Edmonton, the city that plans for disruption, is Integral City of the Year 2020.

Edmonton tested its new City Plan, made to withstand disruption, with humanity’s first pandemic in a century.

Here’s what Edmonton has to say for itself:

“The City Plan–a roadmap for good days, challenging days, future days in Edmonton.”

Developed over the course of two years, it was heading to Council for approval just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit Edmonton. City Council went into emergency mode, and it looked like the City Plan might be one of many casualties and never make it back on Council’s agenda. But as spring and summer progressed, the plan started to come into its own as the community realized that the plan, designed with disruption in mind, was passing its first test before it was even adopted.

In the fall of 2020, City Council held its public hearing and made its final decision to approve the plan. Here’s what Mayor Don Iveson had to say:

“This is one of the pieces of public policy that I will be most proud of when I leave office next year because it embodies one of the most important aspects of why I became mayor: to build a better city for our next generation so that more of our kids and grandkids might choose to say here and be proud of their hometown and help to build it.” 

Here’s the plan, in one 25 word question:

What choices do we need to make to be a healthy, urban and climate resilient city of two million people that supports a prosperous region? 

The City Plan lays out those choices.

Three quick links to help you explore The City Plan:

    1. A fun website (with lots of movable pieces) that tells the story of The City Plan and allows exploration: https://cityplan.edmonton.ca
    2. An short article that serves as nice overview:  https://transforming.edmonton.ca/the-city-plan-a-roadmap-for-good-days-challenging-days-future-days-in-edmonton/
    3. The City Plan website with the plan itself, maps and a policy search platform: https://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/city_vision_and_strategic_plan/city-plan.aspx

Edmonton demonstrates all of the Integral City Intelligences at a world-class level.

Contexting Intelligences

Ecosphere — A liveable city means that development and sustainability do not compete. Conscious decision-making will enable climate resilience. Edmonton has modelled and committed to climate targets. As Edmonton grows, it will not consume more land. Further, Edmonton has adopted a new adaptation strategy and action plan to ensure the community contributes to global greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Emergence — Edmonton embraces itself as a rebuildable city. Instead of letting unexpected challenges define the city, it chooses to adapt, to plan to adapt, to enable adaptation.

Integral — For many years, the Integral City model has actively shaped the work of several City of Edmonton projects. The City Plan was no exception. Clear voices of citizens, business, community organizations and city hall, and other public institutions, are woven into the plan. The intelligence of these perspectives makes the plan meaningful.

Living — The City Plan charts a course for a welcoming, inclusive and compassionate city. The plan will not sit on a shelf, instead it is designed to be regularly updated, be evergreen. Further, The City Plan imagines the city as a place where humans and nature live together.

Individual and Collective Intelligences

Individual: Inner and Outer — The values of of Edmontonians, gathered in the engagement processes, served as the organizing structure for the plan. The purpose of the City Plan is to enable Edmontonians to belong and contribute, feel at home, preserve what matters most, create and innovate, thrive, and have equitable access to the city. The values are also described in little videos about how Edmontontians want to experience their city.

Collective: Structure — Over the last few years, Edmonton has chosen to change its shape, from a sprawling prairie city to one that will double in size by growing up rather than out. The City Plan entrenches social, economic and ecological choices in legislation.

Collective: Cultural — The culture of Edmonton is captured in the process of creating the plan, as well as the plan itself. Moreover, the plan embodies Edmonton by using the values identified by Edmontonians in the engagement process to organize the plan. It is a plan in which people can find themselves.

Strategic Intelligences

Inquiry — The “spine” of the plan’s creation process, and the plan itself is a question: What choices do we need to make to be a healthy, urban and climate resilient city of two million people that supports a prosperous region?  The City Plan embodies inquiry.

Meshworking — The City Plan is about connections: the between Edmontonians to make the plan, but also designing a city explicitly to foster people connecting with each other in their communities. As a community of communities, Edmonton offers an excellent example of creating a city vision by “connecting the system to more of itself.”

Navigating — The City Plan is all about movement and equitable opportunities for movement in the city. The scenario modelling behind the creation of the plan examined assumptions about how to build a city that fosters the 15-minute city and creates a stronger social fabric and equitable transportation options. The City of Edmonton has also redesigned a new bus network system and is constructing new light rail train lines in the city. The City adopted a new bike plan in 2020, supporting the directions of The City Plan. Edmonton is purposefully recreating how citizens navigate the city.

Evolutionary Intelligences

Edmonton exemplifies a city that responds to changing life conditions with commitment. Edmonton chose to create the plan with disruption in mind by setting a direction rather than prescribing action. In doing so, it passed its first disruptive hurdle by naming who it wants to be and naming the choices it makes to be an inclusive and climate resilient city.

Small, Diverse, Agile Planning Team

The director of The City Plan, Kalen Anderson, led a masterful process with a small team, actively weaving in and with the diverse voices within government and stretching far into the community of Edmonton.

The practice of planning our cities was put on it’s head. Instead of convention, where planners come up with a plan and then seek feedback, Kalen’s City Plan team hosted a city-wide inquiry, captured the results, and conducted extensive technical studies to test what choices would get the desired results.

The result: a plan rooted in the values of the community that fosters resilience amidst disruption. Kalen and team invited the city to be in conversation with itself in good days, creating a plan that is serving Edmonton well in these challenging days–and future days.


For more information about how The City Plan came about, please explore the range of documents on this page: technical studies, policy development documents, and the “What We Are Hearing” reports that document the engagement process while The City Plan was created.

Congratulations to Edmonton, Integral City of the Year 2020.