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Civic Impact

The Emerging Leaders Network city-building pitch contest allows Toronto’s best new ideas to shine

“Tonight, we’re putting wind in the sails of great civic ideas.” No small claim from Alexandra Stewart, the host of the Emerging Leaders Network’s ELNshowcase. April 9 saw the second edition of the annual pitch contest for civic improvements, which pits community-minded Torontonians against each other in a friendly competition for funding and resources. This year, five teams competed to win the showcase’s top prize: one thousand dollars and a hotdesk at the Centre for Social Innovation. Each team was allowed 12 minutes to explain their city-changing idea, then faced scrutiny from the judges, Dragon’s Den-style.

The teams presented to a full audience and a judges table that included Ian Black from Uber; the Centre for Social Innovation’s Adil Dhalla; and CP24 reporter Arda Zakarian. They were friendly and buoyant—the Hon. Michael Chan, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade, broke into a soft-shoe shuffle when he was introduced—but their questions, about neighbourhood buy-in, corporate partners, marketing plans, and bottom lines, were designed to dig deeper into how each program would work in real-life Toronto.

The teams were tackling the big issues of what makes Toronto a truly successful city. Cultiv8tor asked the audience to image co-working spaces that include childcare, while The Best Person Project hoped to boost young women’s professional confidence as they began their careers. Project CORE aimed to beef up the youth programming in Regent Park, and cARTe Blanche billed themselves as “public art matchmakers,” proposing the city take advantage of the cultural phenomenon Nuit Blanche by installing the event’s popular art pieces throughout the city on a permanent basis.

In the end, it was Unite Toronto: For One 6, that took the prize. Todd Hofley, who presented on behalf of the two-man team, talked about the potential for connection in the city. He runs the popular Liberty Village Residents Association, and wants to export what he calls “a unique and powerful model of city building” to neighbourhoods across the GTA. By creating engaged residents associations, Unite Toronto: For One 6 hopes to drive local business, reduce loneliness and depression, and foster connections between people.  
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