Jane’s Walk is a movement of free, citizen-led walking conversations inspired by Jane Jacobs.
Anybody can lead a Jane’s Walk! The festival encourages people to share stories about their neighbourhoods, discover unseen aspects of their communities, and use walking as a way to connect with their neighbours.
About Jane Jacobs
Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was a writer, urbanist and activist who championed a community-based approach to city-building. She had no formal training as a planner, and yet her 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, introduced ground-breaking ideas about how cities function, evolve, and fail that have become conceptual pillars for today’s architects, planners, policymakers, activists, and other city builders.
Jacobs lived in Greenwich Village until 1968, when she moved to Toronto. In both cities, she helped derail the car-centered approach to urban planning and invigorated neighbourhood activism by helping to stop the expansion of expressways and roads.
Who We Are
Jane’s Walk was founded in Toronto in 2006 by a group of Jane Jacobs’ friends and colleagues as a way to honor her life and activate her ideas. That first year, there were a handful of walks in Toronto. Over the next decade, the movement saw rapid global uptake by urban activists around the world. In 2017, 1,700 Jane’s Walks took place in 225 cities around the world, spanning 37 countries and 6 continents. The movement continues to grow every year and has now reached over 500 cities!
About the Steering Committee
This website is maintained by the Jane’s Walk Steering Committee, an all-voluntary group governing Jane’s Walk Toronto on the MakeWay platform. The Steering Committee is based in Toronto, on the unceded territories of the Wendat, Haudenosaunee, the Anishinabeg, and the Mississaugas of the Credit people. It was formed by some of the folks who convened the original Jane’s Walks in 2006.
The Steering Committee is responsible for hiring a team to organize and coordinate the Toronto Jane’s Walk Festival each year. Prior to 2018, Jane’s Walk had a global project office located in Toronto, advised by the Steering Committee. While this office no longer exists, the Steering Committee continues to steward the global project by fostering conversation among Jane’s Walk City Organizers, liaising with Jane Jacobs’ surviving family and friends, and providing guidance on the principles and practicalities of leading a Jane’s Walk.
The global Jane’s Walk community is a non-hierarchical movement. The Steering Committee is not a central organizing authority, and we cannot provide funding for Jane’s Walk activities outside of Toronto.
Meet the Steering Committee
Adam Roy Cohoon
An artist with a disability living in Toronto and an accessibility advocate and tech tester. Adam uses technology and continues learning about technology and media to explore how they can make for a more exciting disability community. He has used technology in his artwork for many years to come up with compelling ideas creatively. Adam also actively advocates for creativity, innovation, and technology to bring wider accessibility to the arts for everyone. Adam has recently moved to the mobile realm and is learning how to use mobile smart technology to help bring more creativity and culture to the world.
Ashley McDonough is a podcaster, project manager, and marketer. Currently based in Toronto, she has lived in Montreal and Ottawa. Her podcast, Walking in Place, shares audio walking tours of Toronto. Born out of a curiosity about the cities we live in, and a desire to connect with her own community, Walking in Place seeks to explore the history of Toronto in an accessible way. She is passionate about art and storytelling in all its forms, is an avid traveler, and a lifelong learner.
Cassandra is a designer who works at the intersection of urbanism, education and social impact. She has a bachelor’s degree from OCADU and a master’s degree from Lund University in Sweden, where she explored the role of design in creating inclusive and sustainable cities. She has worked with various design studios in Toronto and abroad, such as Zeidler, SvN, Janet Rosenberg and Studio, Loop Design for Social Good and Planit. Cassandra is also passionate about laneway revitalization and has collaborated with various organizations such as VTLA, Lanescape and The Laneway Project to advocate for policy changes, design interventions, and better community engagement. She also has extensive experience working with Business Improvement Areas in the downtown core. Cassandra is currently working at The School of Cities, The Yonge and Dundas Businesses Improvement Area and teaches a course – Art, Architecture and Public Space at OCADU.
