Design for Diversity Manifesto


Since 2006, OpenCity Projects has showcased how excellent public spaces and urban design help make our cities more beautiful, diverse, sustainable, and inclusive.

We have often looked to Toronto for inspiration. It’s a city of newcomers, where immigration is embraced and where almost 50% of its population have been born outside Canada. Here we’ve seen that when people mix together and integrate well with each other and their spaces everyone can live and grow together, peacefully.

Building a more inclusive and diverse society is not without it’s challenges. We’re witnessing friction grow in communities around the world over migration, settlement, and movement. While Toronto also feels this friction, it remains welcoming to newcomers.  Is there a way to Design for Diversity as we’ve witnessed in Toronto? What does it take to keep our cities open?

We believe it’s time to start a dialogue about how to create more inclusive cities – to practice what we preach by exploring new ideas and creating new tools that promote integration and community. And because we’re OpenCity Projects, we’re going to investigate how the design of our public spaces plays a crucial role in fostering that inclusion.

Of course, we are going to continue publishing blog stories on the wide range of topics we have always covered. You will still see posts about funky pop-ups in vacant lots and stunning street art. But going forward we will focus more of our attention on how to build diversity and inclusion in our cities. Where do we start? We’re so glad you asked.

To ease city lovers into the practice, we’ve created a manifesto that outlines the basics. Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing stories and ideas that unpack these principles and explore how to apply them to the design process. And we’ll be bringing you detailed examples from Toronto and around the world.


Welcome the 99%
Time and again, inclusive spaces prove Design for Diversity is simply good design.

Diversify your team
A team that reflects its community will build spaces that do the same.

Tap local talent
People who already use local spaces have ideas that will drive more thoughtful design.

Keep doors open
Safe entry and affordable access will keep people coming in.

Something for everyone
A variety of features will attract people with a variety of needs and interests.

Speak their language
Promoting the space in the languages of the community will make people feel welcome.

Promote universal themes
Food and nature are common to us all; exploring them in your programs will bring people together.

Celebrate the differences
Diversity draws diversity; celebrate cultures and differences to encourage a sense of belonging.

Bend the rules
Leaving room to bend the rules encourages people to shape their space.


Make sure to visit our Design for Diversity section to stay up to date with new content and explore the work we’ve done to date. We’d also love to hear from you so get in touch through our Contact page and share your stories and ideas about how to design for diversity.

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