WINDSOR, ONT. -- While COVID-19 steals many headlines these days, our cities face a whole host of problems that existed before the pandemic and will remain problems we will still face well after it’s over.

The Canadian Urban Institute is hoping to tap into that through a series of conversations being hosted in Windsor this week.

Focusing on issues from poverty to active transportation, the environment and the economy, a series of virtual conversations and round-tables are being held from June 15 to 17 to get a picture of the challenges we’ll face, and how to solve them post-pandemic.

“The CUI local program is really a great opportunity to hear your stories and hear where you think the future is and engage and be part of it with you,” says Mary Rowe, the president and CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute.

Hosted over three days, the virtual listening tour will zoom in on these issues, learn best practices to deal with them and maybe even export some ‘Made in Windsor’ solutions.

“What’s the sort of collective hunch that you’re forming up there about what the future should look like and how you get ahead of what the new economy will look like,” says Rowe.

Anneke Smit — the director of Windsor Law’s Centre for Cities — is a local organizer who helped bring the conference here.

”Thinking about good city building, building more housing has to go hand-in-hand with dealing with the climate crisis, for example, it has to go hand-in-hand with building walkable communities,” says Smit.

The public will be able to listen in on conversations with ex-pats who left — but still love the city. There will also be a fireside chat with the city’s CAO Jayson Reynar, as well as a discussion among Windsor’s youth.

“Really wanting to hear to just from those who are making the decisions now, but those who are going to be making the decisions not too far down the road about what their futures will look like,” Smit says.

One of those panelists is Julian Villafuerte.

“Having these conversations is absolutely critical to be able to come up with the best possible solutions, the best way forward and building those connections as well,” Villafuerte says.

Smit says the week of events is “a starting point, not an end point in the conversation” but hopes Windsor’s panelists can put forward a handful of ideas that can be shared across the nation.

After this week, the Canadian Urban Institute has virtual stops in Halifax and other medium-sized cities.

“The people who know the cities best are the ones that live in them... I’m really looking forward to telling the story about Windsor to the rest of the country,” says Rowe.

A link to the schedule can be found here.