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A day in the life of an Ethnographer! Follow the work of ethnographers as they look for, and speak with, street-involved individuals. This is what life is like if you are living rough.

Being curious about the lived experiences of people and uncovering their tensions and challenges,  hopes and aspirations, helps the Recover team respond better to the needs of these 5 neighbourhoods. Learn about how our ethnographers returned the stories to those who shared them and constantly checked in on their thoughts about potential solutions.

Ethnographic Research

The City worked with InWithForward to undertake qualitative, on the ground, research. We talked to individuals and communities who were experiencing first-hand barriers and challenges to wellness. We identified the needs, challenges and opportunities for urban wellness in 6 neighbourhoods.

The primary ethnographic research details people’s everyday lives in the 6 Recover neighbourhoods, their needs, what drives them and their aspirations. These stories help us understand the state of urban wellness and the opportunities in these neighbourhoods.

Our ethnographers connected with the Strathcona and the City Centre Mall (downtown) communities. We learned about wellness for those with lived experience and their formal and informal support networks.


People Profiles
Profiles of persons experiencing various challenges such as homelessness and drug addiction

Places Profiles
Featuring The Armoury and the Youth Society

Businesses Profiles
Businesses providing some social and emotional support for those in vulnerable positions

City Centre Mall - Downtown

People Profiles
Profiles of persons experiencing various challenges such as homelessness and drug addiction

Places Profiles
Places where vulnerable persons meet for social and emotional bonding

Playback of Strathcona and City Centre Mall


In year 1 we learned from the neighbourhoods and the downtown core, and developed themes, segmentation, and opportunity areas for change.

For more information, view Ethnographic Research 2018.

Public Spaces Research

The purpose of public space research is to gain a clearer understanding of how the built and natural environments affect urban wellness. It also helps us to better understand the many tools that Edmonton has to effect change in the public realm.

There were 5 streams of research for urban wellness in the built and natural environments. These streams of research showed that improving urban wellness in public spaces is not just a matter of investing more money or resources. It also involves changing the way we approach the design, maintenance and programming of these spaces in order to be more collaborative, holistic, experimental and focused on outcomes for people. 

The Situate Public Realm Report provides insight into the tools and levers, as well as assets that can be built upon to improve urban wellness related to the public realm in the Recover Neighbourhoods.

For more details, see Public Realm Research.

Other Important Research

Creative Partnerships and Financing

City Council approved $1 million for the Recover project over the next 4 years, in a de-escalating model in which each year we have a smaller operating budget. The idea isn’t to do less every year but to work with more partners and do more.

This requires our team to be more efficient, lean,and resourceful-building creative partnerships to advance ideas from the community. As a starting point, we did a landscape scan of what is possible when it comes to creative partnerships and social financing.

Creative Financing to Support Recover Report

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Mapping

Mapping neighbourhood profiles is a key building block to help visualize this data driven approach. Early in the Recover process, these profiles were created to visually depict place-based information that reflects urban wellness in the 5 core neighbourhoods.

In addition, GIS mapping tools were applied to provide a more dynamic way of looking at the neighbourhoods. This includes location of services, social vulnerability indices, community leagues, business improvement associations and census data. Throughout the innovation and engagement process, this neighbourhood mapping tool will become more robust as additional community input and assets are added.

Strategy and Policy Review Map

Earlier in 2018, Recover stakeholders from the City, province and community helped develop a systems map of municipal and provincial policies and also strategies that influence urban wellness. This tool builds shared understanding of the systems impacting these 5 neighbourhoods, identifies alignments, gaps and reveals leverage points to generate solutions.

We analysed approximately 140 strategies, plans and policies relevant to these core communities and generated a digital map to help define solution spaces in these neighbourhoods.

Indicator Dashboard

We developed an indicator dashboard early in the process with input from the 3 Recover committees. We identified 5 key indicator categories as critical measures of urban wellness: 

  1. Social capacity
  2. Economic vitality
  3. Safety and security 
  4. Physical and mental health
  5. Built and natural environments

The indicator dashboard is a tool to track and measure how well we are achieving our intended outcomes. It's a solid starting point foundation that is constantly refined by public input during the engagement and prototyping processes.

Literature Review

Researchers from the University of Alberta conducted a review of literature from academia, public and community sectors of interventions, services, initiatives and programs.

The review was related to the 5 indicator categories, their impact for inner city communities (very vulnerable populations) and an assessment of political factors. The academic literature primarily came from Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Researchers also reviewed literature from Edmonton-based organizations that are currently working with RECOVER.

For More Information


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