I work as the community economic development coordinator at Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC). I'm establishing a community land trust, a mechanism that allows for shared ownership in the form of a community garden, for example. It's a really exciting project because I've been working with so many practitioners - community development officers, social planners, community organizers, for example - who challenge the status quo.
I specialized in social planning and community development at U of T after I did an undergraduate degree in policy studies at Chuo University in Tokyo.
My interest in planning took hold during my first year of undergrad. I took a great international development course that tried to bridge the gap between theory and practice. I went to Sri Lanka, where we visited many different NGOs and international development agencies. It was there that I became interested in urban planning issues in big cities like Colombo and the gap between policy and what's actually happening on the ground in community development.
U of T's planning school takes an interdisciplinary approach, with five different streams of specialization: social planning, land use, economic development, environment planning and urban design. The program was a great way to connect with practitioners working in the field.
A good social planner has the ability to understand neighbourhood challenges and local conditions within broader policy contexts, but it's also important to have the sensitivity and capacity to respond to the diverse needs and conflicting interests of community members. That's because impacts of policy and planning are felt differently by different populations.
Housing isn't just about where you want to build housing; it's also about social policy issues such as income support and labour market conditions.
I enjoy every moment of my job, which constantly demands creative conversations with practitioners. When we take action together, it's really exciting. I like transforming a very basic and abstract idea like establishing a community land trust into an actual organization.
It's not a visible thing, but I can feel it becoming more and more real each day.