HIVEX Spotlight: Our Future Hamilton Workshop

Submitted: November 19th, 2015

HIVEX Spotlight: Our Future Hamilton Workshop


Back in 1995, the City of Hamilton laid out a plan for how the town should look in 25 years. Vision 2020 first began to take shape in 1992, with overarching goals to integrate the city’s development under banners of environmental, social, and economic well-being. 15 years on, many long-time residents can easily recognize that progress has been made, while others will surely point to the controversies and challenges inherent in the evolution toward a new kind of city.

One of the major emphases of Vision 2020 was public outreach. Diedre Beintema, of the City’s community initiatives, neighbourhood & community initiatives division, notes that the central body responsible for engaging Hamilton’s citizens was made up of citizens themselves: the Citizens Task Force on Sustainable Development.

“The bulk of the consultation was carried out by the Citizens Task Force on Sustainable Development, which was a group mandated by Council to explore, in cooperation with its fellow citizens, the concept of sustainable development as a basis for review of all regional policy initiatives. The consultation tools used by the Task Force included: a media campaign, newsletters distributed to every household (150,000 copies), television programs, staff seminars, open houses, exhibits in major shopping malls, town hall meetings, focus group discussions, vision working groups, implementation teams, and three community forums. Over two and half years, the Task Force met with approximately 1,000 fellow citizens.”

Now, with 2020 less than five years away, Hamilton is looking to draw a new blueprint for Hamilton’s next quarter century. This effort is called Our Future Hamilton. Subtitled “Communities in Conversation,” Our Future Hamilton will once again put a major emphasis on public engagement.

The impact of public engagement

Beintema thinks that in addition to the goals and guidelines laid out in Vision 2020, the very act of public consultation has had an impact on the way Hamiltonians interact with city goals and government.

“Vision 2020 helped our community make significant progress in the areas of arts and heritage, reducing and managing waste, improving air quality, improving water quality and protecting natural areas. It inspired collaboration in environmental protection, poverty alleviation, cultural and economic growth and leading edge planning in the integration of infrastructure and growth. In addition to our community’s successes in meeting Vision 2020 goals, the process also increased…community engagement and empowerment in Hamilton. Many of the community members who were involved in the Vision 2020 consultation process have reached out to us to be part of the next community vision process.”

What it means for young professionals

While Vision 2020 received the input of approximately 2,000 citizens, reached through various means, Our Future Hamilton sets a much higher bar for community engagement, hoping to reach 50,000 Hamiltonians through social media and other strategies. Beintema thinks young professionals have a lot to gain from observing and participating in this effort, from the chance to provide input for the city’s future to learning new outreach methods to use on their own.

“Young professionals will be directly impacted by the decisions made over the next 25 years, this is their chance to let the City of Hamilton and other community leaders know which decisions are of greatest importance. Young professionals can also be a part of making the community vision become a reality by using it as a guiding document for decisions in their daily life and also at work.”

“Conference participants should attend this workshop because engagement and public participation are growing areas of interest for many organizations in all sectors. This workshop will help attendees expand their knowledge about engagement methods so they can apply these methods to their own work.”

Daniel O.W. Smith is a writer and editor and newcomer to Hamilton. An American by birth, Daniel has lived in Canada since studying for a B.A. in Russian & Slavic Studies at McGill University. His interests include media, politics, immigration, and literature.

Posted on October 29, 2015 in 2015 HIVEX Conference