Bringing people together for constructive dialogue and creative city-building initiatives.
The Dept of Words & Deeds designs, leads and collaborates on a wide range of regional and local projects, including land use and transportation plans, culture strategies, park and public realm designs, walkability and wayfinding strategies and community development initiatives. Our approach to public engagement emphasizes creative collaboration and broad participation in transparent processes that heighten mutual understanding while identifying common ground and supported recommendations.
Areas of Expertise
In our stakeholder and community engagement, the Dept prioritizes collaboration, transparency and a deepened understanding of the issues at hand, so people can offer informed opinion and make mindful decisions. Through a commitment to openness and clear communication, we aim to cultivate mutual respect and understanding.
The Dept works with clients and collaborators on the development of our engagement processes to ensure that consultation outcomes are tailored, focused and meaningful. Our background in planning, program design, and policy development and analysis helps us craft engagement strategies that generate specific policy recommendations when needed.
Since 2007, the Dept has undertaken ground-breaking academic studies of suburban walking environments, adapting the immersive walk experience into a tool for gathering public feedback. In both urban and suburban settings, our WalkShops and Fieldnote programs draw people in to listen, share and learn about their cities and neighbourhoods and each other.
We have written on a broad range of topics relating to cities, politics, art and photography, creative methods of research and engagement and LGBTQ2+ history in magazines, newspapers, academic journals and anthologies. Our work highlights how spaces become places and how people connect to each other and to their built environments.
In five years, Farrow took Jane’s Walk from a slightly eccentric idea — ‘let’s do free walks in honour of Jane Jacobs!’ — to an international phenomenon with walks taking place in 75 cities.”
Our approach is driven by a keen interest in people, their stories and how they connect to the places they live.
BESPOKE PROCESS DESIGN, DEDICATED STAFF
We design each engagement process with care, dedication and attention to the unique objectives and scoping of the project. Consultation strategies are flexible, utilizing multiple modes of outreach and delivery including public open houses, focus groups, participatory workshops and WalkShops, remote ethnography, long-form interviewing and participant observation, virtual engagement platforms and online surveys and pop-up surveys.
COMPACT, NIMBLE, RESPONSIVE
We are a small firm that adapts quickly to the scope and scale of each project. We understand that circumstances change, the context of consultations are dynamic, project scope can evolve as processes unfold and communities weigh in. Being nimble and agile allows us to adapt our approach, deliverables, timelines and reports when the need arises.
Dept of Words & Deeds principal Jane Farrow has a long history of finding new ways for citizens to get involved and be included in their neighbourhoods. As the first Executive Director of Jane’s Walk, she inspired hundreds of people to lead participatory walking tours of their neighbourhoods, as a way to knit communities together and learn about cities. Jane and her collaborators have strong records of bringing together youth, seniors, newcomers, LGBTQ2+ and people facing multiple barriers to deliberate and design projects and research reports together.
IMMERSIVE ENGAGEMENT, WALKSHOPS & FIELDNOTES
The Dept of Words & Deeds brings a critical advantage with extensive experience facilitating WalkShops, an immersive, participatory method of gathering input and expertise on community, planning and policy issues. These co-designed community site walks deepen engagement by pro-actively tapping into the breadth and depth of knowledge of residents, business owners, social service providers, planners, designers and elected officials. Fieldnotes are an enhanced method of gathering this input on the ground and deepening analysis with follow up interviews, photoflow techniques and personal mapping.
STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS & DESIGN
All projects need ‘narratives’ that can be understood by residents, project staff and other stakeholders. Established in collaboration with the client team, this public narrative and an associated visual identity is consistently applied to all communications and consultation materials, including backgrounders, invitations, agendas and reports.
Toronto City Hall staffer, 2012
As a writer, broadcaster, community advocate, facilitator and Toronto City Hall staffer, Jane is a veteran convener who has led constructive community collaborations for decades. Her experience uniquely positions her to formulate pragmatic approaches to finding common ground and shedding light on shared perspectives.
Dr Mia Hunt
Mia's professional, academic and community experience has focused on making space for difference in the city by helping communities tell their stories. With training in design, urban planning and cultural geography, she is an expert in written and visual communication and well-versed in urban processes and practices.
Clients & Partners
City of Toronto:
Planning, Parks Forest Recreation, Economic Development
Province of Ontario:
Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Tourism, Culture
Canada Lands Company
United Church of Canada
Independent Civilian Review into Missing Persons Investigations
Why Not Theatre
Housing Action Lab – Evergreen Brickworks
The LGBT Purge Fund
Not Far From The Tree
Toronto Arts Council
City of Mississauga
PMA Landscape Architects
N Barry Lyon Consulting
Public Work Inc
TD Friends of the Environment Foundation
Aga Khan Centre