Care about important challenges like poverty, affordable housing and neighbourhood inequality? Here’s our latest roundup of two people we think you should be following on social to stay up-to-date on the issues that matter to you:
Mary Rowe @rowemw: She’s known as a city-builder extraordinaire with decades of experience strengthening cities on both sides of the border. We met up with Mary last summer during a trip to the Big Apple to look at solutions to affordable housing. She’s currently based in New York, where after six years leading the community resilience efforts of MAS, she accepted an international fellowship with Project for Public Spaces. This past July, this urbanist was also named Evergreen’s first-ever Senior Fellow with a broad mission of “advancing action to transition cities to a sustainable future.” In her new role, she’ll lead the development of a national strategy to help strengthen civic assets including parks, libraries and community centres. We share Mary’s passion for building strong, sustainable communities and we wish her the best of luck in her new role!
David Phipps @mobilemobilizer: He’s been named the “most influential knowledge broker in Canada.” And he has a passion for turning research into impact by working with community organizations (including United Way) to help harness the power of information to do good. As Director, Research Services & Knowledge Exchange at York University, David leads the school’s award-winning Knowledge Mobilization Unit, that provides services to researchers, community organizations and government agencies who want to maximize the economic, social and environmental impacts of university research. One example? We partnered with David’s team and Dr. Stephen Gaetz of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness to look at innovative solutions to youth homelessness in York Region.
100In1Day Toronto is back and is sure to be big—both in scale and impact! Co-presented by United Way Toronto & York Region and Evergreen, 100In1Day is a festival of civic engagement, mobilizing residents to organize small-scale events—“urban activations”—that create positive community change. So, don’t forget to mark June 4 on your calendar. In the meantime, check out these 5 five awesome urban activations you can’t miss.
Black Creek Community Farm: Flex your green thumb this weekend at a gardening workshop in the Jane and Finch community. Presented by Black Creek Community Farm, in partnership with FoodShare Toronto, a United Way agency, the day welcomes seasoned pros and even gardeners-in-training to Toronto’s largest urban farm. Here, residents from across Toronto and York Region will learn about the importance of accessible healthy, sustainable food and get the chance to get their hands dirty by planting vegetables, herbs and pollinator-friendly plants. Plus, the impact of this activation can last more than a day. Participants can volunteer at the garden to watch their hard work blossom.
RAC Burger Shack: Nothing says spring like the smell of burgers! Come enjoy one of the season’s most mouth-watering treats at the RAC burger shack. What’s RAC? This important zoning legislation, which United Way played a key role in advocating for, gives inner-suburban high-rise tower communities in low-income neighbourhoods greater control over local development. This could mean turning a parking lot into a playground or a vacant first floor apartment into a community centre or food market, adding to the vibrancy and livability of neighbourhoods in our community. So stop by for a burger and learn more about RAC zoning. Your feedback can help transform entire apartment complexes into more connected communities!
Community Day of Quilting for Refugees*: Help weave newcomers into the social patchwork of our region by creating a gift they’ll never forget. Join fellow crafters as they hand-sew beautiful quilts to welcome newly-arrived refugees into our community. Not only will you learn a new skill, but your efforts will ensure refugees throughout Toronto and York Region have a heartfelt memento of their new—and caring—community. Feel free to drop by for a few stitches or spend the entire day. Donations of sewing supplies and fabric are appreciated. *Please note that this event is on Sunday, June 5.
Queering the Dinner Table: Stop by FABARNAK café this weekend to serve up your thoughts on what makes restaurants inclusive. Located at The 519, a United Way agency, this 100In1Day activation aims to make dining spaces more welcoming for everyone in our region. How? By welcoming the LGBTQ+ community to share their ideas of how hospitality leaders can better promote inclusivity. So, if you’re in the neighbourhood, be sure to drop by the café and put a more welcoming restaurant scene on our community’s menu.
Thorncliffe & Flemingdon Park Ravine Repair: Be at one with nature this weekend by volunteering at the Thorncliffe & Flemingdon Park Ravine Repair project. Embrace your inner naturalist as you take on the task of ensuring residents from this priority neighbourhood can safely access and enjoy the important community space that ravines provide. There are lots of family-friendly activities to choose from including trail marking, pathway repair and even mural painting for those with artistic flair. And we promise your efforts won’t go unnoticed. At the end of the day, participants are encouraged to invite family and friends to enjoy a potluck picnic—the perfect way to close out a day of rewarding community work!
Looking for more ways to show your community you care? Head to the 100In1Day website for the full list of urban activations in our region.
It’s a new year—and we’re excited to introduce you to some trailblazing changemakers across our region. With innovation, passion and a whole lot of hard work, they’re helping change lives and transform entire communities.
First up? Zahra Ebrahim, Co-CEO of Doblin Canada, a design-led innovation firm based in Toronto that works to solve tough business challenges in the non-profit, government and private sectors.
WHO: She’s been called a “civic rockstar” by her fans on social media. She was featured as one of “Tomorrow’s Titans” in Toronto Life’s Most Influential issue. And she recently shared her city building passion as a featured speaker at TEDxToronto. But it’s the urbanist’s trailblazing work connecting 75 youth from a Toronto priority neighbourhood with an opportunity to completely transform their local community hub that earned her a spot on our list.
WHY: With a background in architecture and design, Zahra played an integral role in the Community. Design. Initiative., an award-winning collaboration between architects, designers, urban planners, academics and residents. The multi-year project is transforming a United Way agency—East Scarborough Storefront—into an innovative, 10,000-square-foot community services hub in Kingston Galloway Orton Park. “This project is a great example of finding ways to engage people who wouldn’t ordinarily be involved in a multi-year building initiative like this—including young people living in poverty—in the design, fundraising, permitting, zoning and building of this inner suburban agency,” says Zahra. Learn more here.
An architectural drawing of East Scarborough Storefront.
WHAT’S NEXT? Zahra will be busy in 2016! She’s currently fulfilling her dream of bringing design thinking education to high school students across Canada through her support of The Learning Partnership. She’s also helping some of the country’s biggest organizations rethink how they do business by introducing consumer-first strategies that put equal emphasis on financial and social bottom lines. Zahra also continues to be passionate about driving change in the non-profit sector by connecting communities and decision makers to create meaningful, sustainable change. “I believe passionately that we need to share ownership with communities. I’ve always been really focused on the ‘how’ of change-making in the non-profit space versus the ‘what’.”