Riverdale Park Charrette

On Tuesday August 24th, I went to a Riverdale Park Charrette at the Toronto Design Exchange. The DX is a nonprofit organizations supporting and promoting Canadian design and is housed in the old Toronto Stock Exchange building. The DX always gives me a sense of historical design and accomplishment – things have happened here to shape Toronto and Canada.

The Riverdale Park Charrette was a treat to attend and participate in. I was surrounded by architects, landscape architects, community stakeholders from the library, Chinese Business Chambers of Commerce, residents, City Councillor Paula Fletcher, City of Toronto Parks and Recreation employees and Bridgepoint Health representatives. The setting was very professional and directed towards results.

The morning began on a lighter note, each team created a playdoh ideal Mayoral candidate. There were a many overlapping qualities. An open heart, hands reaching out to the community, grounded, big brain, visionary, voice of the people, sense of humour, listening skills and arts and environmental interested.

Then we had a long and in-depth description of the site, site restrictions, and current site activities.

As a group we addressed goals and concepts for the design of the park site. Through dotmetrics we determined the top 5 concepts for the design portion of the day. I was surprised that the whole process was very orderly and VERY quiet, something I am not accustomed to when I do Action Mapping with coloured post-it notes and encouraged collaboration.

By the end of the day, I am happy to say that our Team had the most colourful solution of pathways, community based projects, and something that pleased every team member – who were representing a full spread of interests. Our team offered a full accessible walkway that doubled as a sitting area and amphitheatre, a picnic area near Bridgepoint Health, a market place for kiosk vendors, a legalized graffiti wall to promote public art and expression, a tinker town area for hands-on intergenerational learning, a pathway to healthy living with exercise stations and a grand idea to have a hot air balloon viewing station.

The Riverdale Park Charrette brought me back to my architecture roots and reminded me that my foundations are strong in design, but I am proud to say that I do keep community building and social return as my highest priority.

Puzzling Discovery

While putting together a 3D Empire State Building puzzle with 3 of my friends I learned some lessons of team bonding, using your strengths, recognizing your weaknesses and supporting your team mates. We pulled out all the pieces, put the hockey game on and set ourselves a goal to finish in 4 hours; we thought this was going to be a leisurely addition to our evening, it quickly turned in an educating experience. As we began sorting the pieces, it was evident that we each had very different strengths.

Ed and Troy were only interested in participating when the hockey game was boring or during a commercial, their attention level was waning. Wandee and I were much more dedicated to the process. Wandee has her puzzle strategy well honed, I followed suit as she started to sort the pieces by colour. After we sorted all the pieces into colour we started assembling the pieces. I found that I am a better support puzzle participant. I was very good at sorting pieces with fine detail, finding specific pieces to finish a section and supporting the Wandee as she speedily put section after section together, but alas I was not keen on how slow my sections were coming together, I felt ineffective on my own but much better as part of the puzzle team.

Eventually, we put the whole thing together and it was very satisfying, unfortunately we were far over schedule we actually had to take a break, go to sleep and finish the next morning. So even though it took 2 times longer than anticipated it was surprisingly fun! Wandee was truly the puzzle hero of the weekend, she was so focused, deliberate and would have stayed up all night to finish it if we had let her.

A moment captured in concrete

This is the pinnacle memory I have that solidified my passion for community engagement. I remember specifically watching that one young gentleman scavenge the supplies to find the right pieces, taking extra care to make sure his tile was exactly the way he pictured it while ignoring his classmates as they made comments about how long his 1 tile was taking compared to their 2 or 3 tiles and instead spent all his time carefully creating this masterpiece. Thank you!

Building blocks

Lego pieces are well known as interlocking building blocks.

Lego pieces build foundations.

Lego pieces are better together than alone.

While at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, there was a wall of lego pieces, this sparked a conversation between Ed and I about lego pieces and the way they represent different people.

There are the “regular” pieces – they connect with everything, they are the solid foundations, they are the pieces that are reliable, workable, trustworthy and are part of every connection.

Then there are the “unique” pieces – they are parts of special connections, they build bridges, they are the pieces that are intricate, independent, experimental and stand apart from the rest.

Ed pointed out that he is a “regular” piece, he is part of the bigger picture and is always part of a team. The colour of the pieces may change, but all the “regular” pieces follow a certain pattern, they support the structure and value their positions.

Ed said I am a “unique” piece, I am different than the “regular” pieces but fit in with them to build structures. The “unique” piece is always going to be recognizable as different and will be easily picked out from the rest.

All the pieces work together, they play together in a box and are all happy to build something new and magnificent. What kind of Lego piece are you?

ArtReach Toronto Showcase

Tonight I watched a year-end “graduation” showcase of fashion, singing, dancing, spoken word and expression.

ArtReach Toronto is a program designed to support arts initiatives that engage youth who have experienced exclusion in under-served areas of Toronto.

I think it is a great opportunity for youth to get a chance to experience what art and creativity can do for them. I really enjoyed the spoken word pieces. One was a man’s poem entitled “Mr. Immigration Officer” he very passionately expressed the power an immigration officer has over a new immigrant and the kind of racism they experience. The second one was one side of a conversation of a catholic school girl’s experience identifying her sexuality, it was both eye opening and humorous. Another man read excerpts from his book in progress about his experiences as a fourth generation Japanese Canadian. All pieces were well prepared and thoughtful.

It was all amazing and inspiring.

Camp Magic

I am a city girl through and through, a statement I am reminded of when we took a walk down memory lane around my brother’s summer camp. As I carefully find my footing as we walk from rock to rock, I watch my brother move swiftly as if he were there yesterday as he points out all his favourite spots. From age 11-16, my brother went away every summer for 1 month to an all boys away camp. From my point of view, he would disappear and I assumed he would spend his time staying up late, not showering and doing “boy” things. Little did I know that his time there would prove to be much more valuable than even he knew.

