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Civic Impact

YIMBY teaches Toronto to say yes

If you’ve ever been to a public meeting — the sort of gathering councillors call to discuss something that’s about to happen in a neighbourhood (these days, it’s mostly about a condo) —Toronto is quite good at saying no. No to shade, no to traffic, no to high-rises. Though many of us like the idea of more people living downtown, we don’t want them all too near us. Hence the term, not in my backyard, or NIMBY.

It’s this characteristically Toronto NIMBY vibe that got Christina Zeidler, daughter of a famous architect and a developer in her own right, thinking about its opposite, about change we can agree on, change we can get excited about, change that might prompt us to say "yes" in my backyard.

“The idea is really a trade fair about the great things that are going on in the community,” says Annabel Vaughan, director of the Centre for City Ecology, which is one of the organizations behind YIMBY, “and give councillors and candidates an opportunity to se the work that’s being done.”

The events are usually held in the run-up to an election, in order to get people thinking positively during a time when campaigns are often pitched negative. Last year’s event, held in February, saw more than 300 people milling about tables set up by 54 organizations, big and small, handing out information and discussing the sort of change they’re bringing to the city. This year, Vaughan says there’ll be 75 tables, with 10 organizations doing snappy five-minute presentations, including First Story Toronto and Shape My City.

One of the themes of this year’s event is Collaborative Consumption, which is also the name of one of the participating groups.

“We’re trying to highlight the Toronto Tool Library, Trade School Toronto and Repair Cafe Toronto that are the grassroots organizations working to change the quality of life in Toronto,” Vaughan says, “offering new economic models that are interesting.”

Though Christina Zeidler and her sister, Margie, still attend the events, it is now organized by Claire Nelischer and Margot Thomaidis.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Annabel Vaughan
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