Upper-year students from Trent University Durham Greater Toronto Area and Ontario Tech University came together virtually during a six-week City Idea Lab course to unpack and analyze the community impacts of COVID-19 to the City of Oshawa.
The summer course, “Strengths-based and Cooperative Community Development during Extended Crises,” was the first bi-institutional City Idea Lab course offered to students across different programs at both universities.
The unique course, co-taught by faculty from both universities, was a direct response to COVID-19. Using Oshawa as a case study, the course examined the impact of the pandemic and associated public health measures on communities. Students heard from Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter, City staff and community leaders about how COVID-19 affected the community and the City’s response to the pandemic, which generated conversations about community development.
Trent Durham course instructor Brandon Tozzo explained why the course was so appealing to students.
“Students pitched their ideas to City staff, and some of these suggestions will actually be implemented at the municipal level,” explained Mr. Tozzo. “Overall, we received very positive feedback from the City staff and students about the course.”
Throughout the course, students worked together to develop solutions to various common challenges local governments are facing as they look to help their communities recover. Ideas were presented virtually to City staff for possible future implementation and included the creation of a digital literacy program for older adults, development of an internship program for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) youth, and enhancement of website information for the not-for-profit sector. Presented ideas and course work are available for review on the City Idea Lab website.
“Participation in this collaborative project was an excellent opportunity for students to understand the complexities of issues that the greater Oshawa community faces due to the pandemic,” said Dr. Scott Henderson, dean and head, Trent University Durham GTA. “Research is at the heart of what we do—not only is it an effective way to engage with the community to find innovative solutions—but we’re able to implement tangible outcomes through knowledge transfer, dialogue and ideation.”
City Idea Lab is an innovative curriculum-based program that provides post-secondary students the opportunity to work directly with faculty and City staff to co-design solutions to local issues through knowledge transfer, dialogue and experimentation.