City Soul Award: program text

This award is given in recognition of pursuits which inspire, inform, enrich, and engage our collective spirit, and which celebrate nature and/or the authenticity of place.  This can be achieved through culture, nature, the arts, entertainment, heritage, sports, recreation, or politics by re-igniting the soul and passion of a city.

Jane's Walk:  A Global Festival of Urban Literacy

Jane's Walk helps people learn about their cities and neighbourhoods, understand how change occurs, and how to become involved in city building.  Started in Toronto in 2007 by a group of urbanists who wanted to honour the ideas and legacy of Jane Jacobs, the model for Jane's Walk is to provide free neighbourhood walking tours led by local volunteers.  The concept is simple, adaptable, and wildly successful.

Jane's Walk now occurs in more than twenty countries around the world, in cities such as New York, Chicago, Sao Paolo, Berlin , Cordoba, London, Helsinki, Tel Aviv, and Calcutta.  In 2013, over fifty cities and towns in Canada joined in, with significant participation in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Guelph, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax.

Jane's Walk is a simple, accessible, and fun mechanism to bring people together to talk about their community.  Its grassroots approach is centred on the belief that everyone is an expert on their own community and that walkable neighbourhoods encourage connections between residents, enhance safety, promote health and increase civic pride.  The walks increase urban literacy by combining the simple act of walking with person observations, urban history, planning, design, and civic engagement. 

The walks give residents a chance to share their knowledge, and speak frankly about their neighbourhood in their own voices.  The walks also bring residents and citizens from outside communities to share, broaden understanding, and get to know each others' hidden histories, built structures, and social/cultural environments.

Jane's Walk is also inspiring research into urban and suburban walkability in conjunction with Paul Hess at the University of Toronto.  The subsequent walkability studies were used by the City of Toronto as a cornerstone of the city's Walking Strategy.  Jane's Walk School Edition has been developed for curriculum use and used both in classes and as an extracurricular activity.