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Ryerson City Building Institute launches database of civil society organizations

A new database of organizations devoted to city building across the GTA and Hamilton aims to build capacity and cooperation among groups working on civil society issues in the region.

Launched last week, along with the first annual report on The State of City Building in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton City Region, the initial database contains listings for about 150 organizations ranging from Artscape and the Diversity Institute to the Toronto Environment Alliance and the Ontario Health Coalition. Rather than service providers, developers or government agencies, the database includes organizations that focus on public policy.

“We were quite careful to think of where we fit. We didn’t want to build a substitute for the Yellow Pages or a professional services directory. Those have been done well enough by other places,” says Tanzeel Merchant, executive director of the Ryerson City Building Institute, which is spearheading the project. Organizations can input the own listing, wiki-style, which is then reviewed by the institute. Merchant expects the database to grow to about 300 or 400 listings within a year. Toronto listings tend to dominate now, so they’ll be reaching out to boost listings in cities across the GTA and in Hamilton.

The database won’t go as far as providing a platform for organizations to communicate with each other directly, but will allow the participants and other researchers to easily see who’s doing what so they can follow up on their own.

“One of the things that’s surprised me is the exponential increase over the last 20 years in the number of organizations involved in city building. What it shows is a very clear intervention by individuals, and sometimes government, to find ways other than big government to influence change,” says Merchant. “More and more of the policy conversations and the change-making conversations are happening in other fora besides the legislature and cabinet.”

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Tanzeel Merchant
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