Sharing Stories of Making Community Places, Youth Initiatives & Leadership: DM2020 x RXYM

Research project Design ManifesT.O. 2020 (DM2020) teams up with Rexdale Youth Mentorship (RXYM) to share stories of placemaking, youth initiatives and leadership in the Queensplate community, North West Toronto. The series of events will include a joint survey about placemaking in neighbourhoods, an online youth forum in February, and a virtual artist talk and exploration of education pathways in art & design led by OCAD U students and recent grads. RXYM's stated mission is to "create safe spaces for racialized youth by providing them with tangible personal and professional tools to positively support their development into young adulthood.” See more at

DM2020 is a two-year narrative inquiry project compiling stories of grassroots placemaking through creative practices as a way to support and learn from community actions. As a follow up to the project’s ‘Creative Practice as Protest’ (CPP) workshop under a SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant that was held last year, Associate Professor Cheryl Giraudy, Assistant Professor, Saskia van Kampen, and Urban Planner, Lena Phillips will engage with RXYM to co-design a report of findings and recommendations aimed to benefit the community and research. RXYM identified the need for youth to flourish, not only through recreational programming, but through programs that build professional skills and social awareness. These goals are aligned with DM2020’s aim to foster youth and other community participation in research that explores inclusive creative practices for equitable city making. 

If you live in the Rexdale / Queens Plate neighbourhood, you are invited to take part in the following survey:


This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Image of Youth participants working in groups as part of the Creative Practice as Protest Workshop held at OCAD U in January 202
Image of Youth participants working in groups as part of the Creative Practice as Protest Workshop held at OCAD U in January 202
Friday, January 29, 2021 - 11:00am


“It was nice to see everyone coming together to solve problems that not many people take time to figure out. I think that workshops like these enable us and make us feel that our voice does matter” - T. Alexander, photographer and artist, Toronto.

Associate Professor Cheryl Giraudy, Faculty of Design and Assistant Professor Saskia van Kampen, School of Design (San Francisco State University) hosted the workshop ‘Creative Practice as Protest’ (CPP) with SSHRC grant partner Colloqate Design, an award-winning platform for racial, social, and cultural equity of public spaces and places. Co-founder Bryan C. Lee Jr. architect and activist joined the research team including Lead Research Assistant Lena Phillips (Urban Development Planner), assistants Nicholas Sagar (Photography) and Jun Li (Digital Futures) to welcome youth ages18–25 from across Toronto to share collective aspirations for a more equitable Toronto.

CPP is one of several events aligned with the research project Design Wo/ManifesT.O. (DM2020) launched at DesignTO in 2019. The project is a two-year effort to learn about grassroots initiatives fostering respectful design for placemaking, and place-keeping, and has engaged over 100 participants to date, including community youth leaders attending the workshop. Lena Philips brought her extensive experience in engagement of diverse young stakeholders to the effort, helping to shift focus from a student ‘ideas competition‘ to an ‘Youth ideas forum’ where next generation of creative practitioners and activists could network, create new alliances and develop solutions for the myriad of challenges and opportunities they perceive Toronto holds. Partnership with Colloqate offered a new framing for the forum and dovetailed with the non-profit’s current design justice work with Black Lives Matter Toronto. During the morning session, Colloqate inspired the audience with several themes including: making co-design for social justice a reality; how next gen become creative practitioners for action; who holds power in planning for communities, and how to access power effectively for justice in placemaking. The session unpacked equity, identity, and liberation in social structures in order to achieve/reclaim these states going forward. The afternoon session focused on re-imagination of Toronto for greater representation and inclusion, particularly for communities where voices of lived realities in decision-making are suppressed. 

Creative mentors joined CPP including: Jay Wall, Founder, Rally Rally design studio for social change; Jaicyea Smith MDes (Inclusive Design) Founder, Toronto Skate Stop and Her Buddah Belly; Sean Lee, Artistic Director-Tangled Art + Disability; Melanie Printup-Hope, Associate Dean, Faculty of Design Educator, Indigenous visual culture, graphic designer; Marcela Cordero, MDes (Interdisciplinary Design Strategy, George Brown) and Adwua Afful, Black Futures Now and Mapping Black Futures Project.

Many community leaders from a diverse range of organizations were invited to participate including Benjamin Bongolan, Coordinator, Newcomer Family Settlement Services at The 519, LGBTQ community hub; Abba Wie-Addo, Sr. Progam Leader, Rexdale Youth Mentorship Program, and Cheryll Case, Founder, Principal Urban Planner of CP Planning and Urban Design Coordinator, City of Brampton. Over the lunch break, artist Randell Adjei Founder, Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere (R.I.S.E Edutainment) used the art of spoken word to not only inspire the participants, but demonstrate how a powerful tool such as creative practice can share lived experiences, and foster respect for community and identity. R.I.S.E Edutainment is one of Toronto’s largest and longest running youth-led initiatives.

