30Network Snapshots - Aslam Bulbulia - CityHive Vancouver
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30Network Snapshots – Aslam Bulbulia

Meet Aslam: The Groundbreaking Community Builder

Affecting change locally using a global perspective, Aslam is a passionate community builder and engagement innovator who is working to transform the status quo of inclusive city-shaping here in Vancouver.

Aslam is a recent settler of Indian heritage on Coast Salish Territories by way of South Africa, and is currently working towards his Masters Degree in Planning. Arts activism and user-centred design were a big part his education and has a profound influence in the initiatives that he is involved with today. He is currently taking SFU’s Certificate in Dialogue and Civic Engagement and is a 2018 RADIUS Fellow. He also works with SFU’s Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies working to encourage discussion and understanding of the cultures and societies of Muslim peoples.

Aslam thinks of civic engagement as a tool to address social inequality and power imbalances that exist within our cities. He has too often seen civic engagement done in a very superficial manner which can break down public trust in institutions and be quite damaging to the social cohesion of cities. To have really impactful civic engagement is to redistribute resources and power to community members themselves.

In Aslam’s opinion, the biggest challenge currently facing millenials in engaging their communities is that they are often not taught to be in relationships with one another. Our society is highly individualistic, which can often create barriers between people. We need to listen to others to co-create solutions and to have a sense of empathy in order to build a shared future together.

Being a newcomer to Vancouver, Aslam has mostly spent most of his days on West Hastings Street, downtown, which also happens to be one of his favorite neighbourhoods in the city. He teaches english as a second language at VGC, collaborates with other RADIUS Fellows at RADIUS SFU, studies at SFU’s Centre for Dialogue, and works at SFU Harbour Centre for the Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies. He also lives in the West End, which is another of his favorite neighbourhoods as he loves that it is brimming with independent shops, which help build a sense of community.

Aslam thinks that it is important to engage youth like himself in city-shaping because youth are the future of our cities. The more youth learn about how their cities are planned, the more they can be involved in shaping it in the future.

Aslam believes that RADIUS SFU, the Hogan’s Alley Society and Chinatown community organizations are organizations and initiatives that are successfully engaging youth. All these organizations create space for young people to be involved in a meaningful and inclusive way, as they treat young people as part of the community rather than a separate identity category.

Aslam is teeming with ideas to create a more engaged city, and is currently focusing on a series of public dialogues and engagement events with the Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies to explore the concepts and practices of decoloniality, spirituality and social change. He is also intrigued by the idea of creating a youth fellowship with the city, where youth from minority communities can intern with city staff to learn more about how cities work.

If Aslam were mayor for a day, he’d establish an engagement process to discuss land ownership in the city and what it means in terms of reconciliation with First Nations and migrant groups, and living in a just city.

We are stoked to have Aslam as one of our 30 this year!


Written by Claire Crowther of CityHive

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