Jane’s Walks are citizen-led walking discussions that encourage people to build stronger neighbourhoods through conversation. They’re great events for new and existing park groups. Here are some tips on how you can lead an engaging and inspiring Jane’s Walk in your local park.
Jane’s Walks are citizen-led walking discussions that encourage people to build stronger neighbourhoods through conversation. Named for Jane Jacobs, an urban activist who was extremely vocal in protecting the needs of city-dwellers, Jane’s Walks provide a closer look into communities from the vantage point of the people who live there.
These neighbourhood strolls are a great activity for a new community park group because they’re free, inclusive, and fun. A major benefit of these guided walks is that they help people imagine what’s possible for their park and see opportunities for how the park can be improved or animated, which in turn spurs on more involvement and engagement in your community park group.
It’s no wonder Jane’s Walks are growing in popularity around the world when personal connections become more sparse due to social media. Before you begin your own walk, have a look at the website to see different examples from your city, Canada, and other parks around the world.
Go for a walkHave a look at your park on foot. Strike up a conversation with the people in the park and get some good stories from the people who use the park. Learn about the buildings, plaques, and people and think about things you can incorporate into your Jane's Walk. Find out if your park has special features (such as an amphitheatre, bake oven or cricket pitch), notable natural elements (such as native gardens or unique species of trees) or hosts any special activities you can highlight during the walk. If you're not already, connect with the community park group and invite them to speak during the walk, highlighting their role in improving and animating the park.
Decide on a routeNow that you’ve seen your park with a Jane’s Walk in mind, map out the route you're going to lead people on. Find a few areas where you can stop walking and have a conversation and highlight opportunities or challenges in the park. Prepare some notes on the conversations you’d like to spark and some key questions to ask. It is also a good idea to find some places where you can elevate yourself to be heard better. Street traffic will be louder than you anticipate and you will be grateful for a place where it is easy to project your voice (ex. a bench, a particularly high curb, a stump, etc.).
Tell everyoneFigure out when you’d like to lead your walk. Jane's Walks can happen at any time of the year, but most Jane’s Walks take place in May. If your park is very populated, think about what time of day is best for your Jane’s Walk. A busy time may lead passers-by to get engaged and join in the stroll. Be in touch with Jane’s Walk, and post about it on the Jane’s Walk website. By sharing your event on the Jane’s Walk website, you’ll attract people from all around curious about learning more about your park. The Jane’s Walk team can provide you with resources including lending you a megaphone to amplify your voice in the park if you desire.
Walk, then discussIt’s hard to say how long your walk will take, but when you are figuring out timing, leave plenty of room for discussion. Conversation is at the core of a Jane’s Walk so allow it to run its course. One of your participants may ask you a question about the park that you don’t know the answer to, and that’s okay. Open it up and ask the group.
Tips & Bonus Ideas
Pick a ThemeUse the walk to focus on nature, history or the community garden
Engage Local KidsYou can co-lead the walk with a community youth and have them share their perspective on the park
It’s really a beautiful thing to lead your neighbours in conversation.-Alia Scanlon, Global Project Director Jane’s Walk