SSHRC Imagining Canada's Future: DD Co-Lab

Project status: 
REB Approved
Community members: 
SSHRC Imagining Canada's Future   |  Approach   |  Challenges   |  Findings   |  Taking Action   |  Readings

Southern Ontario Panel on Urbanization

In an unprecedented study, Canada's research council for social science and humanities, SSHRC, has commissioned six regional panels to understand and imagine possible futures for the country in a global context. Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab) at OCAD University is leading University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), Ryerson, Windsor and York universities and our combined intellectual communities.

Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab) at OCAD University is leading a panel on the Southern Ontario region, in partnership with University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), Ryerson, Windsor and York universities and our combined intellectual communities. We have focused our panel with an inquiry designed to address the question:

"In the face of intensified urbanization worldwide, what do we see as the highest impact social and human challenges for Southern Ontario, now through 2030?"

Satellite image of Southern Ontario

Southern Ontario is witnessing increasing urbanization, and with it a host of changes, challenges and opportunities.  For example, younger people are known as early adopters of new technologies, yet older people are experiencing technologies and their consequences in surprising ways. By 2050, we expect a third of Canadians to be older than 65.  What kinds of services, societies, and care do we envision to support our communities in the face of these changes?  By bringing you together with others who have different areas of expertise, we will imagine such future challenges together.

Our participatory action research engages a diverse panel of academics, professionals, and students for a Co-laboratory workshop organized and facilitated according to principles of the Structured Dialogic Design methodology.  Dialogic design is a multi-technique methodology based on human and computer-facilitated structuring of inquiry for a complex social or civic concern. Democratic by design, SDD produces strong consensus while avoiding cognitive biases, by adopting a series of language structures that conserve participant autonomy, authenticity, and shared commitment while mitigating group cognitive bias, power bias, and content complexity. Participant contributions inform our October 2012 final report to SSHRC. Findings have been taken forward to a national summit and on to further synthesis, helping to articulate Canada’s future social sciences and humanities research agenda.

Stakeholders & Participants

The Co-laboratory process relies on a well-defined sample of stakeholders selected not on "representativeness" but on principles of requisite variety. Primary stakeholders include research leaders from the academic team, who will be leading proposed research for SSHRC in the near term. Participating stakeholders includes those from business, academia, government and civil society whose programs will be touched by SSHRC research initiatives over the 5, 10, and 20 year horizons envisioned by the research for Imagining Canada's Future.

Themes and Focus Areas

Research themes will be developed from the STEEP CI categories applicable in the strategic foresight methodology:

  • Social
  • Technology
  • Economy
  • Environmental Impacts
  • Political/Legal
  • Cultural / Intellectual

Recommended readings are suggested to support particpants in developing an awareness and sensitivity to some of the significant challenges in urbanization and urban futures, especially from a social sciences perspective.


The organizing team includes the following researchers:

  • OCAD University -- Greg Van Alstyne; Dr. Peter H. Jones; Suzanne Stein
  • University of Windsor -- Dr. Ranjana Bird, Dr. Natasha Wiebe
  • York University -- Dr. Barbara Crow
  • Ryerson University -- Dr. Wendy Cukier
  • UOIT -- Dr. Michael Owen; Jennifer Freeman

Our skilled and dedicated research assistants are:

  • Uma Maharaj, Petri Tanninen, Peg Lahn (OCAD U); Kathryn Black (UOIT)

We thank Dialogic Design expert Jeff Diedrich for his experienced guidance and co-facilitation of the process.