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How to build the best U of T Cities podcast: it’s up to you

City councillors, community groups and readers at U of T News weigh in

(Illustration by Jon Horvatin)
It was a new way for us to talk with the city – and show a few ways the university is helping to make Toronto better:
 
A few weeks ago, U of T News launched a podcast miniseries featuring conversations with the university’s researchers, entrepreneurs and students whose work is advancing Toronto’s realities of traffic, transit, sustainability and the role of the city. (Learn more about the podcast series)
 
Reporter Brianna Goldberg spoke with researchers building artificially intelligent traffic lights, car-bike hybrid pods and optimized energy-saving green roofs. She shared stories from students, faculty and alumni whose ideas are changing the urban economy, the infrastructure around us as well as the very nature of our city and others around the world.
 
The goal: to join the conversation happening around Ontario municipal elections and share insights and expertise from U of T thinkers on key voting issues. (Read more about building successful cities at U of T)
 
Now we're looking to the community and asking: did it work?
 
“There was a time when universities were seen almost as distant from civic life,” says Toronto city councillor Joe Mihevc.  “What you’re doing with this particular project is saying that the university does have a real contribution to make to enhance good knowledge and promote good public policy through good research, good knowledge and good, clear thinking.
 
Some of Toronto’s leading city issues columnists and commentators shared the podcast on social media, including Sean Micallef, John Lorinc and Richard Florida. And local organizations got behind it, too.
 
“Initiatives like the U of T Cities podcast are essential in cracking open the question: What makes a good city?” says Denise Pinto, global director of Jane’s Walk – a Toronto-based organization promoting citizen-led walking tours, whose mission is inspired by urban thinker Jane Jacobs.
 
“As our world urbanizes, these beautiful vignettes of Toronto's local histories, idiosyncrasies and possibilities are providing Canadians with voices they might know, and voices they should get to know, in the collective conversation on where we go from here,” says Pinto.
 
The podcast also caught the interest of global organizations and media outlets outside of Canada.
 
An episode featuring Professor Patricia McCarney’s work with the World Council on City Data was tweeted by the International Standards Organization. And Kim Davis, editor-in-chief of an online smart cities magazine called UBM’s Future Cities, wrote in a blog post that the series “brings home the depth of talent among U of T faculty members and alumni when it comes to tackling the logistics, politics, and technics of the global city.” (Read the full story)
 
Along with anecdotal feedback, we've looked at analytics showing that certain topics – traffic, for example – attracted more listeners than others. But we’re looking for your help planning the next U of T Cities podcast series.
 
We’ve developed a quick online survey where we’re hoping you’ll tell us what you liked, what you wanted to hear more about and what we could have improved. Tell us how we can make the best, most interesting and most useful podcast for listeners like you. (Find the survey here)
 
It should take less than five minutes to complete the questionnaire, meaning that clicking a few boxes will help us learn more about what you want to hear next in this series that’s already getting international attention.
 
And, as if a chance to help us brainstorm the future of the U of T Cities podcast isn’t incentive enough, respondents also have an option provide their contact information for a chance to win a U of T Bookstore gift certificate or a one-month Metropass.
 
We appreciate your feedback as you help us plan for the future conversation of U of T Cities.
 
“There are so many areas where we frankly need the university, said Councilor Mihevc. Life at the city sometimes happens very fast. Issues come at you very fast and we don’t have the time or space or ability to do broad research, particularly looking at best practices around the world. You have the capacity – universities have the capacity – to bring to bear all kinds of expertise on an issue.”