Projects

Current projects

How are public spaces being animated to improve our sense of place?

In the current age of austerity, public investment in public spaces is often viewed as a luxury. Accordingly, experimenting with short-term, temporary improvements or programming that “animate” public spaces offers exceptional flexibility and serves as a persistent and ongoing means of transforming or altering landscapes and staging urban life inexpensively. For this reason, they warrant examination for their placemaking potential.

Why do strangers help each other in travel contexts?

Have you ever found yourself in a troubling situation while travelling abroad only to rely on the kindness of strangers to sort through the problem? Have you ever engaged in an act of kindness to assist a beleaguered tourist or traveller--someone you didn't know--to help them through a jam? These scenarios are surprisingly common to travel experiences, yet under-examined.

Completed projects

Child wearing a Festival of Neighbourhoods button

How do neighbourhood festivals build meaningful social ties?

This study evaluated the Festival of Neighbourhoods (FON), a community-based initiative in Kitchener, Ontario, aimed at forging social ties and recognizing informal gatherings among local neighbourhoods. Inspired by a group of community leaders who “felt it was time to celebrate the everyday and the ordinary in neighbourhoods and the spirit of community that existed in so many parts of Kitchener but was not clearly recognized,” the FON encourages local citizens to organize and enter neighbourhood events (e.g., picnics, street parties, barbecues) in a random draw for a community improvement grant.

What roles does a "third place" play in the everyday lives of people living with cancer? 

This project aimed to draw attention to third places--informal gathering places apart from home (the first place) and work (the second place)--as local contexts of health and well-being. Drawing on the humanistic concept of place, the therapeutic merits of a setting were understood as something associated not only with the setting's physical characteristics but also with the meanings recipients or those in search of ‘‘therapy’ associated with the setting. To explore this idea, the project focused on Gilda's Club of Toronto, a venue that serves as a meeting place where people living with cancer, as well as their families and friends, can join with others to build social and emotional support as a supplement to their treatment of choice.

How does an online social networking site assist young mothers who experience social isolation?

Motherhood is one of the most significant transitions in a woman’s life, and social support is critical to the experience. Even so, research reveals a reduction in informal social networks during early motherhood. With the growing availability of online social networking, Diana Parry, the principal investiator of this project, and Troy Glover set out to explore how Momstown.ca, a social networking site exclusively for mothers, connected geographically heterogeneous mothers and created a community of caring and information-sharing.

Beyond learning how to canoe and make s'mores, what value is summer camp to kids in Canada?

Individuals who have been fortunate enough to attend, work at, or send their children to camp are well aware of the considerable benefits of the summer camp experience. When prompted, they can provide compelling tales of their experiences and speak enthusiastically about the influence these experiences have had on themselves and their children.

Unfortunately, the value of the summer camp experience is not evident to everyone.

Group photo of study participants

How do we better engage newcomer youth in their new communities?

Overcoming barriers to civic engagement is crucial to creating a welcoming community for newcomers. Unfortunately, ethno-cultural newcomers infrequently participate city-building initiatives, largely because of time and language constraints. This lack of engagement is untenable given the current makeup of Canada where over 20% of its population is foreign-born. How can city officials sensitively and meaningfully reach newcomers and do justice to their cultural values and needs?