Young professionals having their say in Our Future Hamilton process

This article was originally published in The Hamilton Spectator on June 8, 2016.

What do you want Hamilton to be in 2040?

If you pose the question to the city’s under-40 cohort, it’s akin to asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

In many ways, the Our Future Hamilton visioning process is about growing up — it reflects our ideas and aspirations.

There’s no doubt that Our Future Hamilton, the city’s largest community engagement initiative to date, is a mammoth task. Public input is crucial and the city recognizes that. The year-long process started with public consultation, followed by a draft of the vision and finally, the opportunity to review that draft in April.

Six themes emerged from the process, ranging from the economy and safe communities to environmental infrastructure and practices, culture, diversity and community participation. Having 54,322 residents engaged in the visioning process was a huge leap from the 2,000 residents who offered input on the city’s Vision 2020 plan in 1995.

The numbers, however, aren’t the sole indicators of success. The real work would begin during the implementation of the vision. For emerging leaders and young professionals to envision themselves here in 2040, they need to have a say in what Our Future Hamilton would look like.

That was the impetus behind the workshop Making Our Future Hamilton a Reality for You, a partnership between Hamilton HIVE, the city’s Our Future Hamilton team and the 100in1Day global community action festival. The goal of the partnership was to engage young professionals in the new community vision while positioning 100in1Day on June 4 as an avenue to take action and implement new ideas that emerged from the workshop.

The workshop included a series of rapid (minute-long) brainstorming sessions asking participants to share what they like about Hamilton, what’s missing and changes they’d like to see. Participants were then asked to brainstorm ideas to address those changes by aligning them with the six themes from Our Future Hamilton.

The ideas were nothing short of creative and innovative. From yoga mobs and ride-in outdoor movie theatres to grocery store tours and video game festivals, there was a real appetite not just for change but for taking action and making that change happen. In fact, the local 100in1Day event on June 4 saw more than 100 urban interventions registered, involving hundreds of residents, young professionals included.

We have seen young professionals step up to change Hamilton for the better. We celebrated their accomplishments during the inaugural Young Professionals Week in Ontario (May 15 to 21). In true Hamilton HIVE fashion, we spread the buzz about our city’s young leaders far and wide through social media, articles spotlighting young professionals and a media conference with our partners: CoMotion Group Inc. and the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce’s young entrepreneur division.

As we celebrate young professionals and continue to involve them in public consultations on the city’s vision, it becomes clear: for Our Future Hamilton to work, we cannot ignore our young leaders. We must all grow together.