The Neighbourhood Planning Initiative, City of Ottawa

The City of Ottawa has described the Neighbourhood Planning Initiative as “putting together a puzzle”. Each piece – whether the issue is community safety, transit or the arts – interconnects with one another so that the sum of the pilot is greater than its parts.

Building on this metaphor, the Centre for Urban Research and Education believes that the NPI pilot project involves five pieces.

Below can be found more information about the Neighbourhood Planning Initiative, its goals, the process, the impacts, the role played by the researchers of the Centre for Urban Research and Education, and finally additional documentation.

What are the goals of the Neighbourhood Planning Initiative?

Starting in the urban neighbourhood of Hintonburg, city planners have set out to achieve three overarching goals (City of Ottawa, Legislative Agenda, 2006):

  • Enabling Community Connections

    First, the Neighbourhood Planning Initiative intends to establish a structured point of connection to the city for neighbourhoods. The idea is to provide neighbourhoods with single-window access to a wide-range of departments and city service providers (police, community centres, etc.). Similarly, the pilot is designed to help city officials incorporate community knowledge and resources within the neighbourhood planning process to better reflect the needs, priorities and concerns of local citizens.

  • Strengthening Inter-departmental Collaboration

    Second, the City of Ottawa hopes that a more holistic, place-sensitive approach to planning will lead to improved inter-departmental coordination. Multi-functional teams have been formed across the three key departments: Public Works and Services (PWS), Planning and Growth Management (PGM) and Community and Protective Services (CPS). This is the first time in the City of Ottawa’s history that these departments have tried to work together in a more concerted fashion.

  • Nurturing Citizen-Councillor Conversations

    Third, the Neigbourhood Planning Initiative is establishing a mechanism for citizens to define their needs and priorities, and to package and present them to municipal politicians. City Councillors can also offer the process to constituents interested in rolling up their sleeves to get involved in community development, thereby contributing to a greater sense of civic participation. In addition, the Neighbourhood Planning Initiative is attempting to put the ‘community-based planning’ and ‘collaborative community building’ objectives of Ottawa’s 20/20 plan into practice, and to more generally, develop innovative models for place-based planning and service delivery.

What is the process of the Neighbourhood Planning Initiative?

The NPI has involved an intensive effort to bring citizens together through meetings, open houses, surveys and other events to collect feedback on three separate, but interrelated projects focusing on:

  • street infrastructure (e.g. sewage, transit);
  • community design (e.g. zoning, streetscaping);
  • and other broader community issues (e.g. arts, heritage, environment, crime)

In addition to the community, City departments responsible for urban planning and delivering local services are trying to increase inter-departmental collaboration in an effort to develop a more coherent, place-sensitive approach towards neighbourhoods. Multi-functional teams have been formed to integrate jurisdictions such as land use planning, physical infrastructure planning and social service plans so that the planning process incorporate physical, social and economic considerations.


The NPI is expected to improve both the process and outcomes of local decision-making and neighbourhood development. In particular, a number of benefits are expected such as:

  • More responsive local government that is better aligned with local needs
  • More efficient and effective usage of city resources
  • Improved coordination of services and growth and an enhanced process of local participation and democracy

Roles and activities of the CURE in the Neighbourhood Planning Initiative

The Centre for Urban Research and Education’s role in the Neighbourhood Planning Initiative might best be described as a “knowledge broker”. Our role has been to navigate between city protocols and community practices to generate new opportunities for dialogue, helping stakeholders to connect and reflect on their involvement. We have worn many hats:

  • as an monitor during important phases of the pilot;
  • a facilitator of, and participant in, the engagement process;
  • and as an interlocutor to share the study findings with other policymakers and practitioners (e.g. other levels of government, academics, other community groups).

In practice, CURE has attempted to gather local and planning knowledge about, of and for the Neighbourhood Planning Initiative. Researchers have conducted literature and archival reviews, participated in ‘walking tours’ of the neighbourhood and community, organized and participated into different workshops, conducted surveys and interviews, attended community meetings. At last, the CURE has presented at, participated in and created opportunities for understanding the successes and challenges of community-engagement processes.

Documents and dissemination

The Centre for Urban Research and Education team has produced several reports, academic papers, presentations and videos for our case study on the Neighbourhood Planning Initiative. These documents were prepared by faculty, staff and students working with the Centre for Urban Research and Education, often based on the input and/or collaboration with community and city stakeholders.

The Neighbourhood Planning Initiative as well as CURE’s case study has been featured in local media and newsletters

CURE’s intention is for these reflections to contribute to the broader ‘collective learning’ on how municipal governments and voluntary organizations can promote and facilitate community participation in neighbourhood decisions.

Please contact Christopher Stoney for all types of documents.

Academic Papers

Mack, Elaina. “City Planning, Community Action, and Academic Research: A Three-Way Intersection.” Community-University Exposition 2008, Victoria, May 2008.

Stoney, Chris and Sandra Elgersma. “Neighbourhood Planning through Community Engagement: The Implications for Local Governance and Outcomes.” Presented at the International Research Society for Public Management (IRSP) Conference, Potsdam, Germany, April 2007 and the Canadian Political Science Association, June, 2007.

Speevak Sladowki, Paula. “Evaluating Neighbourhood Initiatives,” Centre for Voluntary Sector Research and Development, July 2006.

Bird, Malcolm. “NIP, Postmodern planning and NPI: Examining Citizen Participation,” School of Public Policy and Administration, July 2006.

Humayun, Kabir. “Citizen and Community Engagement Models and Examples,” School of Public Policy and Administration, July 2006.

Mack, Elaina. “The Role of Community Councils in Neighbourhood Planning: A Snapshot of the Literature and Cases.” School of Public Policy and Administration, September 2006.


Mack, Elaina. “City Planning, Community Action, and Academic Research: A Three-Way Intersection.” Community-University Exposition 2008, Victoria, May 2008.

Stoney, Chris and Elaina Mack. “Research in Action: A Conversation on Community Engagement Initiatives.” Presented at Lunch ‘n Learn seminar, School of Public Policy and Administration, March 7, 2007.

Stoney, Chris. Presentation at Hintonburg Community Centre, October 2006.