Our People Feature: Jenna Dutton, Research Coordinator, Urban Policy Program
When it comes to public policy, Jenna Dutton’s approach is people-minded and community-focused.
Dutton, Research Coordinator, Urban Policy Platform for The School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, said the platform is based on specific funding from a donor and the goal is to collaborate across the university and also across sectors with local government and community organizations “on urban policy and research that can be the most beneficial to Calgary.”
The Urban Policy program explores key issues that impact urban Canada with a key aspect being to understand the public policy issues that are relevant today to mid-sized cities and metropolitan areas.
“It’s important because it’s looking at policy from the perspective of what’s most important in the urban context but also what’s most beneficial for the city as a whole. So not just from the academic kind of top down perspective. In this platform we partner with networks that already exist at the university so the government relations office that has the direct connection to the City and then as well there’s an Urban Alliance that partners with the City on targeted policy research,” added Dutton.
“For example, one of the research papers that I just finished I collaborated with someone from the Westman Real Estate Centre (at the Haskayne School of Business) and we looked at office vacancy in Calgary and analysed it which obviously is quite a pertinent topic right now. Because the City is low on funds and doesn’t really have the capacity, that kind of research would be beneficial for them to consider how they want to evolve planning policy and how it can enable office conversions.”
Dutton, who was a Planner with the City of Calgary for close to seven years and before that a Municipal Project Specialist with the Town of Didsbury, said she has emphasized in her career collaboration across silos on complex policy projects and innovative multi-stakeholder engagement approaches.
In her career, she uncovered a passion for systems thinking and the vital importance of leveraging multi-disciplinary and cross-sectoral partnerships to achieve co-beneficial outcomes that work towards sustainable communities and urban resilience.
Dutton said the Urban Policy Platform focuses on evidence-based policy and research for the Calgary community as a whole.
“I think there’s a stereotype in academia where the research is done and kind of sits there and doesn’t evolve. But I think that’s kind of changing over time. We’ve already made connections with the School of Planning and Landscape and with other groups across the university and I think there’s a tendency to think that urban policy is just one thing – we’re just trying to promote more density everywhere or something like that,” she said.
“But it’s supposed to be co-beneficial for a variety of stakeholders so that the policy can benefit all types of people that live in the city.”