As we walk from cabin to cabin, he tells us stories of different activities and campers; I become curious about what hidden learning occurred while he was at camp. I slowly start asking about different lessons learned and he says it is hard to put it into words. He takes us on a journey through his memories, he hunts for a bunk that he scribed his name in BIG letters, the anticipation and nostalgia was palpable, as he does so I begin to observe a few key learnings;

  • time to grow – away from parental supervision, imagination takes over
  • value for tradition
  • appreciation of nature
  • opportunity to ignite passion –  skill development for massive fire building
  • a place to overcome fears – obstacle course in the trees particularly
  • peers to experiment with – “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” – Ellen Parr
  • learning to trust yourself
  • work as a team

He describes it as magic… a lot must have happened over those summers, because the excitement and emotions I witnessed was a pleasure.

Ripple Effect

Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter is hosting Ripple Effect, a 4 month Civic Leadership Training Program for Chinese Youth. “CCNC Toronto Chapter is an organization of Chinese Canadians in the City of Toronto that promotes equity, social justice, inclusive civic participation, and respect for diversity.”

I am lucky to be a member of the 2010 Ripple Effect youth group. It is an opportunity for me to connect with my Chinese heritage, learn about civic issues that are facing the Chinese community and come together with Chinese Youth (who god bless them, call me wise!!)

Over the first 2 day introduction weekend I walked away feeling motivated!!!

Motivated to learn more about Chinese Canadian history, to get involved, to connect with the culture, and most importantly to start planning that Asia getaway that I have been thinking about going on. Admittedly, I grew up and thought of being Chinese only when I missed out on sleepovers because of Saturday morning Chinese School or when my friends would ask “is Chinatown in China??” I didn’t really think about it when we celebrated Lunar New Year or when I would listen to my parents talk in Cantonese. More recently, I wish that I hadn’t thought about being Chinese so lightly, it is a part of me and I am now eager to soak in as much as I can.

I also came up with a few questions that I am curious to answer over the 4 month time period:

1. What does it mean to me to be Chinese AND Canadian?

2. How can we celebrate our traditions and move them into the future?

3. How to share multi-culture heritage with all Canadians?

World Creativity and Innovation Week April 15-21 2009

This year I attended the 9th annual signature World Creativity and Innovation Week event in Toronto, called “Admit it. You’re Creative!” World Creativity and Innovation Week falls on the anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s Birthday – April 15 every year. My curiosity sparked from the time I heard the words creativity and innovation and upon further investigation I read the intentions of the week.

“Imagine the world united through it’s creativity. Where everyone takes a moment, a day, or the week to generate new ideas to create a brighter future wherever they are.” – a mission dear to my heart.

I went to 2 workshops, one about how Walt Disney thinks and the other on writing the Hero’s story.

Walt Disney used a very specific process when he worked, he had 3 stages of development with 3 different spaces for the activities. Disney animators would never know which Walt was coming to a meeting, the dreamer, the realist or the critic. Each Walt played a very important role in the process of developing a Disney production.

1. The Dreamer – The dreamer wished, imagined and created glorious scenarios and the animators were always excited by him.

2. The Realist – The realist animated each character with voices, personality traits and allowing the animators to get in his head and share his vision.

3. The Critic – The critic would come and seemingly ruin all the fun. He would dissect the pieces until he was happy, this was not fun for the animators.

I certainly value the ability to transform your mind and I would love to be able to have 3 different workspaces to take advantages of spatial triggers.

Secondly, I went to a storytelling workshop focusing on the Hero’s story template. This template is used throughout history in mythology and in Hollywood movies – most famously “Star Wars”. The plot is developed around a Hero’s journey, from original life, to facing challenges, finding a mentor and coming to new perspectives. It is not the first time I had heard of the Hero’s storytelling process, but it was a good exercise in looking closer at changes made before and after projects.

Overall, I wish everyone would embrace creativity and innovation for more than just a week a year.

Dan Pink!

Dear Dan,

About a month ago, I was super excited to see that you were coming to speak at Rotman Business School of “Management”  (the quotations put there by you).  I have been following you for a few months now on twitter and now I am reading your book “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers will rule the world”, a book that I am loving.

So today, after much anticipation, it was finally Dan Pink day!

Thank you for teaching me:

“Are you Hungry?”, as you pointed out motivation is biological. It is deep rooted in our physical make-up, it is what makes us eat. Though I love the double meaning of the question, our motivation is both biological in survival and in our personal missions to propel ourselves further.

I was not surprised to hear, as long as people are properly compensated, monetary incentives can distract from achieving personal purpose.  You spoke about experiments performed by economists that reported cash incentives only worked when tasks were mechanical. And alternatively noted that punishment often results in the opposite behaviour changes than hoped. Management is for teaching people to comply and it was invented a long time ago. So why is it that management thinks that people would do nothing without punishment or cash incentives?   That is something I have long thought about…

Ultimately, here is my message to you:  Dear Dan, I promise to let my motivation lead me. Thank you for letting me know it is ok!

To learn?

Sometime ago, I was at an old house converted into offices. In the boardroom in the basement there is a button on the light switch face plate indicating “learn”…I immediately pressed it to see what it did.


The button didn’t do anything in the room. That made me think, what a “learn” button would be for. It is probably for something very simple, but it was thought provoking to me. Would pressing a button mean you could learn, were ready to learn, had I learned something by pushing the button?

Is the point that it is just not that easy to learn?