Carlos’s bio is coming soon.
Celia Beketa is a design researcher who puts participatory and co-creation methods at the centre of her practice. She hopes to bring a human-centred lens to the design of just and equitable cities and challenge assumptions about who has a voice at the table for critical urban planning decisions. She acts as the ‘global co-chair’ of Jane’s Walk—she is currently pursuing her Masters in Urban Studies and over the next two years will be living in four cities across Europe. In her work at Doblin Canada, she helped private and public sector organizations better understand their users (for instance, customers, employees, or residents), and design their services around their needs. She was previously on the Steering Committee of the Toronto Public Space Committee. In her spare time you can find her either in the audience or on the stage of a community theatre production.
Geraldine Cahill is Director of Engagement at Social Innovation Canada where she works on strategic communications and facilitates social impact projects across the country. She brings her facilitation practice experience in-house after launching and refining it at UpSocial Canada in 2018. Prior to UpSocial Canada, she was deeply immersed in the Canadian social innovation community, supporting the development of programs, policies and an enabling environment for enterprises focused on positive impact. She is co-author of Social Innovation Generation: Fostering a Canadian Ecosystem for Systems Change, published in November 2017.
Jenny Foster loves her city, and has worked in the non-profit world for over 12 years. After being inspired at an early age by her grandmother, she has devoted her life to her community and has held fundraising roles across various sectors, including education, food security, social services, and politics. Currently Manager, Foundation Partnerships at CNIB. She also has a strong history of volunteerism. She held the role of Executive Director at West Hill Harvest, a local Scarborough charity, for over 10 years and currently sits on the Board of the Housing Help Centre. She is an avid reader and writer, and an award-winning yoga teacher. Jenny holds a BA in Political Science from The University of Toronto and a certificate in Fundraising Management from Seneca College, and is a Certified Fundraising Professional.
Jiya Benni is an urban designer and is currently Project Manager at 8 80 Cities. She grew up in India and lived in the Netherlands before moving to Canada in 2016. She holds a Master’s in Urbanism and a Bachelor’s in Architecture. A great believer in the power of collaborative planning and placemaking in city-building, she is passionate about creating equitable, sustainable, and resilient cities. Outside of work, you will find her writing on her blogs ‘Contemplating Urban Matters’ and ‘Patient Caterpillar’, making art or taking long walks and hikes with her partner.
Nadia Halim is a writer, editor, and facilitator with 25 years of experience in Toronto’s cultural communities. In the 1990s she worked at The Canadian Forum and This Magazine, and for small presses including Sister Vision Press and ECW. From 2014 through 2016, she was the Global Cities Coordinator at Jane’s Walk, where she supported the international community of volunteer City Organizers and helped to build networks between them. She is interested in city-building and placemaking, and particularly in simple, creative initiatives, like Jane’s Walk, that expand at a grassroots level, spreading out without scaling up. Currently, she works for a healthcare nonprofit. She likes good conversations and exploring the city with friends.
Priya is an architect, academic and an urbanist. She is currently facilitating the development of two strategic plans for large Ontario school districts, community engagement for the City of Vaughan, and an international multi-city survey on child rights in sport. In her parallel design work, she navigates an expanded field of design in an attempt to understand its potential as a political, social, economic, technological and spatial practice. Her creative spatial practice ranges over various scales and media, with some notable projects exhibited at a national exposition, museum and web series. Priya brings 8+ years of experience between industry and academia, and is an alumnus of the Fulbright Program, Parsons School of Design, and Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. She is new to Toronto, keen to learn of its neighborhoods by moving through them and interacting with communities. She communicates fluently in English, Urdu, Hindi and Sindhi.
Sarah is equal parts community builder and explorer with a strong background in community development approaches and a strong passion for facilitating meaningful engagement. Sarah has a professional background in the non-profit sector, having worked with organizations that support grassroots organizing and cross-sector collaborations and networking. When not working, you can find her exploring parks and greenspaces as a hike guide and leader, encouraging accessibility and representation in outdoor spaces.
