Guelph, Ont., October 8, 2021 – The City of Guelph and University of Guelph (U of G) are renewing their commitment to the Guelph Lab—a joint initiative that uses research and teaching to support new programs and policies locally. Through the Guelph Lab, the City and University are seeking to address the root causes of challenges shared by the City, University and community, and work towards resolutions that are appropriate and sustainable.
Launched in 2014, the Guelph Lab has worked with City staff, community practitioners, residents and university students, faculty, and staff on a wide range of topics, from improving road safety to addressing food insecurity.
“The Guelph Lab is a really important way we can support innovation both inside the City and for the greater good of our community,” says Jodie Sales, co-director of the Guelph Lab and general manager of Strategy, Innovation and Intergovernmental Services at the City of Guelph.
This fall, the Guelph Lab is working with the City Clerk’s Office to make the City’s boards and committees more diverse and inclusive. The project will explore the design of boards and committees, including their recruitment practices, decision-making processes, and the supports offered to participants.
The City isn’t alone in wanting to broaden the pool of people participating on its boards and contributing to local policy. Many local non-profit organizations are making similar efforts to increase the diversity of their boards, and community expertise is already informing work with the City. Once complete, the Guelph Lab will look to share knowledge from these projects across the community.
Another Guelph Lab initiative launching this fall will see three teams of graduate students working with community organizations to launch social enterprises. The Sandbox, a collaboration with the John F. Wood Centre, provides students with real-world experience and community organizations with additional earning potential, aligning the City and University’s resources and capacity with community-identified priorities.
The Sandbox is working with Better Food Co. by HOPE House, which sells healthy, pre-packaged meals to fund its community food work and provide healthy produce and meals to those who need them. The Sandbox is also partnering with Nourish by 10C and Toward Common Ground.
“It’s the collaboration that makes the Guelph Lab work,” adds Dr. Elizabeth Jackson, who co-directs the Guelph Lab alongside Sales. Dr. Jackson, an expert in collaborative and engaged research, is director of the Community Engaged Scholarship Institute at U of G, which hosts the Guelph Lab. “The Sandbox is a great example of high impact collaboration. Like all Guelph Lab initiatives, it combines the deep expertise of the community and community practitioners with the skills and knowledge of researchers.”
The Guelph Lab is supported by leaders at the City and the University who are deeply committed to meaningful engagement with the community. This collaborative spirit underpins the Guelph Lab and its activities and is formalized in the agreement that governs it.
Trevor Lee, deputy CAO for the City of Guelph, signed the Guelph Lab agreement in July. “From climate change to COVID-19, cities like ours are at the forefront of addressing the big challenges of our time, and through initiatives like the Guelph Lab we are finding new ways of working together with the community’s needs at the centre,” says Lee.
Jointly held by the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences (CSAHS) and the City, the agreement was renewed for three years, which allows the Guelph Lab to continue using research, collaboration, and experimentation to find promising solutions to shared challenges well into 2024.
Byron Sheldrick, acting dean of CSAHS, adds, “Our commitment to the Guelph Lab is one of the ways our College can be a leader in engaged teaching and research that contributes to meaningful change in our communities.”
Ideas for new Guelph Lab projects come from City staff, community organizations and/or researchers on campus. If you have a project you would like the Lab to support, contact Sam Laban, the Guelph Lab facilitator.
Visit the Guelph Lab website to explore current and past projects.