Tips for Walk Leaders

We are inviting you to lead a Jane’s Walk! Anyone can be a walk leader, because everyone is an expert on the places they live, work, and play.

  1. Decide on a topic, theme, or neighbourhood to explore. Think of a place or idea you’d like to explore in your city. What do you know that you want to share with your community? What do you not know that you want to learn about? What do you care about and wish others cared about, too? What do you love about your city? What would make your city better?
  2. Plan your route and discussion. Plan a route and stops. Walks can happen anywhere, from bustling downtowns to suburban neighbourhoods. Most walks include 3-7 stops, but many walks are much longer or shorter. Decide what you want to talk about. Remember that this isn’t a lecture and you don’t need to be an expert in history, architecture, heritage, or urban planning. A Jane’s Walk is a unique story about how you see, interact with, and feel about a place or topic. Pick a date and time. Most walks happen during the global festival in the first weekend of May, but they can also take place all throughout the year — both day and night.
  3. Consider accessibility. While the nature of some neighbourhoods, routes, and the act of walking itself mean that not every walk will be fully accessible, we hope you will be conscious of accessibility and thoughtful about your route. Try to strike a balance between talking, movement, and rest. Think about stops that have access to water fountains, restrooms, benches, and shaded areas to recharge. Consider terrain, curbs, staircases, gates, and other barriers that could hinder someone’s ease of movement. Think about whether there are portions of your walk with dim lighting, underpasses, strong odours, excessively loud noises, traffic, or large crowds. Everyone experiences space differently, so think broadly and empathetically about what could make others feel physically vulnerable or even unsafe. Also consider how you will speak on your walk. Avoid jargon and brainstorm ways of speaking and asking questions that will engage a wide range of participants. Think about what language you will speak and whether you might want volunteer translators or interpreters.
  4. Get the word out. We help you to get the word out through our website, blog, newsletter, and social media channels but you can also use your channels to promote your walk. Talk to neighbours, store owners along the route, and friends! You can also ask local community groups to help spread the word. Invite journalists to your walk and add it to any community event listings in local newspapers or magazines.
  5. Lead your Walk! You’re all ready, Walk Leader! Go for it, share your stories, and don’t forget to have fun!

More tips for planning your walk

  1. Don’t worry about being an “expert”. You ARE an expert in your own experiences, and you have plenty to share! Don’t worry about not knowing the answer to a question. Often, somebody in the crowd will know. Consider enlisting a co-Walk Leader or ask a community member who has knowledge of a certain area to help fill in the gaps. Remember that this isn’t a lecture. This is a walking conversation.
  2. Learn a little bit about Jane Jacobs. You don’t have to have read Jane Jacobs or know anything about her to lead a Jane’s Walk, but she had some important ideas about cities that can help inspire your walk.
  3. Go for depth over breadth. The best Jane’s Walks are those that dive deep and draw out a city’s stories, details, secrets, patterns , and rhythms. Keeping your walk focused on deep, local knowledge will help participants feel engaged and energized.
  4. Keep the conversation going after the walk. Think about ending your walk a local cafe or pub where participants can gather afterwards to connect. You never know what kinds of new ideas, initiatives, and relationships will emerge on a Jane’s Walk!
  5. Arrange for a photographer or writer to document your walk. Walk documentation helps ensure that your walk will live on outside of the brief period of time you’re actually walking. Photos, videos, and stories help thread together the narrative of your community. You can share photos and writing with your City Organizer and the Project Office to showcase your work!

And, finally, some tips for the day of your walk

  1. Be prepared. Make sure you have good walking shoes, drinking water, and anything else you might need. Jane’s Walks happen rain or shine except in cases of serious weather, so check the forecast and prepare accordingly.
  2. Don’t do all the talking. Resist the temptation to talk the whole time. Press people for their own stories and perspectives. Sometimes it can take a little while for a crowd to warm up, so think about ways to help break the ice. Hold the silence after you ask a question for a good long while. Without fail, somebody will speak up to fill the silence!
  3. Find a way to be heard. If you can get hold of a megaphone or microphone, great! If you can’t, there are lots of ways to help make sure people can be heard. Standing on a bench and projecting over the crowd, moving onto a quieter side street, and encouraging people to move in close can often be just a good as a megaphone.
  4. Let it go! Anything goes on a Jane’s Walk. Expect things to go a little sideways. Last minute changes, emerging contingencies, and serendipities are all common. Embrace spontaneity. Perhaps the weather isn’t great. It’s ok! You’ll have a very different but equally fascinating experience of walking the city in the rain as in the sunshine. Perhaps the conversation goes in a different direction than you planned. It’s ok! See where the discussion takes you and, if necessary, gently reroute it.
  5. Have fun! This is important. Do not forget to have fun.