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North Vancouver Pledges $5K for Urban Futures Survey


Mike Harcourt, the Chair of PlaceSpeak’s Board of Directors, and CEO Colleen Hardwick were invited to speak at last Monday’s (November 14th) City of North Vancouver Council meeting.  Their presentation focused on PlaceSpeak’s forthcoming Urban Futures Survey.  Here is what Benjamin Alldritt from the North Shore News had to say:

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North Vancouver City council pledges $5K for Metro survey

MIKE Harcourt, former mayor of Vancouver and former B.C. premier, came to City of North Vancouver council Nov. 14 to ask for support for a new survey of Metro Vancouver residents

The Urban Futures project conducted its first survey in 1973, and again in 1990, said Harcourt, joined by CEO Colleen Hardwick and former GVRD planning manager Ken Cameron.

“I’m here to talk about a snapshot of the region,” Harcourt said. “The first Urban Futures project provided us with the information we needed to put in place the first de facto liveable region strategy.”

The information gathered is the opinions of residents about what changes or directions t

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hey would like to see in the area over the coming two decades.

“The technology and techniques were pretty straightforward – you talk to people, which you did in those days. They answer their door and they actually talked with you. It’s time to update with the third 20-year look with modern technology,” he said.

Hardwick demonstrated the new online version, called PlaceSpeak. Participants can sign up through the Internet and social media. After their location is verified, they answer surveys, polls, and can use discussion forums. The questionnaires take about 22 minutes to complete. Although the self-selection is something of a concern for statisticians, Hardwick said she believes a far bigger sample size than previous editions will overcome that.

Council unanimously approved a $5,000 contribution and urged other North Shore municipalities to follow suit.

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Mike Harcourt on the Urban Futures Survey

Here is a video of Mike’s introductory remarks at the Council meeting:



I’m here to talk about a snapshot of the region. It started with Colleen’s father Walter Hardwick in the 1970’s when we first got the Livable Regions Strategy going.  The Urban Futures was first put together by Dr. Hardwick who was, of course, a very famous and renounced urban geographer at UBC who did the first Urban Futures project in 1973. That provided the information we needed from citizens to help put in place the first de-facto livable regions strategy.

The technology and techniques at the time were pretty straightforward. It was trying to talk to people which you do in those days and they answered their door and they actually talked to you. [The survey] was updated in 1990 when then mayor Gordon Campbell had Ken Cameron who was director of planning for what we then called the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD), go forth and gather the opinions of people of the region on what they like, what they didn’t like what they would like to see changed as part of becoming one of the most livable regions in the world. That was published in 1991 and led to the Growth Strategies act that we introduced as government. [The legislation] legitimized a different role, a more collegial role between the provinces and municipalities. It was more of a partnership, rather than ‘creatures of the provinces’ as some people think the municipalities are.

We’re here today to say that it’s time to update with the third 20 year look at the region and engage citizens and use modern technology. We are going to get a demonstration by Colleen of PlaceSpeak, which is an extraordinary new tool that came from her work with her father and from her mind. Ken and I were entranced by this way of engaging citizens in the comfort of their own homes and using the internet without having to go to public hearings which sometime get pretty polarized; or to be reached by the usual surveying methods which is very hard to do—it’s very hard to show that these are the actual people that are at the address. So I wanted to be here to say we’re quite excited about this new approach to engaging citizens. We think it’s going to change and open up opportunities for people to participate more effectively in our democracy.


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