transform Montreal

GI Quo Vadis featured as part of the hosting committee for The Next City Vanguard 2017. The Next City conference takes place each year in a new city and features a selection of vanguards–professionals from a variety of sectors–each displaying smart ideas for the future development of cities. This year, Next City chose Montreal thanks to the hard work of a handful of citizens partnered with Concordia University, who are co-hosting the event.

The host committee includes representatives from the City of Montreal, Concordia University, Montreal International, Pop Montreal, and elsewhere, exploring themes of technology, culture, infrastructure, and more. The event is a chance to share ideas and also functions as a kind of immersive urban boot camp on city-building and urbanism.

Leading the initiative is Paul Simard, the Principal Director of Development for the Faculty of Arts & Science at Concordia. For him, this event is an opportunity to learn intimately and deeply about the city and the diverse initiatives throughout, the workings of which are often complex. One of the key themes of the event was the need for co-creation. The only way these local initiatives, or even this event itself, are possible, he says, is through the cooperation of many talented individuals. The conference was a co-creation of Concordia, Next City, the host committee, community partners, and sponsors. Without these dedicated individuals coming together, an event like this could not take place. He’s hopeful that all parties will leave with valuable insights.

For Concordia and the host committee, part of the appeal of an event like this is that the formula can be replicated. A competition in which intelligent minds are brought together to solve big problems with small budgets is something that would spur positive innovation with limited resources. Simard is optimistic that universities will adopt this strategy more regularly.

The event has already had a big impact and emboldened local innovators. “There is a disconnect between the city government that designs the space and the citizens that have to live in the space,” said Patty Xenos at the Le Salon 186 conference launch panel discussion. “When we look at how people use space it is about having walkable spaces.”

Next City was attracted to Montreal after Celine Cooper, a columnist for the Montreal Gazette, and her husband Kyle Matthews, the executive director for the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) at Concordia, gathered like-minded colleagues and applied on behalf of the city. Although applications usually come from universities or non-profit groups, they made such a strong case that they won the bid. Concordia University was eager to get involved shortly after.

This exciting first step is just one of many. Organizations like Concordia and Impact Hub Montreal are enthusiastic about building on the momentum of these innovative projects and will continue to push them further for even greater results. At the same time, Impact Hub Montreal aims to encourage universities to stay involved and to bring more events like this to the city. The next Vanguard conference will take place in Newcastle, Australia, from November 6 through 10, 2017.