Selam Eyob is an urban planner at Brook McIlroy where she works on a range of development projects, stakeholder and community engagement and College/University Campus Master Plans. Selam’s passion lies at the intersection of public health and urban development. Selam contains a strong background in research, development processes and community development and engagement. Selam strives to create communities that are diverse, equitable and sustainable through human centered practices. Her academic background – Bachelors of Health Sciences from Simon Fraser University and Masters in Environmental Studies with a specialization in Urban Planning have merged together to provide her with a strong understanding of the connection between health and the built environment. She has experience working with several grassroot organizations such as TTC riders and has experience in the non-profit sector in which she spent several years working as a community development coordinator prior to pursuing her Masters in Urban Planning.
Wesley is a multidisciplinary artist with a passion for community building, collaborative design, public space and queer advocacy. Wesley Reibeling is co-chair of the Jane’s Walk Steering Committee. Additionally, Wesley is Toronto Program Manager at Park People, he sits on the advisory board at Urbanminds and is currently creating a podcast and participatory theatre show that focus on city-building, community consultations and equitable futures. Wesley holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Studies from York University and is currently working toward a Community Engagement Certificate at TMU where he was a recent mentor to the TMU SURP program. Outside of the city-building sphere, His art practices focus on community-based art and his interest lies in how community-building and art practices can foster and build a sense of belonging.
Principles Guiding the Walk
Jane’s Walk is a global movement with nearly 500 participating cities. It’s a little different in each city, but these 6 principles are the common framework for Jane’s Walks everywhere.
1. Is volunteer-driven
Jane’s Walk is a volunteer-led movement powered by the communities in which it operates. Anybody can lead a Jane’s Walk, and participation is always free. While the Global Festival takes place annually on the first weekend of May (close to Jane Jacobs’ birthday on May 4th), Jane’s Walks can be led at any time. Local financial support of Jane’s Walks is permitted, but no fees, charges, or any promotion of commercial activities can be connected to the content or activities of any given walk.
2. Is inspired and informed by the world around us
Jane’s Walks are a way for neighbours to meet neighbours, and for neighbourhoods to build community. Jane’s Walk strives to include a wide array of voices and ideas in discussions about cities, neighbourhoods and community engagement. Jane’s Walk is different from other initiatives because the community and its buildings, parks, and broader environment are also active players in the walks. They inspire, frustrate, inform, and direct participation in the conversations. They inspire, frustrate, inform, and direct participation in the conversations.
3. Is done in whatever way makes sense for you
There is no ‘one way’ to lead a Jane’s Walk or run a Festival. For both cities and individuals, Jane’s Walk is a tool to create and encourage conversation. Jane’s Walks take place on foot, through other forms of mobility, through performance, or virtually. The design is intentionally open, serving as a global container for ideas, exploration, and discovery.
4. Creates an opportunity to hear all voices
Jane’s Walk creates a space where community members with different viewpoints can share their perspectives. As a platform for these voices to be heard, Jane’s Walk directly addresses and takes a stance against hate speech, racism, xenophobia, oppression, and discrimination.
5. Encourages critical engagement with the ideas and legacy of Jane
Jane’s Walk was created in recognition of the ideas and legacy of Jane Jacobs, who has inspired and influenced city builders for decades. The intent of Jane’s Walk is not to prescribe her teachings on city-making and urban planning but rather to promote dialogue, discussion and debate on them.
6. Recognizes cities are living ecosystems with a past, present and future
Jane’s Walk encourages reflection about the history of habitation and city-building.
Jane’s Walks can prompt questions about who has been displaced or marginalized in
a particular space, in a critical, investigative way. They can inspire dialogue on ways
of moving toward greater equity, together.
Get involved in Jane’s Walk
Jane’s Walks are supported, organized, and led by volunteers around the world.