Mentors and community leaders were key to supporting participation, fostering responses for creative planning exercises and supporting participants in confirming themselves as change-makers. The engagement across disciplines, community groups, and individuals was intense and lead to the development of bold ideas, and practical solutions to issues of exclusion and lack of empowerment in city planning and design processes. Outcomes of the workshop are from the pre-Covid-19 timeframe, and pre-global discussion on systemic racism and need for systemic and significant change across socio-economic, cultural, health, and justice platforms. As the research extends into a new era, new shared lived experiences will be added to the growing database of emerging strategies and tools for both addressing community need in building a more inclusive city, and in designing the spaces and places that define it.

30 youth participants registered for the event and a further 42 on a waiting list. The response indicates the need for more opportunities for youth to come together to vision a future based on real world experience and imagination of what can be. Listening to the deep and heartfelt stories of trying to keep and make spaces/places in the city reflect and respect the communities they serve via the open forums and workshops is yielding both expected and unexpected outcomes. DM2020 continues to gather the creative endeavours with the aim of co-designing community-based, socially-driven design tools for greater inclusive placemaking across Toronto and elsewhere.

Additional Notes:

CPP was published in Toronto’s Caribbean Newspaper, February 2020. Reporter and youth participant Selina Macallum interviewed research partner Bryan Lee Jr. about Colloqate’s work in supporting, engaging, black and other racialized communities and in fostering designers and architects in the US and Canada for greater equity in designing the public realm.

DM2020 is planning its next community-based forum (online) aiming to engage youth activists specifically from west Toronto in discussions for both evolving the online public square and planning of physical spaces with social justice and social distancing principles in a Covid-19 era.

Saskia gave an online presentation at the10th Annual International Conference on Urban Studies & Planning hosted by the Athens Institute for Education and Research. The paper titled: Building “Working with, not for” into Design Studio Curriculum explores the outcomes of the CPP, reaffirming ‘ethics’ based on human-centred and participatory approaches as intrinsic to the discipline and pedagogy of design. The full paper will be published in the Athens Journal of Architecture in Fall 2020.

Cheryl Giraudy, B.Arch. MSc. OAA MRAIC has 30 years as a practicing architect and 20 years teaching at OCAD U, and supporting and leading research for the built environment with course-based projects, external partnerships, and academic granted work. She has held posts of Associate Dean in the Faculty of Design, and interim Graduate Program Director, Inclusive Design, an emerging discipline in which she holds an MSc. in design from the University of Salford, UK. She teaches in the Environmental Design program in third and fourth year, and undertakes participatory research focused on diverse communities across Toronto that have been underrepresented in decision-making for the design of the public realm. She fosters co-design strategies for equitable placemaking along with the accessible navigation of them. Projects include work with Toronto Community Housing, Bayview Hospital, and other Toronto community engagements through DM2020 research. Cheryl contributed to the provincial association of architects as Chair of the OAA Honours and Awards program for many years bringing about new award categories including Best Emerging Practice, and was a long-time consultant for an international organization employing ‘whole building’ standards, and human-centred approaches to programming and planning large complexes such as government offices, embassies, and more.

Saskia van Kampen (MDes, RGD, AIGA) has taught graphic Design at OCAD University as an Assistant Professor since 2014 and is now Assistant Professor of Visual Communication at San Francisco State University. She is focused on developing research projects that involve students, believing that by doing so she is supporting the next generation of designers to be socially driven in terms of accessible and inclusive design outcomes. Her research includes critical pedagogy in studio design courses, writing in the disciplines, and codesign practices. Before moving to the States, she was the Vice President of Education and board member of RGD (Registered Graphic Designers). Her role in RGD was to create programs that support both students and academic professionals in design. As such she created a Canada-wide Designathon, set up yearly academic awards of excellence and began an academic peer-reviewed journal. Professor van Kampen is also a contemporary feminist artist, using traditional creative practices such as needlework to deconstruct contemporary design methods and messages. 

Lena Phillips (she/her), based in Tkaronto (Toronto, Canada), currently works at the intersection of philanthropy and equity, supporting grassroots and systems change work being led by and for Indigenous and Black communities. She has been the lead assistant for the DM2020 research project and instrumental in developing the Creative Practice as Protest workshop held at OCAD U. She brings a focus on exploring creative practice, placemaking and design justice for the project. Lena is also a researcher with Virtual Grounds (a project of Digital Justice Lab and Trinity Square video) where she is exploring digital justice and urban futures. She previously worked in the non-profit and international development sectors focusing on food security, arts and culture, and community development. Past projects include: youth-led, grassroots organizing for climate justice; facilitating new programs and partnerships as an Aga Khan Foundation Fellow in Uganda; and engaging as a participatory action researcher focused on housing/displacement in London post-2012 Olympics and on antieviction work in slums/informal settlements in sub-Saharan African cities. Her interests lie in applying African/Afro-centric, Southern and Indigenous epistemologies and urbanisms as a means to critically interrogate dominate Northern/Western theories of (urban) space. She has a BA from the University of Toronto and an MSc Urban Development Planning from The Bartlett, University College London.

To learn more about this research, please visit:

This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Image of Youth participants working in groups as part of the Creative Practice as Protest Workshop held at OCAD U in January 202
Thursday, July 9, 2020 - 10:15am
Lab Member: 
Cheryl Giraudy