SSHRC - Imagining Canada's Future - Taking Action

SSHRC Imagining Canada's Future   |  Approach   |  Challenges   |  Findings   |  Taking Action   |  Readings

Southern Ontario Panel on Urbanization

How can SSHRC act on the challenge of...

  1        Advancing a diverse and inclusive society
  2        Enabling equitable access to ICT
  3        Governing ourselves responsively
  4        Designing sustainable cities
  5        Overcoming fear of change
  6        Including indigenous rights in planning
  7        Transitioning to a digital economy

  8        Upgrading transportation systems
  9        Stewarding regional ecosystems
10        Supporting our aging population

"Investing in these Top Ten provides an opportunity for SSHRC to influence the other challenges."

On seeing the Influence Map, one panellist commented that if SSHRC funding were concentrated on the “deepest” challenges (Level V), this might significantly help other challenges only if the operationalization of Level V challenges implicitly included indicators related to those other challenges. (For example, “Enabling equitable access to ICT” might only help in “Supporting our aging population” if the aging population is taken into consideration when addressing equitable ICT access).

The Top 10 future challenge areas, and the additional 30 challenges receiving at least one vote, can all be considered important for Canadian society in the global context. We believe the results are largely generalizable to all Canadian provinces, perhaps only with differences in some priorities.  While urbanization trends will become most apparent in Canada’s large cities, all cities and communities will be affected by the transitions represented by the challenges. Populations, resources and policy priorities will be redistributed as urbanization intensifies, and each province will deal with these 10 challenges.  A global context requires a Canadian societal response of both international engagement and local conservation of urban and rural ecosystems, Canadian values and aboriginal, emerging and urban cultures.  

How to use the Influence Map

Because the influence map indicates progressive influence of deeper social challenges on other challenges, we consider the first four challenges to have particular future leverage on long-term developments globally. These directly relate to the appropriate socio-technical design of infrastructures for civic leadership, equitable technology and information diffusion, adaptable urban design, and an inclusive society that models our values in the world community.

Links to SSHRC's current mandate

In our opinion, 8 of the 10 challenges link directly to SSHRC’s mandate:

1. Advancing a diverse and inclusive society: Sociological and urban studies
2. Enabling equitable access to ICT:  Sociotechnical systems studies, Participatory design research
3. Governing ourselves responsively: Sociological and political science research
5. Overcoming fear of change: Social psychology, Sociological and innovation research
7. Transitioning to a digital economy:  Behavioural economics, Industrial management, Labour studies
8. Including indigenous rights in planning: Urban planning, Aboriginal studies, Political science
9. Stewarding regional ecosystems: Behavioural economics, Environmental economics
10. Supporting our aging population: Sociology, Public health and design research

After discussion with other faculty and academic team members, we believe SSHRC is not currently well supported to sponsor larger-scale interdisciplinary research or shared academic and industry research sufficient to some of these problems and contexts.

If the research issues were reframed to focus specifically on social sciences studies related to these issues, SSHRC could define the scope of future research initiatives within this mandate. However, at least half of the challenges in the Southern Ontario urbanization context require the attention of social and physical sciences, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research.  Urban sustainability, social responses to water and climate change, transportation, and the shift to a digital economy require deep integration with sciences, engineering and design.  An integrated research mandate that supports long-term studies for these slower-changing developmental problems might be needed.