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Community leaders care about their communities and are invested in building active and connected neighbourhoods.

Community leaders are neighbours too!

The intention of the Tactical Guide is to inspire neighbours to re-imagine, re-think and re-purpose their neighbourhoods to be more physically active. Many of the activities can be done simply, cheaply (or free) and quickly. Others may require support from local organizations and community leaders.

Community leaders come from a variety of sectors and organizations in the neighbourhood including:

  • Municipal parks and recreation
  • Libraries
  • Health charities (e.g., Heart and Stroke, Diabetes, CNIB)
  • Service Clubs (e.g., Lions, 4 H Clubs) and other fundraising organizations (e.g., United Way)
  • Community kitchens
  • Municipal governments (various departments)
  • Local businesses
  • Family resource centres
  • Friendship Centres
  • Public schools
  • Newcomer / Settlement organizations
  • Religious institutions
  • Social and safety services
  • Public health
  • Hospitals
  • Neighbourhood / resident groups

What is your role in activating neighbourhoods

Probably one of the most important things you can do is have a “green tape” mind set. Often, we (leaders and neighbours) start with a “red tape” mind set: “we can’t do this because…”, “we need permission or …”.  One of the most important things in Placemaking is to, rather than defaulting to the red tape answer, move straight to the green tape answer (or perhaps some yellow tape is needed along the way). It’s important to think about how you can go from red tape to green tape and encourage community members to do the same.

There are three ways that you can help neighbours realize their placemaking goals:


Catalyze can be characterized as introducing community members to, in this case, the concept of Tactical Placemaking and the Tactical Guide, inspiring them to make a difference in their neighbourhood, and then stepping back as they take the lead.

To catalyze and inspire action, community leaders might:

  • gather information about the concept of Tactical Placemaking
  • become familiar with the resources available
  • take steps to understand the neighbourhoods in the community and what may or may not already be happening there
  • determine who the key contacts are in community neighbourhoods
  • hold introductory meetings and establish relationships and trust with groups and individuals
  • undertake activities that strengthen community ownership
  • get out of the way!


Supporting individuals or groups consists of stepping with them to ensure they have the tools and resources to achieve their goals and successfully implement their chosen activities. It is about setting people up for success by not saying “no” while, at the same time, ensuring they have a good experience in their placemaking efforts so they continue their efforts to activate their neighbourhoods.

In supporting neighbours, community leaders might:

  • provide ideas to help neighbours re-think, re-imagine and re-purpose their neighbourhood
  • provide information about how they might get started or address challenges
  • provide information related to municipal practices including how to navigate by-laws, seek permits, the different municipal departments that they may need to engage with
  • provide services or assistance that goes beyond just providing the information but that actually provides step-by-step help with implementation
  • provide advice about different ways to accomplish the desired outcome of an activity
  • provide funding opportunities to support neighbourhood activities
  • address policies that placemaking efforts seek to challenge
  • find out if they really need assistance or if staying out of the way is the best support
  • deal with neighbour requests and needs with a “yes, and …” approach. That is, saying “yes” when asked for assistance and going beyond with additional solutions and supports.


Although the concept of tactical placemaking puts the responsibility for desired change in the hands of community members, it is sometimes appropriate for community leaders to take the lead or step in to the process.

In leading neighbourhood placemaking efforts, community leaders might:

  • implement larger-scale initiatives that inspire smaller-scale versions in neighbourhoods
  • help address resistance to change and encourage buy-in
  • identify spaces in the community that need attention and provide the activities required to address the situation
  • engage with neighbours in actual settings and in their daily lives rather than through plans, reports, and other bureaucratic processes
  • build momentum to continue the positive things that happened in neighbourhoods (during the pandemic) such as many of the ideas in the Tactical Guide
  • identify policies and practices that could readily change as a result of work done at the neighbourhood level either led by community members or community organizations.

Ten Common Mistakes in Government-initiated Placemaking

Adapted from Placemaking Education

Relying on a glossy new report to make the change. A report can guide implementation, but action is what counts! This is THE most common issue!


Doing something TO or FOR local people, rather than working WITH or even better, enabling them to do it BY themselves


Over-promise and under-deliver. This leads to unrealistic expectations in the community and then frustration when those lofty expectations aren’t realised. Aim to exceed people’s expectations!


‘Plonk placemaking’ means ‘plonking’ a ‘good idea’ (e.g., a parklet, road mural, planter boxes, pop-up park or festival etc.) in a place because it worked somewhere else. This approach is unlikely to drive real change and can be tokenistic, particularly if the idea is not supported by locals


Using tactical placemaking approaches with no follow-up. Tactical urbanism uses short-term, low-cost, and scalable interventions (e.g., pallet furniture) to provide a catalyst for long-term change. But a quick win without follow-up achieves little.


Designing a big infrastructure upgrade without using a tactical placemaking approach to test it first. Try before you buy!


Over-investing in ‘place hardware’, with little to no investment in ‘place software’. For example, if you are building or creating something, for example a sidewalk, an art installation, a Park(ing) Day event, a chair-bombing space (the hardware), it is important to promote it and animate/activate it (bring it to life) (the software).


Not properly communicating WHY you are doing something, to both people in the area and outside it. Residents from other neighourhoods can get jealous when they see upgrades in a place further away from them. They may not realise the strategic importance of the place.


Not spending time upfront to build relationships and trust. Excellent projects can still be a failure if external stakeholders are not engaged and/or mistrust the motives or outcomes. This does not mean everyone has to agree with what is happening. Identify who you think needs to be supportive or at least neutral


Implementation funding is about finding the right balance. Too little funding could result in ad hoc and/or poor outcomes. Too much funding can result in large, capital works intensive projects that reinforce the standard ‘doing to’ or ‘doing for’ (rather than the place-based approach’s preferred ‘doing with’) the community approaches. DON’T make the mistake of having no implementation funding (because you are relying on the glossy report to deliver some kind of magic)