Conference Gives Economics Students a Lot to Think About

Econ Students Conference

On January 25, 2014, the Learning Exchange hosted the UBC Economics Student Association’s Livability in Vancouver conference. The event brought together a variety of groups, including UBC students, representatives of the City of Vancouver, Downtown Eastside community groups and local residents. Through a range of panels, the event promoted an understanding of the complex issues of poverty and economic development in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) while fostering conversations around solutions to achieving livability. It also facilitated an opportunity for all to challenge their preconceptions and to apply formal learning in a local and real life context.

The conference focused on the current Local Area Planning Process undertaken by the City of Vancouver. This plan will define the future zoning and composition of the neighbourhood. The varied perspectives presented by the Hastings Crossing Business Improvement Association, the Building Community Society, and organizations currently involved in social programs helped conference attendees better see the challenges of the DTES, as well as its assets that can sometimes be overlooked. Representatives of Mission Possible and the Carnegie Community Action Project emphasized the strengths and assets of the Downtown Eastside community

Attendees also heard the stories presented by formerly homeless Downtown Eastside residents. This panel prompted a thoughtful and meaningful discussion. Hearing about their experiences, in addition to the input of other presenters, helped students in attendance to apply classroom studies to the real world results of economic policies.

This sentiment was perhaps best summarized by student Saskia Vaisey, “As an Economics student, I spend most of my time on campus and in lecture halls, where I learn about a lot of topics in a theoretical way. I found the conference especially powerful given it was held in the Downtown Eastside at the UBC Learning Exchange, so that we could hear the comments of local resident in discussions. The speakers and discussion gave me a lot to think about in terms of both the assets of the DTES and its problems.”